Matthew Davenport Hill

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Matthew Davenport Hill (6 August 1792 – 7 June 1872) was an English lawyer and penologist.


He was born at Birmingham, where his father, Thomas Wright Hill, for long conducted the private schools Hazelwood and Bruce Castle. He was a brother of the postal reformer Sir Rowland Hill and the prison inspector Frederic Hill.[1] He acted as assistant in his father's school, but in 1819 was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn. In 1832 he was elected one of the Liberal Members of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull, but he lost his seat at the next election in 1834. On the incorporation of Birmingham in 1839 he was chosen recorder; and in 1851 he was appointed commissioner in bankruptcy for the Bristol district. Taking an interest in questions relating to the treatment of criminal offenders, he publicly aired opinions which were the means of introducing many important reforms in the methods of dealing with crime, drawing notably upon the theories of the Scottish penal reformer, Alexander Maconochie. His book Mettray (1855) describes the Mettray Penal Colony with its then new approach to dealing with young delinquents.

One of his principal coadjutors in these reforms was his brother Frederic Hill (1803–1896), whose Amount, Causes and Remedies of Crime, the result of his experience as inspector of prisons for Scotland. marked an era in the methods of prison discipline. Hill was one of the chief promoters of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and the originator of the Penny Magazine. He died at Stapleton, near Bristol. Two of his daughters wrote an early biography in 1878.[2]


He married Margaret in 1819. Their children were Rosamond Davenport Hill, Alfred Hill born in 1821, Florence Davenport Hill who was also born in Chelsea in 1828, Matthew Berkeley Hill and Joanna Margaret Hill who was born in Hampstead in 1836/7.[1]


His principal works are:

  • Practical Suggestions to the Founders of Reformatory Schools (1855)
  • Suggestions for the Repression of Crime (1857), consisting of charges addressed to the grand juries of Birmingham
  • Mettray (1855)
  • Papers on the Penal Servitude Acts (1864)
  • Journal of a Third Visit to the Convict Gaols, Refuges and Reformatories of Dublin (1865)
  • Addresses delivered at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (1867).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Deborah Sara Gorham, ‘Hill, Rosamond Davenport (1825–1902)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 accessed 27 Jan 2015
  2. ^ Memoir of Matthew Davenport Hill, by his daughters Rosamond and Florence Davenport Hill (1878)

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Schonswar
William Battie-Wrightson
Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull
With: William Hutt
Succeeded by
David Carruthers
William Hutt