Eulogy for Dr P. R. Hill: 1913~2000
read by his son John Hill
on 20th April, 2000
Peter Rowland Hill was born on the 18th September 1913 in Leicester. His
parents were hard working people who had several pork butchers shops and
who towards the end of their lives came to live at The Cottage (43 Main
Street) in Wymondham. Some of you present may remember them.
His childhood and education were in Leicester where he attended the Wyggeston
Grammar School. He did well both academically and in sporting terms, winning
cups for swimming and representing the school for two years in their first XV
rugby team. His academic ability resulted in his being offered a place at
Cambridge University. He chose the other, less obvious route, and turned it
down, preferring instead to go into his fathers business.
After a while he started manufacturing stuffing at Wymondham, initially in a
small building which later became the village post office (47 Main Street -
not the current location, 55 Main Street). He combined this undertaking with
helping in his fathers business until the factory in Wymondham became
available and, although much too large for his purposes, it was bought so
that the stuffing manufacturing company could expand. This was the start of
the Oakham Packing Company. He continued with this until 1996 when he was
made an offer he could not refuse and it changed ownership, although he still
Some years later the new owners moved the manufacturing away from Wymondham
and he was able to take the premises back, and thus Space Foods came into
being. It is worthy of note that when he restarted the business there were
members of staff who could have remained with the old Oakham Packing Company,
but instead preferred to throw in their lot with Peter Hill and joined Space Foods.
Whilst all this was going on he found time to do other things, too.
In 1935 a new vicar was appointed to the parish, a Reverend Sherwin, who
moved with his wife and two children from Birkin in Yorkshire to Wymondham.
Revd Sherwin was the vicar in the village for 20 years, and there is a plaque
in the chancel of the church recording his time here.
One of his two children was a girl called Joan Margaret, and she became Peter
I was told many years ago by my Grandmother Hill that one day she and her son
were walking along Polka Walk in Wymondham when they passed an attractive
young lady. After getting out of earshot he confided in her that Thats the
girl Im going to marry - and he did.
They were married in Wymondham church by Canon Smith of Waltham in 1942. Revd
Sherwin was too busy that day to conduct the service: he was giving his daughter
away in marriage.
My parents lived ever since in the same house, The Bowery, which they altered
to their liking over a number of years. It is there that he died, as he would
The marriage produced three children. The eldest, Rosalind, in 1944; me, in
1946; and David, in 1949. We are all here today.
You might have thought that rearing a family and running a business was
enough to keep anyone busy, but not him. In 1946 he became a Parish Councillor;
a Rural District Councillor; and a County Councillor. The Council work was of
great interest to him, and he was elected Chairman of the Rural District Council
for some 12 years. Additionally he was made a magistrate in 1960 and sat on the
bench at Melton.
As a County Councillor he was elected to be a County Alderman in 1961, but
this position was abolished in the 1973 change of local government arrangements.
He continued as a County Councillor after 1973, being repeatedly re-elected
until his retirement from the Council.
In 1973 when the Rural District Council and the Urban District Councils were
abolished and replaced by the Melton District Council as it then was, there
was a requirement to have a chairman in place to start the meeting and, whilst
he was not a member of the Council, it was he who was selected to take the
chair for the first meeting, to enable the Council to come into being.
During his time on the County Council he was chairman of both the Education
and the Highways Committees, and finally was elected chairman of the Council
in 1984. At the same time as being a County Councillor he became involved in
Loughborough University, and held the position of Honorary Treasurer. In 1974
the University bestowed upon him an Honorary Doctorate of Technology, in
recognition of his service to the University.
You might think by now that you have heard of the lifetime achievements of two
people, but no, there were many other interests in his very full life, and one
that he will be remembered for in hundreds of years time was his interest,
initially in veteran and vintage cars, which culminated in his buying Caister
Castle in Norfolk in the mid 1960s, and the creation of his car museum. There
he had built display rooms to house and show his growing collection of vehicles
which are on display to the public in the summer months.
He knew that the collection was important on a national or even an international
scale, and wanting to know that it would not be dispersed after his death,
through taxation, he created a charitable trust to hold and look after the
collection. There is no need to imagine that the collection and his and his
wifes name will not continue well into the future.
The inspiration and interest in collecting cars started one summer many years
ago. I was there. It was at an open day at Belvoir Castle, and one of the side
shows was of about half a dozen veteran cars. They really caught his imagination
and thereafter he set out to assemble his own collection.
The very first car he bought was a 1902 Napier, which arrived in bits and
had to be rebuilt. He went on the London-Brighton run several times - and
My father has one additional permanent record of some of his achievements,
that is his coat of arms. On it is the fox, representing Leicestershire and
his involvement with the County Council. The mint leaves and flowers record
his association with the growing of herbs. The key shows his great interest
in education, both on the County Council and also at Loughborough University.
The wheel records his interest in cars and transport. In the centre of the
shield is a representation of Caister Castle. And of course the motto - there
always has to be a motto - it reads Me Faut Faire, which is French and a
literal translation is I must be doing. A well-chosen description of his
personality and vitality. As a matter of interest, Caister Castle was built
in the early 15th Century by Sir John Falstaff, and this too was the motto
on his coat of arms.
That Peter Hill was well respected by those who knew him was well summed up
many years ago when he was negotiating a transaction with someone who did not
know of him. Who can you give me for a reference? he was asked. He referred
them to Oldham Marsh, at that time a well known solicitor and clerk of the
Council in Melton, who when asked about Peter Hills reliability said, If
Hill says he will do something, he will do it.
Ill health did not affect my father much during his life, but near-death
experiences did. In 1985 he suffered a very serious heart attack, and without
his wifes very prompt attention he would not have been got to the hospital
in time. As it was, he had to be resuscitated in the Cromer hospital by a
doctor, to whom he ever since sent a present on the anniversary.
He had another heart attack in May 1999 which, considering his age, was very
serious. With great determination he managed to sufficiently recover to come
home and resume normal life. Again, getting him to hospital in time was
entirely due to his wife.
He and my mother were inseparable, a well matched pair and in the last of his
days when he was very poorly she helped and nursed him without regard to her
own comfort or wellbeing, and with no regrets.
He leaves behind his wife Joan - they were married for 58 years - their three
children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and many, many
people who enjoyed his company and generosity and appreciated his wisdom and
clarity of thought. They will have their own personal memories of a very
He was a man of his times. He will be greatly missed.