Octavia Hill was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire on 3rd December 1838.
the eighth daughter of James Hill, a prosperous corn merchant and former banker.
Read more about Octavia’s early life here.
After her father was declared bankrupt and suffered mental health problems,
Octavia, her mother and siblings re-located to Finchley, London.
Read more about Octavia’s social influencers here.
In 1864, Octavia became involved in social housing
when she persuaded John Ruskin to buy three houses in Paradise Place in one of London’s most notorious slums. Octavia was to manage the houses with the intention of making “lives noble, homes happy and family life good”.
Read more about Octavia’s plans here.
In addition to her work in social housing, Octavia was also involved with local amenity societies, citizenship, the army cadet movement, conservation and the founding of the National Trust.
Read more about the history of the National Trust here.
Octavia Hill died from cancer on 13th August 1912.
She was celebrated in her day, but after her death her reputation declined and she has been largely forgotten until recently.
Her legacy was at odds with later social thinking which saw the role of the State enlarge. Octavia argued strongly against government involvement in rectifying social problems: she resisted any participation of the State in providing welfare services and objected to council housing, school dinners and free health care. (Of course, this attitude was fully in keeping with the ideology of the era as it remains in some quarters to this day.)
Octavia had a home on the edge of Crockham Hill Common in the Kent / Surrey borders. She’s remembered with this tomb near the altar of Holy Trinity Church.
Read more about Octavia Hill’s connection to The Borough in Southwark, London here.
And read more about English Heritage’s Blue Plaque at 2 Garbutt Place, Marylebone, London here.
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