yeovil trades and traders

hill & Boll Carriage Builders

Coach builders from carts to cars


John Hill was born in 1830 in Sherborne, the son of Thomas Hill and his wife, Charlotte. Little is known of John's early life but in the winter of 1863 he married 23-year old Sophia Milborne, daughter of Yeovil tailor and draper John Milborne and his wife Elizabeth, née Bidder.

It is not known when Hill's Carriage Works first started but the advertisement in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1878 says "Established 40 Years" indicating a founding date of around 1838 which suggests that it was begun by John's father, Thomas, although the 1841 census does record that Thomas was a baker by trade. The carriage works does not appear on Day's map of 1831 but it is shown on the 1858 map.

One of the exhibitors at the Bath & West of England Agricultural Show  held in Ram Park during 4, 5 & 6 June 1856 was Yeovil carriage manufacturer John Hill, at the time only 26 years old. The judges of the show  recorded that his carriages "exceed anything in workmanship, lightness or design yet introduced" and the Western Flying Post described him as "the best carriage manufacturer in the West".

In the 1871 census 41-year old John Hill was listed as a coach builder and was next to the carriage works and opposite the Red Lion Inn in Kingston with Sophia, aged 31, and their two daughters; Bessie Sophia aged 6 and 3-month old Charlotte.

John died in the winter of 1874, aged just 44, and Sophia continued to manage the coach building business. In the 1881 census Sophia was a 41-year old widow listed as a coach builder and lodging with her was Johann H Boll, also listed as a coach builder. Johannes Heinrich Boll became a naturalised British citizen in 1885 and changed his name to John Henry Boll. He married Sophia's daughter, Bessie Sophia, in 1886. By 1889 the carriage works had changed from Hill's Carriage Works and was being advertised as Hill & Boll, Carriage Builders of Kingston and Park Road, Yeovil and South Street, Sherborne.

John and Bessie were to have three children; Hilda born 1887, Frederick born 1890 and Evelyn born 1892. In the 1891 census John and Bessie were living in Pitney Cottage, Kingston, with their daughter Hilda and son Frederick. John was aged 33 and listed as a coach builder and was effectively running Hill & Boll.


Yeovilians remember...

Alfred J Milborne (b1888) recalled this event -

".... This calls to mind the burning down of Hill and Boll's coach factory which took place while we were living at 32 Kingston. This was the biggest fire we ever had in Yeovil and it was quite spectacular."


The Yorkshire Herald reported in its edition of 21 August 1896 - "The extensive carriage works of Messrs Hill and Ball (sic), Yeovil, were destroyed by fire yesterday. The premises burnt include the workshops rebuilt after a fire which occurred last year."



In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' Hill & Boll's business was given the following description -

Messrs. Hill and Boll,
Coach and Carriage Builders, Kingston

In Kingston we find Hill's Carriage Works, now Hill and Boll's, established over half-a-century; but this business has been greatly increased within the last seven or eight years under the management of Mr Boll (who gained his experience with first class coach builders in London and Brussels), and that more extensive showrooms (now under construction) and workshops are required to execute the orders entrusted to them.

On entering the large show-rooms, we noticed a magnificent State coach for the High Sheriff of Dorset. We also saw ready for delivery, and addressed to C Thurborn, Esq., Lewston House, Sherborne, a new pair-horse landau, with patent balance head, self-acting steps, spring cushions and other modern improvements; by its side stood a new Victoria, addressed to the Rev. W L Cotter, West Coller Rectory. The lines of this carriage were certainly very graceful; it is fitted with a patent head, dispensing with all outside joints and working easy enough for a lady to open or close, without stopping the carriage; it had a patent arrangement for releasing the horses in a moment in case of accident, and was fitted up with Boll's patent cee and under springs (the cee springs in this case work freely
throughout, and are not attached to the axles as is usually the case). This was certainly one of the best finished and luxuriantly easy carriages we have ever seen. Then came a new waggonette convertible to T cart, addressed to A Egerton Leigh, Esq., Hinton St. George, which had a patent front seat, enabling a lady to step in at the back (either as waggonette or T cart) and walk through to the front seat, thus saving a difficult climb over the front wheels, and several other improvements. We saw also a fashionable Stanhope gig, well finished in every way, for Dr. Burd, of Okehampton, and a new waggonette in varnished wood, suitable for a pair of ponies, was at that moment leaving the works for F Samuelson, Esq. Judging by the class of carriages exhibited, we are not at all surprised that this firm is patronised by nearly all the leading gentry of the neighbourhood, and are convinced that their orders were placed in competent hands.

