George Jonathan Mills (1820-1903)

From Historical Hastings

George was a fish-merchant and, later in life, a property developer. Marrying twice, he had a son, George with his first wife, Jane Tyhurst. Remarrying in 1875 he went on to have a further five or six children - the number is in doubt due to the possibility that his first-born daughter did not survive beyond her first year - another daughter with the same name being born a year later. In addition, the hyphenated surnames that appear with his later children would suggest they were not born to his second wife. A contemporary of T. B. Brett, Mills played the flute in one of Brett's bands.

Ian Shiner has collated the below from a biographical sketch of George Mills that was written by T. B. Brett and published in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer on the 20th of June 1903:

His death occurred at Colville, his residence at Worthing, the 7th of May, 1903, and at the advanced age of 83 years. The deceased was a native, and for about twenty-four years an inhabitant, of Hastings. His father, John migrated from Burwash to Hastings, and was married to Maria (or Elizabeth Maria), a daughter John of and Elizabeth Hadden. They selected 15, High-street, and opened a shop for the sale of fruit and vegetables. It was here that their daughter Matilda was born in 1818, and George Jonathan in 1820.

When, in 1840, Mr. Mills was a member of my small band, he resided in a house built on the cliff, approached from the Tamarisk Steps, leading to the Tackleway, but hired the No. 12, East Parade, next to the Cutter, where he opened a fish shop. He was of an enterprising spirit, and some originality. It was his practice, after purchasing fish at the sales on the beach at Dutch auction, to sort them out and take a portion of them into neighbouring villages in a small cart drawn by dogs. This system of employing members of the canine family became rather general in some other towns, but it was argued in Parliament that the employment of dogs in such a manner was contrary to their nature, and an act of cruelty. A legislative measure was therefore passed, forbidding, under a severe penalty, the employment of dogs as beasts of burden.

George Mills was married to Jane, a daughter of Mr. Edward Tyhurst, a master tailor, of 16, Winding-street, and Mrs. Mills gave birth to a daughter, Georgiana. Another of Mr. and Mrs. Mills's children was a son, named John Rous, who was born in 1846, when his father was established in business at No. 7, Lower Thames-street, London, but which son, to his parents' grief, died in 1867, at the age of 21 years.

Mr. Mills returned to his native town in 1856, and made his first purchase of a speculative investment in land. In 1862 Mr. Mills formed a syndicate with a Mr. Clement and purchased some 6 acres and 6 perches of meadow land at Hastings on the Brook Estate for £5,520. The plans for St. Andrew's-square, Waldegrave-street, etc., were got out, the ground put up in ​building​ plots for public competition, and realised £10,494, nearly double the amount paid for it only five months before. The speculative foresight of this syndicate tended to the benefit of builders and others, as well as to a great improvement of that part of the town by the conversion of two fields, whose chief ornaments were cow-lodges and pig-pounds, into good-class houses and excellent ​road​s. In the following year (1863), Mr. Mills joined two others to buy land in the parish of Hollington. Charles and Edward Farncomb then sold a farm for ​building​ purposes to a company, Mr. E. Farncomb (one of the vendors) being himself one of the company, and the others being Mr. James Rock, jun., and Mr. George Jonathan Mills. Messrs. Farncomb, Rock, and Mills offered a spot to build a church on the land which had now assumed the name of the Ashbrooke Park Estate. The site thus offered had the advantage of lying almost centrally in a triangle formed by the ​road​s from Silverhill to Beauport, from Beauport to Baldslow, and Baldslow to Silverhill. The church of St. John was built there.

Mr. Mills and his co-proprietors of the estate contributed also to the subscriptions and other means adopted for the erection of the said church. At the same time Mr. Clement was rapidly developing, by sales and favourable leases, the residential district on his land at Silverhill, for the over-flow population of Hastings and St. Leonards, and had already given the site and about two thirds of the cost for the erection of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Mills moved to Worthing, where he and his syndicate continued to buy and develop land. In an obituary notice of Mr. Mills, the "Observer" says: "His shrewd foresight saw what the future of Worthing could be, and it is no exaggeration to say that not only the development of Worthing, but the existence of Worthing as a town of any importance, is due to him."

In 1872 Mr. Mills lost his wife (nee Jane Tyhurst), whose death occurred at Brixton on the 29th of April, at the age of 51 years; and the following year his mother similarly passed away at Cleethorpes, in her 79th year. His father had died some ten to eleven years previously at the age of 69. In 1876 William Percy, Mr. Mills's youngest son, by his first wife, died aged six years. Memorials to all these appear in the Hastings Borough Cemetery, as well as those to Edward and Mary Ann Tyhurst, the parents of Mrs. Mills, the former dying in 1860, at 82 years of age, and the latter in 1862, at the still greater age of 88. Mr. Mills's second wife who was Miss Riches, of Suffolk, leaves seven children to mourn the loss of a kind hearted parent, and a man who was held in great esteem by all who knew him. Although at the time of his death he had just completed his 83rd year, and for about two years had been subjected to failing health, his family, even the day before, did not for a moment think that his end was so near, he being then to all appearance not less well than usual, and continuing to be the active-minded, genial man that many persons in Worthing, Hastings, Lowestoft, and Horsham, and other places, had known him to be.

He was frequently seen walking about Worthing and chatting in his familiar manner with friends and acquaintances. He was the possessor of much property in Hastings and St. Leonards well as at the other towns here named. The opportunity of his birthday in 1882 was taken to present him with a magnificent silver epergne at a Public Dinner, held at the Steyne Hotel, Worthing.


Children of: George Mills and Jane Tyhurst
Name Birth Death Joined with
George Jonathan Mills


Children of: George Mills and Georgiana Riches (1848-1913)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Georgiana Mills


Jean Webb Mills


Frank Shelley-Mills


James Webb-Mills


William Mills


James Webb Mills followed his father in receiving the Freedom of London as a member of the fishmonger's guild[1] Under his pseudonym 'The Postman', Brett also penned the following verse about George, who was a contemporary of his as shown above:

From Eighteen and sixteen till forty about,
John Mills here with fruit had a shop fitted out;
Though John and his wife both in stature were short,
In fisherman’s lingo, that “wasn’t so hort”.
I knew them quite well, and no falsehood I forge,
In saying I knew their son Jonathan George;
Yes, George, a musician, an amateur hand,
A flautist was he in my embryo band!
That is at each Christmas we went round at waits,
Which proved, to our gladness, good money gifts baits;
We sent forth, brisk music folk's spirits to cheer,
And wished "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
George Mills got him married, and mine 'tis to tell,
Traded in fish both to buy and to sell;
And, after a time to Billingsgate got,
Where he, as a salesman, made money, a lot.
He came back to Hastings, and other men joined,
Buying up land, and more money so coined;
In Hastings and Worthing up houses he ran,
And, if he still lives, is a very rich man.

Following his death in 1903, his properties were valued at approximately half a million pounds.

References & Notes

  1. London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers