Little is known of Thomas Hill’s life in Wiltshire. A record of baptism has not been found for him. His approximate year of birth has been extrapolated from other records concerning his life.

His parents appear to have been Benjamin and Hannah Hill (nee Paviour), who appear in the 1841 census at Stormore as weavers. This is assumed from Benjamin living in the house of the Millard family at Red Pitt, Dilton Marsh in the 1851 census, after his wife’s death in approximately 1843. The Millard's were relations of his grandson's wife.

If these are Thomas’s parents, then he had a sister called Mary who was christened in Westbury in 1800.


Thomas married Rachel Dew at the parish church in Dilton, Wiltshire on the 24th September 1818. Because the family were Baptists, finding records for the baptisms of their children has proved very difficult.

1841 census[]

Thomas and family are located in the 1841 census for Wiltshire, at Stormore, Westbury (which is near Dilton Marsh). He is recorded as a farmer, he and wife Rachel are listed as 40 years old, and their children Emma, Benjamin, James, Virtue, Lewis and Sidney are living with them.

In 1848, the family decided to emigrate to South Australia. Five children travelled with Thomas and Rachel, while the remaining children (most who were already married) made separate voyages to the colony on different voyages around the same period.

Journey on the Ramilies[]

The ship Ramillies was a 3 mastered barque weighing 635/740 tons, built in Sunderland by James Laing in 1845. It’s owners were Duncan and Dunbar, registered at the Port of London.

The Ramillies left London on the 11th December 1848 under Master McLean ,with a cargo of the following:- 1000 soft planks, 740 bags, 206 cases, 139 bundles or iron, 100 kegs, 43 bales, 37 hhds, 21 casks, 9 trunks, 5 trusses, 4 quarter casks, 3 pipes (large casks), 2 butts (large casks), 1 carriage, 1 piano. Passengers included 14 cabin and intermediate passengers and 227 free emigrants. Of the free emigrants, 24 were female orphans from Irish workhouses (part of Earl Grey’s Pauper Immigration scheme, which also included the ship Elgin'. Thomas and family were recorded on the passenger list and Thomas Hill, wife and 5 children.

There were 2 births and 9 deaths on board ship during the journey, which arrived in Adelaide on 25/3/1849. The arrival of the ship was noted the Register newspaper on March 28th 1849. Very soon after the arrival, reports began to appear about the flogging of some female passengers during the journey. It is believed they were first reported in the Adelaide Times on 30/4/1849, with the following:-

“This revolting and brutal punishment was inflicted on four grown-up women on board the emigrant ship Ramilies, during the voyage, under the immediate directions and inspection of the captain and surgeon. This is not denied by these parties themselves, which renders lengthened remarks on the subject unnecessary, as the very fact of such a circumstance having occurred is sufficient in itself to call forth universal reprohibation, however aggravating the conduct of the sufferers might have been. It may well be asked, what has our emigration agent been about since the arrival of the Ramilies, that we have not heard of even an intimation on this extraordinary affair being made to the government for that prompts investigation which it so urgently demands?”

The South Australian newspaper made further remarks:-

“As to the general treatment of the passengers we receive various accounts; but this is not the object of our present notice. All are agreed in the fact that four female emigrants were flogged during the passage. Their names are Catherine Morgan, Phoebe Spooner, Jane Downey, and Margaret Mack. Of their conduct we hear conflicting accounts, but this is of no material consequence. The fact is certain, that fully grown girls – seventeen or eighteen years old – were flogged by the surgeon with his own hand, a rope’s end being the instrument of torture used. Besides the surgeon and captain, we cannot learn that any persons were present but two men, who acted as constables or surgeon’s assistants. The particulars of what passed in the “Chamber of the Question” we cannot give; but we have spoken with several, both male and female – one a married and apparently respectable woman, - who examined the girl’s backs, and found them scored with wails of red and blue as large as the finger, and one was bleeding. The mind can hardly dwell on the revolting idea of men holding a half naked girl and flogging her till the blood starts from her skin. We read of such horrors in Russian dungeons, but scarcely give them credit.”

What Thomas, Rachel and family heard, saw or knew of the flogging incident is unknown. It went on to be reported in the Hobart Courier on 19 May 1849, and the Perth Gazetter and Independent Journal of Politics and News on 27 July 1849. It was eventually used as a case in example by the Earl of Mountcashell in his motion on Emigrant Ships: Reported Breaches of the Passengers Act to the House of Lords on March 15, 1850, and was citied by others as an example of why flogging should be banned in the army and navy. Flogging of female convicts to Australia had been abolished in 1817.

South Australia[]

Thomas and family settled in the Marden and Payneham district of Adelaide.

When his son Benjamin married in September 1849, Thomas’s occupation was recorded as labourer. He would later become employed as a gardener.

In late 1860, Thomas signed a petition, along with many other residents of his local district, making several complaints against the District Council of East Torrens. His son Benjamin Hill also signed the petition. It appeared in the South Australian Government Gazette on December 6th, 1860.


Wife Rachel died at their home in Marden on 27th August 1874, aged 78. Thomas followed her on the 11th June 1876, aged 80, also at their home in Marden. The cause of death was bronchitis. The informant at his death was his spn George Hill of Campbelltown. Both Thomas and Rachel were buried in Payneham Cemetery.

On the date of his burial, 13th July 1876, the South Australian Register newspaper reported that his property had been sold the day before by Messrs W. Wadham and Co., by order of the Trustees of Thomas’s estate. He had at the time allotments 38, 39, 40 and 41 in the Village of Marden. The property sold for 990 pounds, plus extra was received for sundries.

Further notice about the proving of Thomas’s will was recorded in the South Australian Register on Saturday 29th July 1876:-

“Thomas Hill, Deceased – Pursuant to the 24th Section of the Act of Parliament on the 23rd and 24th Victoria, No. 6, intituled “An Act to amend the Law of Property and for other purposes,” NOTICE is hereby given that all CREDITORS and other persons having any claims or demands upon or against the Estate of Thomas Hill, late of Marden, in the province of South Australia, gardener, deceased, who died at Marden aforesaid, on the eleventh day of June, 1876, and whose Will was duly proved by George Hill of Campelltown, in the said province, gardener; and Henry Charles Quick, of Marden, aforesaid, gardener, in the Supreme Court of the said province, on the first day of July, 1876, and hereby required to SEND in writing the PARTICULARS of their CLAIMS or demands to the undersigned, at their offices, Waymouth street, Adelaide, on or before the second day of September, 1876.”

The article was placed by Andrews and Bonnin, Solicitors for the Executors.


Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas & Rachel Hill

George c1823
Hectorville, South Australia

Emma 6/2/1826
Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire
Crystal Brook, South Australia

Samuel c1827
North Kensington, South Australia

Benjamin c1829
Marden, South Australia

James c1831

Virtue c1833
Marden, South Australia

Lewis c1838
Marden, South Australia

Sidney Jun Q 1840
Westbury District, Wiltshire
Payneham, South Australia

Charlotte Mar Q 1843
Westbury District, Wiltshire
Payneham, South Australia

Frederick Dec Q 1843
Westbury District, Wiltshire