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By Georgina Young on

A tribute to Rev Dr Richard Hills

The Science and Industry Museum is deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Rev Dr Richard L. Hills MBE.

Richard was the founding curator of the Science and Industry Museum (originally the North Western Museum of Science and Industry).  Initially working in the History of Science and Technology Department at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, he led development of the museum’s early collecting and – soon afterwards – its first displays, opened in Oddfellows Hall on Grosvenor Street in October 1969.

Richard’s drive and ambition over the museum’s first decade of operation saw it outgrow its original home.  The move to the current Liverpool Road site in 1983 gave him the opportunity to set out the huge working engines of our Power Hall where his legacy remains today.  Following his departure from the museum Richard continued to write, think, campaign and enthuse around the history of technology and we are indebted to him for detailing the history of the museum in his invaluable reminiscences.

Rev Dr Richard Hills. Credit: Manchester Evening News

This museum and its audiences still benefit day-in day-out from his tireless and ambitious work recording, preserving and understanding the industrial past.  In the museum’s 50th year, the collection he established is still at the heart of things, from audiences absorbed in the workings of machinery in the Textiles Gallery to researchers uncovering meaning in the archives he so presciently gathered.

Richard never stopped caring about the Science and Industry Museum.  Most recently, we were delighted to welcome him to see Stephenson’s Rocket return to Manchester and grateful for the time he spent with the curatorial team sharing his knowledge and experience of the engines in the Power Hall.

The museum was far from Richard’s only achievement and this will be one among many tributes.  Nevertheless, for what he did for this museum – and for the industrial heritage and scientific future of Manchester and the north west through his work here – we are incredibly grateful.

4 comments on “A tribute to Rev Dr Richard Hills

  1. Thank You Georgina. Richard was my stepfather and we spent many hours talking about his work at the Museum and how he acquired many of the exhibits. We visited the Museum with him when my children were small and to have a personal tour with him was fantastic, him recollecting all the stories that he had. He truly was an inspirational, humble and kind man. He will be sorely missed by his family, friends and all the colleagues he had over his 82 years.

    His Funeral will be held at St Michaels & All Angels Church in Mottram on Tuesday 4th June 2019, and then at Dukinfield Crematorium at 2pm – All are welcome

  2. I worked with Richard at the North Western Museum of Science and Technology, in the early/mid 1980s, He and I were responsible for acquiring and repatriating the Vulcan Foundry S P S Locomotive 3157 from Pakistan and the return of the E M 2 Electric Locomotive from Holland.
    I founded and was first Chairman of the British Overseas Railways Historical Trust, of which Richard was also an honorary member, he was about to be made our new Precedent at the time of his death.
    He was a very remarkable man and a good personal friend, one of the kindest and most knowledgeable people, I have ever known.
    There are few people with his knowledge or ability around these days, a true historian of our transport and engineering heritage.
    We will all miss him very much.

  3. The British Overseas Railways Historical Trust, would like to pay tribute to Rev Dr Richard Hills, who was an honorary member and was in line to become our next President.
    Richard and I were responsible for negotiating the agreement to repatriate Pakistan Railways S P S Class 4-4-0 3157 to the museum.
    We also worked with Richard to acquire the Dutch State Railways E M 2 Locomotive.
    He was a very enthusiastic knowledgeable friend of the trust and a good personal friend, who will be sadly missed.

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