Hilton, Stephen J.P. (1845-1914)
Stephen was born in early 1845 at Leicester of poor and pious parents, Joseph Hilton and Mary Ann Smith. He received his early training at the Baptist Sunday School. He was drawn to the old George Street Chapel by a companion and there found his faith at the age of 18.
Stephen began his working life as a currier, working as a journeyman for two years after his apprenticeship. He then commenced business on his own account as a currier, leather cutter and grindery dealer. After eight years of successful trade, Stephen started to manufacture boots and shoes for wholesale houses. He then expanded the business by opening his own shops across the country. By 1892 he had 40 shops and a factory employing 200 operators with modern equipment.
His obituary records that in all his business transactions, Stephen was honourable and straightforward, his character was beyond suspicion and where best know he was most revered.
Contribution to the Connexion
Within his own circuit, Stephen served as a Sunday School Teacher, prayer leader, class leader, local preacher and circuit steward. He attended Claremount Street Chapel in Leicester. Stephen was also a trustee of several chapels in the circuit.
Stephen served as district treasurer for the orphanage fund for 25 years.
His principle was: ‘Let us hear the old truth, with the old enthusiasm, but associated with varying methods adapted to the exigencies of the times.’
In 1906 Stephen was Vice-president of Conference and chaired the annual Missionary meeting in 1892.
Contribution to the Community
Stephen was a good Liberal. When County Councils were first established, he was elected to serve the Belgrave division of the first Leicestershire County Council.
Stephen served as Mayor of Leicester (1904) and was conferred with the honour of Alderman (1907). He was Chairman of the Liberal Club, President of the local YMCA and an ex-president of the local Free Church Council. He became a Justice of the Peace in 1905.
In masonic circles Stephen was greatly honoured.
Stephen married Harriett Gibson in the spring of 1867 at Leicester. Census returns identify seven children.
- Rosanna (1868-1904)
- Mary Ann (1870-1955) – married John William Gregory, a PM Minister
- Joseph Arthur (1871-1927) – a boot dealer
- George Edward (1873-1936) – a boot factor; Mayor of Leicester in 1920
- Harriett (1876-1902) – married Richard Hallam, a boot manufacturer; also Lord Mayor of Leicester in 1935
- Stephen (1877-1928) – a shoe factor
- Frederick James (1883-1946) – a clerk (1911)
Stephen died on 16 March 1914 at Bournemouth.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1892/449; 1914/414
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers
Leicester City Council Website – Mayors 1900-1909
Neil Crutchley, Stephen Hilton – Industrialist, Churchman and Mayor, Leicester Historian 2006, p36