Lincolnshire Village

The Hill family’s journey from Springthorpe to Manchester and beyond

By Rowland and Sue Hill

Economic migration
In the 14th century, Britain’s eastern coastline was it link to its major trading routes and as result, Lincoln, Boston, Kings Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Norwich were all major cities making the eastern side of the country one of the most prosperous and most populated. The discovery of the America’s in the 16th century along industrial revolution in the 19th century resulted in a economic shift of wealth and population towards the west coast benefiting the likes of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. Britain’s east coast went into a steep economic decline. 

The Lincolnshire town of Gainsborough, however, thrived into the late 19th century, firstly served by steam-packet services along the river Trent and later with the coming of the railways in the 1840’s. Two major railway lines ran through Gainsborough operated by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway and The Great Northern Railway. 

As well as wealth, the railways provided opportunities for local people to develop new skills which could then be used in other parts of the country. Our family history has been shaped by the 19th century economic migration from East to West. 

About Springthorpe
Springthorpe is a small village in North Lincolnshire, 4 miles east of Gainsborough and 9 miles south of Scunthorpe. It has always been an agricultural area and its population peaked at around 300 people in 1851. From this date the population declined, as did representation of the Hill family, mirroring the overall movement of population from the eastern side of Britain. Though largely unchanged in character, the villages’ street names were revised in the latter part of the 19th century. 

Early records at Springthorpe
Ralph del Hill was recorded in Springthorpe in 1327. By 1616 there were three Hill families as tenant farmers in the area headed by Robert, Thomas and John.  From this time onwards our branch of the Hill’s were clearly living alongside an extended family as neighbours. 

Our Springthorpe ancestors
We believe that we had two sets of great-great-great-great grandparents from Springthorpe. 

On the Hill side we know of Mary Hill (b~ 1766; died 1841/1851) who was the mother of our great-great-great grandfather Robert Hill (b. 1804 in Saxby). Robert married Ann Lacey (b.1806 in Springthorpe). 

Ann’s ancestry is also important to our story as it is from the Springthorpe Lacey’s that a number of our old family names have originated. Ann’s parents (our great-great-great-great grandparents) were John (1762-1850 plot: 157) and Elizabeth Lacey (1772-1823 plot: 160) who have graves in the Church of St George and St Lawrence alongside other members of the Lacey family dating back to Rowland Lacey born in 1682. (John 1762-1850, son of; Thomas 1739-1826, son of; John 1690-1775, son of; Thomas 1690-1775, and of Rowland Thomas son of  Rowland Lacey b. 1682- all plot: 157)

Our great-great-great grandparents, Robert and Ann Hill, were ‘landowners with 95 acres’ and living at an unidentified address in Springthorpe in 1841 and 1851.  They had five children; our great-great grandfather John Lacey (b. 1832 in Springthorpe), Jane (b. 1835), Susannah (b. 1837). George (b. 1839) and Elizabeth (b. 1849).  Robert died aged 51 in 1855. By 1861, Ann was living with the three youngest children (now agreed between 24 and 12) along with three servants in the High St at Springthorpe. In 1871, Ann Hill, then aged 65 was living with daughter Susanna, now married to William Sharp at School House- this is believed to have been next door to the current No. 1 Church Lane.  See below.

By 1873 the Hill family were no longer landowners. Ann eventually died in 1898 aged 92. Both Robert and Ann are buried at the Church of St George and St Lawrence in Springthorpe. 

Our great-great grandfather, John Lacey Hill had married Louisa Wilson (b. 1837 in Binbrook) in 1854 and by 1861 was living at Old School Lane along with their three children Rowland (b. 1855), our great-grandfather, John Lacey (b. 1856 in Heapham) and Mark (b. 1860). 

In the December 1861, John Lacey Hill (great-great grandfather) died at the age of 30 after falling off a cart. A further daughter, Louisa, was born in 1862. This left Louisa a widow with four young children at age 24.  In 1869 she remarried to a William Ranby (b. 1835) and they had a son called Cornelius Ranby (b. 1870). They were living at Corringham Scraggs in 1871 but two years later (1873) Louisa was widowed for the second time when William died (March, 1873). Between 1874-1876 she married for a third time, to a Richard Parker (b. 1851 in Retford) a railway clerk, and had a further two children; Mary (b. 1877) and Annie (b.1878).  At this time, employment with the railways, particularly in administrative jobs was well paid and regarded as a means of improving social standing.

