“Long Live the donor, who is the owner, We drink his health today, For English cheer is good old beer, And a pint of it, hooray!”
This verse, signed “A Pauper”, was written on a hoarding in Church Street, Market Deeping in January 1909. The owner of the disused building was George Grant Hildyard who had used his influence on the Board of Guardians of Bourne Union Workhouse, to obtain an allowance of beer for the inmates on Christmas Day. He also visited the Boys’ Home every Christmas and provided them with a treat. On Coronation Day in 1911 he contributed Jamaica coffee and 40 pounds of strawberries towards festivities at the workhouse and the same year, provided pork pies and daily newspapers to brighten the lives of inmates.
His generosity to local people included donating 8cwt of coal to each “old man of the parish” every Christmas, providing soup two days a week for needy families and paying for all the school children of Deeping St James and Market Deeping to visit a travelling menagerie.
Mr Hildyard was a nephew of the late Reverend William Hildyard, Rector of St Guthlac’s. He was educated at Stamford Grammar School and studied law at Cambridge in 1871, where a contemporary recalled that “As an undergraduate he was singularly corpulent with a curious eruption on his face. He was quite a blameless, indolent and retiring person.” After practising as a solicitor in London, he became a partner in Stapleton & Hildyard, solicitors in Stamford, retiring to live in Market Deeping at the age of 48 in 1900. His home was the bay fronted building in the Market Place, now occupied by a dress shop and florist. His habit of always gardening in bare feet, fits the image of a kindly and eccentric man.
He travelled widely and published “Notes of a Voyage to the West Indies on the Steam Yacht Argonaut in the Winter of 1902-3”, also giving a magic lantern show in the girls’ schoolroom about his tour in the West Indies. He collected curios from all over the world and when an Arts & Industrial Exhibition was held at Bourne in 1911, George Hildyard lent a number of oddities for display, including grapeshot picked up by himself whilst in Portugal, on the site of the Duke of Wellington’s victory at Busaco, a pair of Canadian snowshoes, some volcanic dust from Martinique and a carved paddle from Africa.
Following his death on 12th November 1916, aged 63, he was described as one of Market Deeping’s most respected inhabitants and greatest benefactors. He is buried in the old cemetery, in a plot which he chose for himself. In his Will he left £500 to the church and ensured that donations of coal every Christmas would continue. Although not as well remembered as his uncle, whose name lives on at William Hildyard School, George Hildyard’s benevolence was much appreciated by local people in his lifetime.
As the pauper suggested, maybe we should all raise a glass to him.