Arthur Hill in Life and in “Garrow’s Law”

Comparing fact and fiction in terms of family, fortune, politics and intriguing relationships

Arthur Hill, the chief antagonist in the BBC award-winning historic drama, “Garrow’s Law,” was an actual person. For those readers interested in the real story behind this character, the following biographical sketch will fill in some of the facts, especially as it relates to the storyline in “Garrow’s Law.” Indeed, Arthur Hill’s real story is a drama of historic interest on it’s own, and does touch the lives of William Garrow, and “Lady” Sarah.

Arthur Hill, 2nd Marquess of Downshire By Pierre Conde, after Richard Cosway. Stipple engraving, 1786, 7 5/8" by 5 ¼"
Arthur Hill, 2nd Marquess of Downshire By Pierre Conde, after Richard Cosway. Stipple engraving, 1786, 7 5/8″ by 5 ¼

The storyline in “Garrow’s Law” focuses on the English Bloody Code in the 1780s and how changes were being made in how the accused could be defended. For dramatic purposes, the BBC series needed an antagonist, a character to counter the new influence of William Garrow in his fight for justice within this legal system. To have literary impact, the storytellers need to employ classical literary techniques to dramatize the story — to hold an audience. Plots and scenes, protagonists and antagonists, character development, conversation, conflict and conflict resolution, multiple layers of interpretation, and attention to ideas, beliefs, systems, values, and the culture of the day — the stuff of storytelling — and these techniques were carefully employed. Arthur Hill’s true identity is transformed into the perfect antagonist. And in doing so the storytellers strayed from historic facts.

Historical Facts Related to the “Garrow’s Law” Storyline

The facts are that Arthur Hill and Sarah did have a child — William Arthur Dore Hill, not Samuel, as he is called in the TV drama. William Garrow and Sarah did marry, and raise Arthur’s child. Arthur Hill acknowledged his son and paid for his support and education, but not as his heir. The coat of arms and crest of his grandfather Trevor Hill, 1st Viscount of Hillsborough, were bestowed on William Arthur Dore Hill or Dorehill as he became known. In fact during his early years, he lived sometimes with the Downshires at Downshire House, Belgrave Square and sometimes with the Garrows. He was on friendly terms with both families.

Arthur Hill also acknowledged he had two daughters by Elizabeth Russell, not Lady Elizabeth Fox in Garrow’s Law, and supported this family also.
Eventually Arthur Hill made a most fortuitous marriage, producing an heir to his title and estates, and with this marriage became one of the richest men in England and Ireland. And he had an interesting and turbulent career in public office.

A question emerges in the minds of the authors of this biographical sketch. As direct descendents of Sarah Dore (Lady Sarah) we have this unanswered issue. How did the writers of “Garrow’s Law” discover the obscure and intriguing relationship of Arthur Hill with Sarah Dore and William Garrow, an intrigue that is at the center of the drama? This bit of personal story was almost unreported in its day. Prior to 2009 when the first episodes of “Garrow’s Law” were being scripted, the only apparent connection of Arthur Hill with William Garrow and Sarah was in the update of the biographical sketch on William Garrow in the Dictionary of National Biography by John Beattie. It states:

“About 1780 Garrow entered into a relationship with Sarah Dore (d. 1808). It was a connection formed ‘somewhat irregularly’, as a contemporary was later to say (Farington, Diary. 11.4017). Indeed, they were not to be married until 17 March 1793, a decade after Sarah had borne two children: David William (1781-1827) and Eliza Sophia (1783-1857). They also raised a son (William Arthur Dorehill) from Sarah’s earlier relationship with Arthur William Moyes Hill, later second marquess of Downshire.”

Was this statement the inspiration for the Arthur Hill-Sarah and William Garrow intrigue in “Garrow’s Law”?

As noted, Arthur Hill financially supported Sarah Dore in the raising of their son. It is interesting also to surmise how money provided to Sarah Dore by Arthur Hill, as mother of his son for raising and educating him, may also have supported William Garrow while he was still a student of the law. Sarah and William Garrow were living together two years after Sarah gave birth to Arthur’s child. They started having their own children at this early time before William Garrow began earning fees as a barrister. How much did Arthur Hill know of William Garrow’s involvement with Sarah? Many years later, in a letter written to the 3rd Marquess of Downshire, Arthur and Sarah’s son, William Arthur Dorehill, commented on such a relationship. He writes:

I well remember the time, when in early life, he (Garrow) was for many years under the greatest pecuniary obligation to your Lordship’s much lamented, and revered father,(Arthur Hill) my generous Benefactor, and kind patron.

Arthur Hill’s financial arrangement with Sarah suggests that William Garrow and his own children with Sarah were for a time living on money provided by Arthur Hill for the support of his son, William Arthur Dorehill.

3 Replies to “Arthur Hill in Life and in “Garrow’s Law””

  1. RE: Arthur Hill in Life and in
    I recently watched several episodes of “Garrow’s Law” and, while I found it well written, directed and acted, I lost interest after Googling Garrow, Hill and Dore and finding how far the story strayed from the facts. The truth is so much more interesting than the fabrication that I have to wonder why the creators/writers felt there was such a need to play fast and loose with it.

    1. RE: Arthur Hill in Life and in
      Script-writer for Garrow’s Law, Mark Pallis, has responded that “I have had this question before! Perhaps the best thing is to refer them to the little film that goes with the DVD”.

      This can also be seen online at:

  2. RE: Arthur Hill in Life and in “Garrow’s Law”
    Hi Elisabeth… Just guessing.. but almost nothing was in the public archives on the relationship … Perhaps the only information available was in the Dictionary of National Biography entry for William Garrow. It states concerning Sarah and William Garrow: “They also raised a son (William Arthur Dorehill) from Sarah’s earlier relationship with Arthur William Moyes Hill, later second marquess of Downshire.” I had supplied this information to the author of the DNB article, J.M. Beattie.


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