In the late 1870s or very early 1880s the family moved away from Springthorpe with Richard’s railway employment. This ended nearly 600 years of Hill family Springthorpe lineage.

1880s Manchester
In the 19th century Manchester became the centre of the UK’s cotton industry. Gaining City status in 1853, its famous gothic town hall was built in 1877 and the Manchester Ship Canal giving easy access to the worlds’ trading routes opened in 1894. 

In the hundred years between 1790 and 1890 the population grew from under 50,000 to 560,000 people. However, living conditions in Manchester itself were poor with high levels of slum housing. As a result new suburbs were developed to the south of the city eventually joining the nearby town of Stockport. Initially these suburbs were only for the wealthy and consisted of avenues of large villas. As the 20th century progressed, however, these suburbs were filled with better quality housing for the city’s growing workforce. 

The railway
The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway is important to our story. They were probably responsible for bringing Richard Parker to Springthorpe as they operated in his home town of Retford as well as Gainsborough. In 1845 they opened the first trans-Pennine Woodhead railway tunnel linking Manchester with Sheffield. See below:

First trans-Pennine Woodhead railway tunnel

Their main operations in Manchester were at Manchester Central Station (today known as the GMEX exhibition centre- see below) and later Manchester Store Street (now Piccadilly). Their locomotive Works was situated on the south east flank of Manchester in Gorton (near Levenshulme).  The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway’ also ran a Cheshire line running from Manchester through Stockport. In later years they combined to form first the London and North Western Railway and later London Midland and Scottish.

Manchester Central Station, now GMEX centre

The Springthorpe Hills in Manchester
By 1881 the family had moved to the Manchester area, presumably with the railway, as both our great-grandfather John Lacey and his older brother Rowland (as well as step-father Richard) were now employed as railway clerks. Louisa and Richard Parker were living in Sale, Cheshire, a prosperous suburb of Manchester, whilst John Lacey Hill’s address was in Chorlton upon Medlock an old name for an area of central Manchester bordering Ardwick, Rusholme and Moss Side. Today it is better known as the theatre district, it is also where the BBC and much of Manchester’s University campus is based. 

As you head south east out of central Manchester from the Chorlton upon Medlock area on the A6 Stockport Road you pass through the Longsight, Levenshulme and Heaton Chapel areas before you come to Stockport town centre. This geography gives some explanation to the movement of the family around Manchester.

John Lacey Hill, our great-grandfather, was our last Springthorpe born ancestor and in 1881 he married Clementina Bower (b. 1861) a provisions dealer also of Chorlton upon Medlock.  We’re not entirely sure what a provisions dealer was, but Clementina appears to have been a prosperous lady. She died in 1889 aged 28 leaving John Lacey Hill as a ‘gentleman of independent means’. Aged 30 he married for a second time to a Susannah Elliot (b. 1860) in 1889 at St. Stephen’s Church in Chorlton Upon Medlock (the Church, like the area, is now demolished). John Lacey’s brother Rowland was best man and a witness. Rowland died the following year (1890). 

We believe that some of the extended Hill family had also migrated from Springthorpe to Manchester as in 1893 John Lacey’s cousin, Robert Lacey Hill (a son of George Hill b. 1839) was registered as living in the Heaton Chapel area when he died. He is buried at Church of St George and St Lawrence in Springthorpe.

John Lacey and Clementina had three children; John Lacey (b. 1890 and known as Lacey), Susannah Louisa (b. 1892 who died in 1894) and our grandfather Rowland Lacey (b. 1894). By 1894 John Lacey Hill was the proprietor of the George & Dragon Hotel on the main A6 from Manchester just outside the town centre of Stockport in an area known as Heaton Norris or later Heaton Chapel. The George & Dragon Hotel was originally a farm house built in 1824 and became a coaching inn. We have an old photograph of the whole family in a pony and trap outside the Hotel circa 1896. It is still in business today. 

It was at this point that family’s fortunes took a turn for the worse. In 1897, John Lacey’s wife Susannah died aged 37. John Lacey married for a third time, this time to a younger former servant for the family. Alice Watson (b. 1879 in Stockport). Even though he was only in his early forties, John Lacey, was listed as ‘retired’ at his wedding suggesting that he was fighting a serious illness.

It is also interesting to note how families lose touch. Our great-great-great grand mother Ann Hill was still alive back in Springthorpe up until 1898, yet we know that neither the young Lacey nor Rowland Lacey were aware of their Springthorpe ancestry.

