Born in the last quarter of 1862 in Thornley near Easington colliery, William Harrison Hill was the first-born of Harrison Hill and Mary Jane Jenkin’s four children.
The Hill family has been settled in Durham for at least 200 years before William Harrison Hill was born. It’s just as likely they have been coal mining for at least this long perhaps even since mining began there in the middle ages.
William’s father, Harrison was born in 1839 in East Hetton, the son of a coal miner, like his father before him and his father before him as far back as the research takes us.
William’s mother, Mary Jane Jenkin was born in Wendron, Cornwall in March 1838. Her father (William’s Grandfather) was a Cornish copper miner and she was their eldest child. By 1851 her family had moved to Co. Durham most likely in search of work as the Cornish mining industry was in the midst of a serious decline and employment was hard to come by, poverty was rife, and they were hungry times.
William’s parents, Mary Jane Jenkins and Harrison Hill were married in 1862. They had four sons over the next few years with William Harrison coming first, followed by his brothers Thomas, Nicholas, and John Harrison.
Then tragically, in August 1870 at the age of 31, Williams father died suddenly of a stroke at his home in 6th Row, East Hetton. William was only 8 years old when his father died, and his mother became a young widow aged 33. His brothers were only 6, 4 and 1.
The census from this period tells us that there was several other clusters of close relatives living nearby. There is no doubt that just like us, William Harrison Hill and his bride to be, Mary Jane Woodward grew up surrounded by Aunts and Uncles and lots of cousins. In fact, at this time when William is 8 years old and living on 6th Row, his future bride Mary Jane Woodward age 6, was living on 4th Row so it’s likely they had been childhood friends who later became sweethearts.
In 1873, William’s young widowed mother Mary Jane, married again to a Mr John Bainbridge, another coal miner. William gained a step-father and three half brothers… Roger, James and Joseph. By 1881 William is 18 years old, the entire family all live together in Ushaw Moor. The elder Hill brothers are all coal miners. His future bride Mary Jane Woodward is again also living in a pit village nearby.