LATE becoming HILL - 4: J V Hill & William Spiers

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by shoarthing, Feb 27, 2022.

  1. shoarthing

    shoarthing Most Valued Member

    An ultímate chance to buy a saw-making tool once used by Joseph Howell, of Chelsea, came over 85 years after his death, via a notice in The Daily Telegraph, of the 2nd October 1909, reading:

    By order of the Official Receiver in Bankruptcy.
    253, GRAY’S INN-ROAD, W.C.
    To Ironmongers, Tool-Dealers, Builders, Smiths, and others
    by AUCTION on Friday October 8 1909, at one
    o’clock, the STOCK of a TOOL-MANUFACTURER, comprising
    4ft. lathe, saw-makers’ vices, anvils, presses, planing,
    trueing machines, quantity general tools, fixtures, and fittings.
    Catalogue of the Auctioneers, 128a Queen Victoria-street, E.C.​

    The above bankruptcy was that of William Spiers, trading as I V Hill, whose first examination in bankruptcy was announced in The London Gazette on the 24th September 1909

    253 Gray’s Inn-road was the revised name/number given around 1862 to the building previously numbered & named: 5 Chichester-place - built on the West side of Gray’s Inn Road in a row of premises North of its junction with Manchester-street (later Argyle Street).

    Around the turn of 1836/7, J V Hill had moved his saw-making business the very short distance from 64 Cromer-street, Gray’s Inn-road to 5 Chichester-place, Gray’s Inn-lane, where it remained for over 70 years, until William Spiers’ bankruptcy.

    While based at 64 Cromer-street, J V Hill had obtained the right to use the HOWEL name, plus the saw-making tools & stock from Joseph Howell’s workplace on The King’s-road, Chelsea, sometime around the beginning of 1836 - tho’ he had first announced it in The Morning Advertiser of October 27th 1835:


    J. V. Hill, for several years foreman to Mr. Howel, begs respectfully to inform them, that he has taken the SAW BUSINESS of the late J. Howel, of Chelsea, and as the original premises are closed, he intends carrying it on in the same name in his premises, No. 64 Cromer-street, Gray’s Inn-Road, where he has every convenience for so doing. J. V. H. intends making them at a rather less price than Mr. Howel’s list, at the same time assuring them that he will supply them with an article equal to any that have ever been made in that name. J. V. H. takes this opportunity of expressing his thanks to those of his friends, for the very liberal support they have given him since he has commenced business ; a continuance of the same will for ever be gratefully remembered.

    Oct. 26, 1835 J. V. Hill

    J V Hill’s lengthly & thorough Will of 1885 referred to “the trusts of a certain instrument” of 19th April 1877; then required, after his own death, his leasehold premises at 253 Gray’s Inn Road to be kept unsold until the death of his daughter Anne Elizabeth Hill; until then providing: “rents and profits” for her sole benefit. The 1881 UK census showed J V Hill on a seaside break, as a: “Retired Tool Manufacturer”

    This same 1881 census shows William Spiers & his family living above the sawmaking premises at 253 Gray’s Inn Road - where he states his trade as: “Saw & Tool Manufacturer” & claims employment of: “5 men, 1 lad” . . . later census’ of 1891 & 1901 show the same Spiers family continuing to reside at 253 Gray’s Inn Road. The last Trade Directory to list a saw-making business there is the P.O.Directory of 1909

    The births of William & Clara Spiers’ children were being registered in Pancras Parish from 1873 onward; so it seems reasonable to infer the Spiers family lived within walking distance of Gray’s Inn Road as from that year.

    From the above; it is rational to speculate that William Spiers (b. around 1839 in Soho) worked in J V Hill’s saw-manufacturing business as from some time in the early-mid 1870s, & obtained the right to trade as: “I V HILL” - and presumably to use the “HILL LATE HOWEL” brand - as from J V Hill’s retirement on or before 1881, perhaps as early as 1877.

    After Anne Elizabeth Hill’s death in 1908, J V Hill’s trustees were required to sell the leasehold of 253 Gray’s Inn Road - after perhaps giving William Spiers first opportunity to buy. Sadly, by August 1910 creditors after his bankruptcy were repaid at only just over a shilling-in-the-pound (around 5%). William Spiers died in 1920 at 24 Millman Street - a short walk to the West from Gray’s Inn Road.

    Dates active of the J V Hill saw-manufacturing business at (5 Chichester-place) 253 Gray’s Inn Road:
    Joseph Vaughan Hill: 1837 to (his retirement) <1881
    William Spiers (trading as I V HILL): <1881 to 1908/9

    1837 PO London as S V Hill saw maker Chichester Place.png 1881 census J V Hill Margate.jpg 1881 census William Spiers 253 Grays Inn Lane employs 5 men 1 lad.jpg 1909 PO Directory Street Index 253 Gray’s Inn Road.png
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2022
  2. David

    David Most Valued Member

    So do I understand that saws marked "Hill Late Howell" were made from 1835 until 1909? No wonder they show up with such frequency on the second hand market. But they all look essentially the same, from what I've seen, which is a puzzler.
    shoarthing likes this.
  3. shoarthing

    shoarthing Most Valued Member


    . . . and it's not really a 'puzzler' as I'm sure you suspect: J V Hill explicitly made - or caused to be made - for seventy-odd years more-or-less the same saws as he had been involved in producing by/for the Howell family. His considerable success is a reflection of his understanding of the London (&, looked at as a Londoner: the Provincial) Trade.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2022
  4. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    Research into the London saw industry, so superficially described in a certain large book on British saw makers, has taken a huge step forward with these fine pieces: if I wore a hat, or hats, I'd take off every one of them to shoarthing, with only one request – don't stop now! But another one: can he, or anyone else, start to unravel the (impossible, I fear) puzzle of where or by whom so many of those 19th century London tool dealers had their saws made. Was Hill a big contributor, or did he only ever make as it were for himself? Attempts to find out for which retailers the Sheffield manufacturers were making and marking saws have been almost completely fruitless, as stylistically the clues are usually too generalised to be specific, so that only the chance and rare survival of actual order books gives really useful information. Some answers are almost certainly buried in provincial county record offices in the form of records left by defunct ironmongers or tool dealers.
    As for production, did the JVH firm run for many years on such a small labour force as his Spiers successor? Was their productivity greater than a Sheffield firm, the larger of which had scores of employees, or did their saws just last better?
    What next? Who were all those Oxleys, 10 of them? Why has, to my knowledge, only one saw with that name ever been listed?
  5. shoarthing

    shoarthing Most Valued Member

    . . . . was txting with Simon Barley t'other day & - perhaps unfeelingly - sent him this image (lower saw) of a peculiarly graceless, & apparently never-resharpened, J V Hill 7½tpi crosscut - Mr B naturally shuddered:


    . . . . the upper handsaw is an almost-equally little-used 4tpi rip - both are 26"

    Does anyone else have such a clunky-looking (Wm Spiers?) J V Hill handsaw?
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2022
  6. Joe S

    Joe S Most Valued Member

    Hey Shoarthing et al.
    Went through the pile to see if there was anything close to what you were looking for. Nada. Pretty sure if offered such a saw, so "graceless", that clean and untouched it would be in the collection in a heartbeat. I am still in awe of the fine work you did with this project.
    Joe S.
  7. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member

    No J V Hill hand saws here, although my handle shapes on the top 2 saws in this picture were originally somewhat similar to your Hills (Straw, and Buck, both "London" saws), with their tapered nose and wide U top notch, in 3 screw London pattern
    shoarthing likes this.
  8. shoarthing

    shoarthing Most Valued Member

    . . . thank you; your STRAW & BUCK handsaws are specifically interesting in that Peter Straw & Matthew Buck were born within eighteen months of each other, & each immigrated to London, from Sheffield, in the first decade of the C19th . . . indeed, at one period of a couple of years or so, their known London workshop addresses were within an hundred metres of each other. Each seems to have been active for around four decades in London as a file-maker, & tool-dealer; while describing themselves as 'saw-maker' - Buck's Hallamshire apprenticeship was to a file-maker.

    My specific & inadequately-expressed point re: "William Spiers" was how very long the London style of handsaw endured . . . . until eventually & cumulatively those 'typical' details of handle & saw-plate - which we recognise together as making up a London Style - became coarsened &/or lost to manufacturing expediency.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2022