On entering the large workshops, we found under construction, amongst others, a new mail phæton for Colonel J R P Goodden, of Compton House, which was shown
to us in the bare wood and iron, and we understand that customers are allowed at any time to visit the works and see their carriages under construction.

A store of timber is placed in the drying sheds for seasoning every year calculated to be sufficient for a twelve months' supply, and a full stock of the different sorts is kept for three years without being interfered with. Every plank has the month and the year it was cut out of the tree stamped on it, so that no workman can make a mistake, and nothing but thoroughly-seasoned material is used.

A competent staff of men are employed, averaging at both shops about 40. The firm are prepared to execute any orders, from the small pony cart for a little Exmoor to the finest equipage, and we feel sure that they will be executed as well as they would be by any first-class London firm, saving customers the trouble of sending or going to town.


In the mid- to late-1890's Hill & Boll collaborated with twins Percival Petter and Ernest Petter, together with their inventive Engineer and designer Ben Jacobs, to produce the first motor car with an internal combustion engine to be made in the United Kingdom. This used a converted four wheel Hill & Boll horse-drawn phaeton and a 3hp Petter horizontal oil engine. The vehicle was constructed at the carriage works of Hill and Boll in Park Street. The collaboration produced twelve different model automobiles in total including the "Yeovil Car".


From the diary of Louisa Harris ....

"20 August 1896: Last night was dreadfully alarmed by a fire at Hill and Boll's Coach Works. I was awakened between 2 and 3am by people running hither and thither, and on looking out of my bedroom window beheld the sky and town illuminated with a lurid glow and a huge volume of smoke with sparks arising from the direction of the burning pile."


In the 1911 census John, Bessie and their three children were living at Summerlands and John gave his occupation as "Manufacturer at Coach & Motor Works". Frederick, by this time aged 20, was listed as "Assisting in Works". John Boll died in Yeovil in 1916, aged 58, and it is believed that his son Frederick took over the management of Hill & Boll.

Hill and Boll of Yeovil were among the thirty six motor car manufacturers (presumably as coachbuilders) exhibiting at the Motor Exhibition at Olympia and The White City in November 1922. In 1924 Hill & Boll amalgamated with Beaminster Garage Company (Edward Hann) Ltd.



This map, based on the 1886 Ordnance Survey, shows Hill & Boll's extensive carriage works noted as the 'Coach Factory' north of Park Road, left of centre. The area shown with paths and trees in front of the carriage works was Pitney Gardens and had existed since at least 1806.




A receipt, dated 1871, from John Hill - including John Hill's signature.


Sophia Hill's advertisement in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1878. By this time Sophia had been running the business on her own since her husband's death in 1874.


... and an advertisement from 1875. 


This advertisement for Hill's Carriage Works appeared in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1888. The following advertisement is from the next year, 1889.


In Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1889, Hill's Carriage Works had become Hill & Boll Carriage Builders.


Another example of Hill & Boll coachwork taken from another advertisement. Put a small engine in it and . . . .


This photograph appeared in the 3 April 1896 edition of 'The Engineer' magazine, captioned "Petter and Hill and Boll's Oil-Motor Carriage" with an accompanying article. The photograph shows James Bazeley Petter (steering) sitting next to Herbert Southcombe, with twin sons Percy (left) and Ernest (right) in the rear seat, on one of their automobiles comprising a heavily modified Hill & Boll coach with a Petter's engine.


This photograph appears in my book 'Secret Yeovil'.

The "Yeovil Car" with coachwork by Hill & Boll that was clearly a conversion of one of their normal horse-drawn coaches as illustrated above in their advertisements. An illustration from 'The Engineer' magazine of 1897.


An ill-fated Petter electric carriage of 1898. It was powered by two electric motors, one driving each of the front wheels. Coachwork again by Hill & Boll.


By the time of this advertisement in the Taunton Courier of 11 March 1908, Hill & Boll were selling cars - presumably more profitable than coach-building carriages.


From my collection

A Hill & Boll advertisement in the Western Gazette of 12 April 1912.


The original of this photograph appears in my book 'Secret Yeovil'.

This colourised photograph taken from Bide's Gardens of the northern end of Princes Street / southern end of Kingston most likely dates to the early 1920s, yet is probably one of the earliest of this location as witnessed by the building at far left, next to Mansion House, which pre-dates the later Vincent's (now Batten's) building on the corner of Court Ash (running off to the left) we are all so familiar with. At right is the shop-front of the sales rooms of Hill & Boll's carriage works.