John (Jack) Hill was born in Bishopstoke in Hampshire in 1896, the only son of John William (William), a domestic gardener, and Rosanna (Annie). He had an elder sister, Mabel Annie (born 18 July 1893), and a younger one, Mary Emily Ethel (Effie, born 31 December 1901).
In 1905 the family moved to Hickling at the same time as the new rector, Francis Ashmall, who had been rector of Bishopstoke. They lived at The Green in a house then called The Rosery, now The Bowling Green. It was a good-sized house, with seven rooms (including the kitchen). Mabel worked as a domestic servant and Jack was a coal merchant’s clerk. In her book “Maggie’s Memories”, written in 1976, Margaret Wadkin recalls the family. “Mr Hill was verger at the parish church and also the gardener at the Rectory in the time of Canon Ashmall. Very pleasant family, Mrs Hill had the purest white hair I have ever seen, had a family of three, the only son was killed in the 1914-18 War, the two daughters still living, the oldest, Mabel (Mrs Tom Munks) lives in the house next to the Plough, she is in her 80s, the other daughter lives away. When Canon Ashmall went for the summer holiday, he would be away one month, and Mr & Mrs Hill would move into the Rectory. Mr Hill would be a couple of days wheeling their belongings in the wheel barrow, was like moving house. Mr Hill saw active service in the 1914-18 War as well as his only son Jack.” Both Mabel and Jack won prizes at the Sunday School, Mabel securing in 1908 “the highest possible number of marks”. Mr and Mrs Hill were active in the community, William also serving on the PCC for several years. When he enlisted in 1918 the Deanery Magazine reported in November of that year: “Mr W Hill, our Clerk and Sexton, has joined the colours, and we shall miss him sorely. He has been a devoted, willing and obliging Church worker, and this, added to his other work as the Rector’s gardener and all-round helper, was national service of no mean order. When his country called him he responded without appeal and without hesitation. Our good wishes go with him.”
Jack enlisted in the army, apparently in Worcester, joining the first battalion of the Grenadier Guards. In November 1915 the Deanery Magazine commented: “We were all glad to see Jack Hill for four days, after 12 months at the front – one of the few survivors.” His promotion to Lance Serjeant was announced in the Grantham Journal of 11 November 1916. He was killed in action on 9 December 1916, aged 20, and is buried in the AIF Burial Ground in Flers in the Somme region. The inscription on his grave includes “There’s Peace and Rest in Paradise”. The Deanery Magazine of January 1917 reported on his death: “In Memoriam. We grieve to record the death of another of our Soldier heroes, and this time him who was the first to go out from Hickling in September 1914 and who for two years and three months has borne the burden and hardship of incessant warfare. John Charles William Hill was killed in action on December 9th, by a shell in the front trench, and was buried by his sorrowful comrades just behind the lines. He enlisted in the first Battalion Grenadier Guards on December 27th 1913 and has a record of fine service equal to any in the British Army. We hope to publish a short memoir of his life as a small tribute to his worth and to our appreciation of his splendid spirit. Meanwhile our sorrowing hearts go out to his father and mother, his sisters and friends in deepest sympathy and affection. We hold them in high esteem and pray that they may be sustained by Divine Strength in their great sorrow. May he rest in peace!” A memorial service was held for Jack in Hickling on what would have been his 21st birthday.
Jack’s older sister, Mabel, married carpenter Thomas Munks on 16 October 1923. The Grantham Journal of 20 October carried a report of their wedding: “On Tuesday, a goodly congregation gathered at St Luke’s Church to witness the marriage ceremony between Miss Mabel Annie Hill, eldest child of Mr and Mrs William Hill, and Mr Thomas Munks, only son of Mr and Mrs Charles Munks, all of Hickling. … There were two bridesmaids – Miss Effie Hill (sister of the bride) … and Miss Florence Munks (eldest sister of the bridegroom). … Mr Donald Simpson was the best man. … A reception was held at the Rosery, the home of the bride’s parents. … Mr and Mrs T Munks left during the morning for their honeymoon at Shipston-on-Stour, near Stratford-on-Avon. The bells rang out again in the evening. The presents, eighty in number, were both costly and useful.” Mabel and Tom only had one child, a son, who was called John Charles, one imagines named after Mabel’s brother, and also known as Jack. In 1935 the family moved to Old Dalby, the Deanery Magazine commenting: “We wish Mr and Mrs Tom Munks health, happiness, and success in their new home at Old Dalby. We shall miss them from their many activities and interests.” In 1939 they were living in Main Road and Tom was working as an estate carpenter. Mabel and Jack returned to Hickling after Tom’s death in 1944, living in Chapel (now Bridegate) Lane.
The young Jack was in the army in Hamburg in 1947, from where he and two friends went to spend three days on holiday in Paris. Jack wrote his mother wonderfully long, chatty and enthusiastic letters during and on return from this trip. He also sent her a large number of photographs of the places they visited as well as others of Hamburg. Jack married Jessie Wright from Edinburgh in 1948. They lived in Hickling, moving to Japonica House after the death of Jack’s aunt Florence (Dot) Munks (who had been one of his mother’s bridesmaids) in 1973 and stayed there for the rest of their lives.
After Mabel’s father William died at the age of 84 in 1952, her mother Annie left The Bowling Green and went to live with Mabel in Chapel Lane, staying there, apart from a short period with Effie and in a nursing home, until she died in 1956, age 87. Mabel died in 1983, aged 89.
Effie was a pupil teacher at Hickling Council school and then trained to become a teacher at Peterborough Training College, qualifying in 1923. By 1931 she was a head teacher in Lincolnshire. The Grantham Journal of 7 March of that year reported: “The friends of Miss Effie Hill, who served her apprenticeship in the Hickling Council School, and who is now Head-mistress of North Witham Church School, will be glad to hear that the Inspector’s report is highly satisfactory. It says:- ‘The newly-appointed Mistress has done well, the children are industrious and well behaved and have attained a good standard in all subjects. The writing is neat and methodical. The School is happy and well ordered. The children work steadily at the task set before them.'” On 14 April 1936 Effie married railway employee Stanley John Rodgers of The Lawns, Morton, Lincolnshire. Canon Ashmall was by then retired but he returned to Hickling to perform the wedding ceremony for the daughter of the man who had for so many years been his right-hand man. In 1939 the couple were living at the School House, West Deeping, Lincolnshire, Stanley being a railway shunter and Effie an elementary school teacher.
With the death of Mabel’s son Jack the presence of the Hill family in Hickling, which had lasted a little over a century, came to end.