Obituary:Professor Rosalind Hill

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The Independent Online
Rosalind Hill was Lecturer, Reader and Professor of History at Westfield College in London University for 39 years, a wonderful teacher and scholar, and a person of exceptional charm and kindness. As a scholar she will be particularly remembered for opening the riches of medieval bishops' registers, especially those of Oliver Sutton of Lincoln in The Rolls and Register of Bishop Oliver Sut- ton 1280-1299 (published in eight volumes, 1948-86), and for her edition of the first chronicle of the first Crusade, Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolimitanorum (1962).

Also notable was the help and support she gave to other scholars - in public office as Secretary (1963-73) and President (1973-74) of the Ecclesiastical History Society and Editor and Chairman of the Canterbury and York Society; as a member of the seminars on the Crusades at the Institute of Historical Research, which she greatly relished and which she continued to attend until a few weeks ago; and by the quiet encouragement which so many enjoyed.

In her teaching she brought her own research to life: and her third special interest, in the world of Bede, enabled her to lead her pupils over the Northumbrian hills. She loved the north of England - and any mountainous country so long as she could walk in it: she excused herself from my own inaugural lecture at Cambridge (as she approached 70) owing to a prior engagement to walk in the Himalayas.

Rosalind Hill's parents were Sir Norman and Mary Hill; her father was a leading Merseyside solicitor, a notable figure in the Liverpool shipping world. In his later years he acquired a substantial house on the edge of Stockbridge in Hampshire, where Rosalind Hill herself preserved ancient tradition, when she inherited the title of Lady of the Manor, by holding the manorial court each year and sorting out local difficulties, which included geese wandering on the common marsh by the River Test. Her generosity to Stockbridge is commemorated in Rosalind Hill House, a home for elderly residents of the village.

She studied history at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and taught briefly at University College, Leicester (as it then was), where (Sir) John Plumb was among her first pupils.

In 1937 she was summoned to Westfield College, London, by a telegram from the Principal, and at Westfield she worked - and also at the Institute of Historical Research in Bloomsbury - till she retired as Professor of History, after a notable spell of service as Vice-Principal, in 1976. She continued to take a deep interest in the college. She had known and preferred it as a relatively small college for women students; but she accepted its transformation - when it became a mixed community in the mid-Sixties, and then (after her retirement) was joined to Queen Mary College - with a good grace, giving a helping hand to reconcile the alumni of Westfield to these changes.

For many of her friends the house in Radlett, Hertfordshire, where she lived with two colleagues - latterly one, Gwen Chambers, a former Finance Officer at Westfield, who cared marvellously for her in the infirmities of her final years - was an epitome of the Westfield of history.

The union of enthusiasm and the warmth and charm and kindness which all who came near her felt explains the spell she cast over many generations of students. She combined these qualities with discipline - some to the students, for she could correct the erring geese of Westfield as well as those of Stockbridge; but much more to herself: in regular preparation, sheer hard work, and a punctuality sometimes disconcerting to those less disciplined. Nothing ever interfered with this regularity, save an unhappy student or a sick animal.

In a delicious way, her devotion to animals and to the Middle Ages are combined in Both Small and Great Beasts (1953), a pamphlet exploding many myths about the medieval treatment of animals, which she and the great cartoonist Fougasse conspired to write for the University Federation for Animal Welfare. Quite without sentimentality, brimful of humour, yet barely hiding a great depth of feeling and humanity.

Christopher Brooke

Rosalind Mary Theodosia Hill, historian: born 14 November 1908; Lecturer in History, Westfield College 1937-55; Reader in History, London University 1955-71; Professor of History 1971- 76 (Emerita); died Radlett, Hertfordshire 11 January 1997.