The Hill Family in the 20th century
At the age of 44, John Lacey also died in 1900. This meant that by 1901 our grandfather Rowland Lacey aged only 6 and his brother Lacey aged 10 had lost both their parents and were living with a 22 year old step- mother and her 15 year old sister (Emily) in Grange Avenue, Heaton Chapel. They later moved to Denby Lane also in Heaton Chapel around 1910.

Both Lacey and Rowland Lacey left home at an early age. Rowland Lacey joined the army and saw service in the First World War. We’re not sure of the circumstances but apparently he returned home as a sick man, bouts of which re-occurred throughout his life. He then worked variously as a pastor and a cinema projectionist in the Heaton Chapel area (any dates?) before following his in his father’s footsteps and joining the railway (London and North Western Railway then London Midland Scottish and later British Rail). He married Lavina Collinson (b. 1894 in Manchester) in 1920 and lived in the Levenshulme area of the city (near the Gorton Locomotive Works) where they had two children; John (who died in infancy) and our father Rowland Collinson Hill (b. 1927 in Manchester). In the 1930s the family moved to a newly built council estate in Abergele Road in the Ladybarn area of Manchester, 2 miles west of Levenshulme, At this time, Ladybarn was a semi-rural area with new housing standing side by side with farm land. 

By the 1930s Lacey had moved to the Marton area of Blackpool. Rowland Lacey and his family visited several times staying for holidays in a caravan owned by his brother.  Lacey married but had no children and we believe that he adopted a daughter before emmigrating to Australia after the Second World War.

In the Second World War both Rowlands joined the Home Guard until Rowland Collinson was able to join-up, seeing out the last year of the war in the Navy and later joining the Army on peacekeeping duties in what became Israel. 

Our grandmother Lavinia died of breast cancer around 1949? at Withington Hospital in Manchester. Rowland Lacey Hill re-married to Marrie (?) (b. ~1925) in the 1950s (?) although she too died in Withington Hospital in Manchester in 1965 or 66.  Our grandfather, Rowland Lacey Hill died of a stroke also at Withington Hospital in Manchester aged 79 in 1973.

Our family
Having originally trained as a car mechanic, our father, Rowland Collinson eventually joined London Midland Scottish and later British Rail as a civil engineering maintenance mechanic. In one of fates strange irony’s he spent time in the 1960s and 70s repairing the Woodhead railway tunnels in Derbsyhire which connected Lancashire with Yorkshire and had probably carried his grandfathers’ family from Springthorpe. The last Woodhead railway tunnel closed in 1981.

Rowland Collinson set up home in Fallowfield, 2 miles west of Ladybarn and married our mother Doris an embroider (b. 1933 in Salford) in 1962 at Pendlebury Church in Salford.. They had two children (us); Rowland Leslie (b. 1964 in Manchester) and Susan Lavinia (b. 1966 in Manchester). Mum and dad lived most of their lives at Sherwood Avenue in Fallowfield before retiring to Pensarn on the North Wales coast in 1991.  Mum died of a brain tumour at the age of 60 on 9th February 1993 at Walton Hospital in Liverpool and dad aged 77 on 7th October 2004 at the Glan Clwyd Hospital in North Wales. Both mum and dad were buried at Agecroft Cemetery in Pendlebury, Salford in the grounds of what was once Agecroft Hall- a 15th century manor house dismantled and sold to a new owner in America in 1925. 

We both moved away from Manchester with our work in the early 1980s living in various parts of the country whilst working for retailer Marks & Spencer until we both settled in the South East, Rowland in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and Sue in Chatham Kent. Rowland still works for Marks & Spencer based London and is also the long-time chair of the retail industry’s environment committee and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. After leaving Marks & Spencer Sue worked for other retailers before becoming a bank manager. Rowland married to Pauline Plumb (b. 1971 in Ipswich) in 1993 and Sue live with partner Stewart Lindridge. 

Re-discovering Springthorpe
We re-discovered our Springthorpe ancestry in 2007 thanks to the internet and the search for a family pet. Sue had been conducting some genealogical research for some time and was slowly closing-in on our Springthorpe roots. Rowland and his wife Pauline were searching for breeders of miniature daschund dogs to replace two family pets.  In June 2007 a miniature daschund breeder was located in Blyton (around 5miles from Springthorpe) just as Sue made the Springthorpe connection.