Arnold Frank Hills (12 March 1857 – 7 March 1927) was an English businessman, sportsman, philanthropist, and promoter of vegetarianism.
Arnold Hills was also a keen sportsman who was the English mile (1878) and three mile champion (1879), and in his youth had played football and cricket (he was Captain of the 1st XI) for his school team Harrow. After leaving Harrow he attended University College, Oxford, where he earned the degree of B.A. (1880) and two football blues. He appeared as a forward for the University F.C. runner-up team in the 1877 FA Cup Final against Wanderers.
He continued to play as an amateur for Old Harrovians after he left, even winning a Corinthian's Cap whilst there; for England, against Scotland on 5 April 1879 at the Kennington Oval, when England won 5-4.
Hills was the first President of the London Vegetarian Society (1888) serving alongside the young Mahatma Gandhi on the Executive Committee. He was also the first President of the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club and also served as President of a London Vegetarian Rambling Club. He founded The Vegetarian, an independent magazine, as well as the Vegetarian Federal Union (1889), of which he was also President. He also had close ties with the Temperance League. He founded the Oriolet Fruitarian Hospital at Loughton, under the medical direction of Josiah Oldfield.
In addition to his vegetarian activism, Hills was Managing Director of the Thames Iron Works, a large shipbuilding business in London which had existed since 1846. He chose to live for five years among his workers in a small house in the East India Dock Road in Canning Town and organised recreational centres for them.
However, he caused some bitterness when there was a strike over poor pay and working conditions by employing 'black' labour. Considering his philanthropy, it must have been a situation that troubled him greatly.
In the summer of 1895 Hills, along with Dave Taylor, helped found Thames Ironworks F.C., who later became West Ham United. He believed that his own local community should have its own football team and financially supported the football club until April 1900, when after increasing disagreements with West Ham's board members over the pursuit of 'professionalism', he broke formal ties with the club and the Thames Ironworks.
Hills proposed a West Ham as a limited company and became the major shareholder, and encouraged business associates, family and his workman to invest, promising to buy one share for every one sold to the public. He rented the Memorial Grounds to the club at very favourable terms. Hills told the new directors he would not interfere in the running of the club and was true to his word and despite being by far the largest single shareholder never attended an AGM, ask to address a meeting or present any demands or suggestions.
The failing fortunes of the ironworks and his involvement in developing a new car engine pushed the club into the background and he became a virtual invalid suffering from arthritis. He died at Hammerfield, Penshurst, Kent, in 1927 aged 69, and was buried at St Luke's Church in Penshurt. His shareholding in West Ham of 1100 out of 4000 (1142 shares remained unsold until 1961) passed to his family and the same arrangements remained.
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