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

His Death and Legacy

Arthur Hill died on September 7, 1801 just over a year after he lost the battle on Union. It is reported that his widow felt that his early death at age 48 was in part due to his humiliation by the Government.

Another source claimed that his death was almost certainly caused by a heart attack in that he had pains in his arms before the ‘gout’ attacked him. Still another source, the Irish Culture and Customs website under the heading “today in Irish history’ states that he committed suicide. What is to be believed?

After his death, sympathy for his passing was widely expressed in Hillsborough and area. According to Barry, on the following Sunday, a Rev. Andrew Craig, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Lisburn spoke these words to his congregation, a glimpse at how the local people viewed Arthur Hill.

“He was not only one of those invaluable powers in Ireland’s prosperity — a resident landlord — but he was also a good friend to the farmer, and an able advocate of agricultural progress. To his late respected father, the Seceders (Presbyterians) of Down owe obligations which could hardly be over-estimated. When the storms of persecution raged against them, the First Lord Downshire was ever their friend, and his influence and purse were always at their service. Following in the footsteps of his venerated parent, the nobleman, over whose premature demise thousands of people are now sorrowing, paid as much attention to the Seceding ministers on his estate as to the Clergy of his own Church; and the liberality towards the different congregations was that of a kind-hearted landowner.”

At his death, it is reported that his yearly income from his estates was worth a reputed £40,000 but he had debts exceeding £300,000. Mary Hill, the Marchioness of Downshire and widow of Arthur Hill, took charge of the Downshire affairs. The heir, the 3rd Marquess of Downshire, would not become of age for another 8 years. The management of the Downshire estate and work to restore of the family fortune is carefully presented in the 1972 book, “The Downshire Estates in Ireland, 1801-1845: the management of Irish landed estates in the early nineteenth century,” by W.A. Maguire. It is an amazingly penetrating look at how the Downshires achieved income, handled debt, their relationship with tenents and agents and support over many years of their obligations to direct and distant family members, and creditors with legal rights to Downshire money. The financial and family support of Arthur’s son, William Arthur Dorehill, the child born to Arthur and Sarah in “Garrow’s Law”, can be best understood as a small element in this complex financial world.

When Arthur Hill died, if his widow had not already read her husband’s will, her reading of it may have caused some surprises. Concerning the “Garrow’s Law” storyline, the following items are of special interest. The will acknowledged one son and two daughters born to women other than his wife.

In his will Arthur Hill

acknowledges he has a son William Dore Hill at school near Margate whom Mrs Garrow, wife of counselor Garrow… has had the care of and has paid the Care of a Mother to him…

the will further states he

has saved for him upward of £800… I wish therefore that the above £800 and interest be made £1000 with interest…

And further

that all sums due to Mr. Garrow for his Schooling and others for the same be paid…


that one hundred Gs to be paid clear of all deductions half yearly by equal and regular payments to my said Son William Dore Hill during his natural life.

And further that

he appears a fine Boy about eighteen and I hope he will meet with the care protection of my beloved wife and my eldest Son Hillsborough and other Sons. I purpose God willing to send shortly the said William to the E. Indies as a writer If I should be able to obtain such a Commission from the Directors which God grant I may be able to do or put him in some other reputable line to gain a livelihood.

Indeed the Marchioness of Downshire and her family honored this will. Throughout his life William Arthur Dorehill was financially supported by the Downshires, and they maintained a cordial family-like relationship that extended through some future generations. As an example of his relationship, at William Arthur Dorehill’s request, the Downshires purchased a commission for his son, William John Dorehill, who rose to the rank of Major General in the Army, with a distinguished career.

In his will, Arthur Hill also gave support to Elizabeth Russell and her two daughters. The will states:

I have also two daughters of the names of Emily and Charlotte Russhill. They are the daughters of an innocent good little girl who trusted in me and whom I promised never to desert and in God’s name I pray my Heirs… to aid me to fulfil my promise in confidence that I shall be strictly attended to in this particular…

Arthur Hill then states:

I give to Elizabeth Russell, daughter of the clerk of Hillsborough Parish the house she lives in … and also a clear annuity of One hundred Guineas a year during her natural life and to her daughter Emily fifty G’s. annually during her natural life, and the like sum of fifty G’s to Charlotte during her natural life…

he then plans for various contingencies by stating:

if they survive their mother the annuity given to her to be continued to them by equal divisions and the house to be continued to them… if my daughters should marry and as they marry the above annuities should cease they receiving 300 G’s as a Marriage Portion to be settled on them independant of their coveture (marriage status)…

The will extends beyond their lives:

and upon to their children to be divided as they shall think fit by will or deed and the house shall remain between them forever… which shall be sold and the money arising from such sale be divided equally for the benefit of both and their children independent of their coverture after their Mother Betty Russell’s demise…

This portion of the will closes with a charge to the family:

and I pray the kindness and protection of my beloved Wife and of Hillsborough and my other Sons may be extended to these three females in every shape that may be most advantageous to them and to render as circumstances occur their lives comfortable and happy.



(The PRO of Ireland copy of the will was extracted from the Registry of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, November 24, 1797)

The Arthur Hill of history and the Arthur Hill of “Garrow’s Law” do connect at critical points. However, the demands in producing historic drama require the use of literary techniques essential in telling a compelling story, and these literary needs, along with the lack of a detailed historic record, trump the demands for historic accuracy — at least in terms of the lives of the individual players. Depicting the state of affairs in the criminal courts in the 1780s is another thing… and in this “Garrow’s Law” is a powerful voice in helping us relive that period of time.

Richard Braby (direct descendant of Sarah Dore and William Garrow)

Jan Dalton (direct Dorehill descendant via Mother, Grandfather, and Gt Grandfather)

Now for the details on the life of Arthur Hill.

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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