Mr Joseph Hills 1816-1909

Illustrated by Tom Merry


When looking through Augustus Daly’s book ‘The History of Canvey Island’, I came across this wonderful drawing of Mr Joseph Hills by Tom Merry. It states that at the time the drawing was done Mr Hills had lived on the Island for 83 Years and was the oldest inhabitant. I had already looked into Joseph Hills and his family so I was eager to see if this matched with Tom Merry’s statement.

Joseph Hills was born in 1816 and according to the census records he was born in Rayleigh.  He married his wife Elizabeth Gobble in 1845. Elizabeth was born in 1821 in Hadleigh.

Joseph Hills can be found in the census from 1851-1901 only one of these entries is not on Canvey but in South Benfleet at Station Road. During this period Joseph worked as an agricultural labourer and moved from farm to farm. He was living at a cottage in Bowers Gifford, Canvey Island in the 1851 census and it was here according to the Registers, that the couple’s first child, Eliza, was born in 1849. Other than the Register and the 1851 census I can find no other record of Eliza. By 1861 the family had moved to Rack House, North Benfleet, Canvey Island. There is no sign of Eliza and the couple now have a son George Thomas who was baptised in the Chapel on the 29th August 1858. By 1871 the family had again moved to Leigh Beck Farm.

Elizabeth died in 1883 and is buried in St Katherine’s Churchyard. After Joseph’s short stay in South Benfleet he can again be found on Canvey in 1891 at West Wick Farm and in 1901 as a Jobbing Gardener at North Wick Farm. His son George was working as an agricultural labourer in 1881 at Chimneys Farm and in 1891 at Knightswick Farm.

Joseph lived to the ripe old age of 93 he was buried on Canvey on the 24th Feb 1909.

So it would appear Tom Merry was right, Joseph lived most of his life on Canvey Island and up until his death no one older was recorded in the burial register and up until 1938 only one other, a lady at 95 was older.

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