National Records of Scotland

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David Octavius Hill (1802-1870)

David Octavius Hill (1802-1870)

Painter and photographer

David Octavius Hill was a landscape and portrait painter. He was secretary to the Scottish Society of Arts, 1830-8 (and after its incorporation in the Royal Scottish Academy), a commissioner of the Scottish Board of Manufacturers in 1850 and was influential in the founding of the Edinburgh Art Union. In cooperation with Robert Adamson (1821-1848) he created over 3000 calotype images, including what may be the earliest photograph of a railway at Linlithgow. The images feature Scottish landscapes, such as the 'Land of Burns' 1841 and a series done on Newhaven fishermen and women. His painting of 'The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland: signing the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission - 18th May 1843' has been hailed as the first work of art painted with the help of photographic images, and indeed Hill has been described as the first artist to apply photography to portraiture.

Birth in 1802

David Octavius Hill was born on Thursday 20 May 1802, the son of Thomas Hill, stationer in Perth, and Emily Murray. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Perth gives the date of baptism by the Reverend John Duff, minister at Kinfauns, as 4 June 1802.

Baptism entry for David Octavius Hill

Baptism entry for David Octavius Hill in the OPR for Perth (48 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 287/13, page 124

Marriage in 1837

David Octavius Hill, artist, married Ann MacDonald on 9 August 1837. There are two entries in the Old Parish Registers (OPRs) for this marriage and they provide slightly different details. The entry in the OPR for Edinburgh (his parish) gives his middle name as Octavus and his address as 19 Moray Place in Edinburgh. It confirms that the couple were proclaimed three times at St Stephen's Church.

Marriage entry for David Octavius Hill - Edinburgh

Marriage entry for David Octavius Hill in the OPR for Edinburgh (96 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/65

The second entry in the OPR for Perth (her parish) gives different spellings of his middle name (Octavius) and her surname (MacDonald). Her father is described as a wine and spirit merchant. It also confirms that they were married by Dr John Findlay of St Paul's Church in Perth.

Marriage entry for David Octavius Hill - Perth

Marriage entry for David Octavius Hill in the OPR for Perth (66 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 387/13

1841 and 1861 censuses

In 1841 David Hill, artist, was enumerated at Inverleith Row in St Cuthbert’s parish in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter. His age, 35, has been rounded down to the nearest five.

In 1861 he was living at 28 Calton Hill in the district of South Leith with his daughter, Charlotte, sister, Mary, her two children and two servants. He was 58, a widower and landscape painter.

1861 census entry for David Octavius Hill

Household of David Octavius Hill in the 1861 census of South Leith (28 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1861/685-2/93, page 20

Death in 1870

David Octavius Hill died on 17 May1870. The entry in the statutory register of deaths for the district of Newington in the City of Edinburgh gives the place of death as Newington Lodge, Mayfield and his age as 68 years. He was the widower of Ann McDonald and married to Amelia Robertson Paton. The informant was his nephew Patrick Hill.

Death entry for David Octavius Hill

Entry for David Octavius Hill in the statutory register of deaths for Edinburgh (21 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1870/685-5/352

Testament of David Octavius Hill

National Records of Scotland, SC70/4/129 pp 45-87

In his testament Hill renounces his marital right to the income of his wife, Amelia Paton, made from her work as a sculptor. He is buried in the Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh, where there is a bronze bust of him by his widow. 

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