The Story of Our Founder George Gill 1778-1855
In 1846 George Gill donated £1000 (worth about £45,000 today) towards the building of Peoples College School for the children of the working classes.He encouraged others to contribute so ensuring the success of his proposal.
George was the son of William Gill a clergyman from Colston Bassett and Elizabeth (who was from Lincolnshire) At the time of George’s birth in 1778 his father William was both curate and schoolmaster in Wilford and he was baptised on 20 January 1779 at Colston Bassett.
Apprenticed to a hosier, he became a lace, thread and yarn commission agent and was clearly successful in his chosen career. He married Sarah Butcher on 17 June 1801 at Nottingham St Peters Church and they lived in on Park Terrace. They had a son Francis Butcher Gill who followed his father into the lace trade and continued his father’s public and philanthropic work. Sarah died sometime before the 1851 Census as George is shown living with his new wife Elizabeth and two servants on Park Terrace.
George was connected to the non-conformist High Pavement Chapel which was a place of worship for many of Nottingham’s worthies including Thomas Hawksley a famous civil engineer who was born in Arnold. In 1816/17 George was Sheriff of Nottingham and his son Francis held that position in 1838/39.
George was a renowned philanthropist and contributed to many causes including:
- Peoples' College School,
- A Working Men's Retreat in Plantagenet Street, St Ann’s
- The Peoples Hall converted from the School of Art and Design, then at Beck Lane (Heathcote Street),
- A chapel and day ward at Nottingham General Hospital.
The People's College
Taken from “Rambles around Nottingham” (Author unknown) The following early description does not refer to the existing building but the original one which appears on the front page of school reports and on the Home Page of this website.
This was founded in 1846, and is situated in College Street. It was erected by public subscription, and the sum of £1,000 was contributed by one inhabitant of the town, George Gill Esq., of the Park. The design of the projectors was to afford superior instruction for the working classes. The college is open to all persons, without regard to their religious or political tenets. Controversial reading and lectures are strictly avoided, but books of any religious or political kind may be introduced to the library, if approved by the directors. The building is of brick, and belongs to the Gothic order of architecture. It is divided into compartments, the chief room being towards the east. The central door is pointed, and flanked by diagonal buttresses, above which is a pointed window of three lights, with quatrefoil tracery, surmounted by a square pinnacle or spire of singular construction, which contributes a picturesque aspect to the edifice. The west compartment presents gables and square windows. There is a female, as well as a male department. Mr Joseph Bright is the second master and Miss Ellen Kirkland the mistress.
The above description does not refer to the existing building but the original one which appears on the front page of school reports and on the Home Page of this website.
The People's Hall
(Here are a couple of reports on the Hall made when it was still in use which give an indication of what it was about) The People's Hall was founded in 1854 by Mr. George Gill. He purchased the interesting mansion that had been used as a School of Art and Design, and he altered it and enlarged it and used it for a variety of useful and philanthropic purposes. It contains a library of some ten thousand volumes, but somehow its rooms do not command the popularity that they deserve. The house has an interesting history. It was built in 1737 by Charles Morley, whose pottery, which stood on the site now occupied by Messrs. Cowen's Ironworks, produced the beautiful Nottingham brown-ware, of which there is such an excellent collection in the Castle Museum. When the house was built, it had an open courtyard fronting Beck Lane, which was swept away to make room for the modern street, and on the opposite side of the road was left an open space, or "Vista," upon which Wesley Chapel was built in 1838. The house still contains some extremely fine ceilings, and what is probably the most magnificent staircase in the whole of Nottingham, while in front of its side court is a run of very fine and carefully tended wrought-iron railings with their gateway.
Source - J. Holland Walker, An itinerary of Nottingham: Hockley, Goose Gate, Platt Street, Coalpit Lane and Holland Street, Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 31 (1927)
George Gill had expressed his aims for a library at the Peoples Hall as follows: “It is my earnest desire that it prove to the industrious classes of the town and neighbourhood a pleasant resort from the business and cares of life, and conduce to their temporal well being and happiness, as well as to their mental and moral improvement”
In this temperance institution (tobacco was also forbidden), the librarian was required to provide refreshments 'such as tea, coffee, cocoa, bread, butter, cheese, fruit, buns, biscuits, soup, vegetables, and meat'. In other respects, however, it had a rather more liberal constitution than, for example, the Artisan’s Library and has been described as 'a democratised mechanics' institute'. George's intention to establish a library was carried out after his death by his son Francis and other trustees.
The building is a Grade “listed building and is now used by the Peoples Hall Snooker Club.
The Working Man’s Retreat.
George built an Alms House with a difference on Plantagenet Street off St Ann’s Well Road.It was a place of retirement and rest for working men who had reached the age of sixty-five and had been in work. They must not have received parochial aid for the previous five years and be of irreproachable character to qualify for a tenancy. He personally selected the first batch of tenants before handing over to the Charitable Commissioners of England.
George died in 1855 age 76 and the following was found in the Allen's Illustrated Guide to Nottingham 1888 andRefers to his burial place.
Derby Road Chapel. Other objects of interest present themselves, but which will be noticed as the visitors-proceed; for some time at least, they will have sufficient occupation in observing the numerous memorials which surround them, and which mark the last resting places of the peaceful dead. Where everything betokens affection it is almost invidious to call attention to any particular object. We may, however, point to the names upon the tombs of Dr. Marshall Hall, the Rev. Joseph Gilbert, and Mr. George Gill, as some of those who rank amongst "Nottingham worthies." The Cemetery comprises about twenty acres, and was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1836. This Cemetery, which is nearly full, is devoted to the interment of Roman Catholics and Nonconformists.
Written by Tony Keyworth
Researched by Kate Keyworth