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'Pillar of the Black Country': Educator, author and historian Stan Hill dies at 90

By Deborah Hardiman | Brierley Hill | Features | Published:

A "pillar of the Black Country", author and historian Stan Hill has died, aged 90, following a short illness.

Stan Hill in 2007 releasing one of his works

Tributes are pouring in for the former headteacher and councillor who represented the Brierley Hill area and who was well-known for his passion in promoting the region and it's history – being honoured as "the boy from Bent Street Infant School that made good".

His family said he passed away at Russells Hall Hospital on January 16. He lived in Lawnswood Avenue, Wordsley, for 50 years.

Mr Hill was born in Brierley Hill on March 21, 1929, and grew up in the town. During his teaching career he was a leading light in education nationally and was in charge of the Dudley Teachers Centre, in Himley, which was then at the forefront of many curriculum projects in the 1970s.

Stan Hill at the launch of 'Walsall Past and Present' with David Vodden and Tony Copson in 1999

He served as president of The Black Country Society Kingswinford Branch; was chairman of Mary Stevens Hospice trading company; chairman of the Black Country Local History Consortium and became the editor of the Black Countryman magazine in 1989.

A larger than life personality, he also wrote a number of local history books including the hugely popular autobiography Stan Hill's Brierley Hill and Life; Brierley Hill in Old Photographs; and Wordsley Past and Present.

Paying tribute, close friend Angus Dunphy, aged 75, of Cardiff, said: "He was the boy from Bent Street Infant School that made good. Stan was golden just like what the advert for the Holden's Brewery used to say. He is sorely missed by his daughters, his many friends and the wider community.

"He provided a blueprint for life for many. Stan's life was a life well-lived. At the teachers' centre he was a mentor for dozens upon dozens of young teachers, many of whom became heads across the region. They have a lot to thank him for. He was just a lovely man."

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His daughter Sheila Wassell, 60, said: "We are holding a celebration of his life and we are asking people to wear bright-coloured clothes instead of black. As a dad he was lovely and as a grandad he adored his grandsons. Mom and Dad looked after my two sons while I was at work. He took them on walks in the woods and they loved that.

Stan Hill with Carolyn Rowntree at Broadfield House Glass Museum, in Kingswinford, in 2006

"He absolutely loved his great-granddaughter Lucia, aged 12 months. He used to tell us that he was pleased he lived to see the next generation. As a family we've got all his books and we attended all the launches."

His wife of 59 years Jean passed away in January 2014. And as well as Sheila, he also leaves daughter Mandy, 54, and grandsons Stuart, 34, and Scott, 26.

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In an interview with Express & Star columnist Peter Rhodes in 1989, Stan showed his love for the area when he described the Black Country as being more a "state of mind" than a geographical area.

"Maybe the Black Country is more a state of mind,'' he said. "It's a certain pride in the achievements of the past and not wanting things to be swept away or to become, as might have happened under plans for regional government, just an annexe of Birmingham.

"This is a remarkable and very independent place. Dudley, for instance, contains more than 30 separate and very different townships; experts can still tell the accents apart.''

He has been described as a "pillar of the Black Country" following his death

Well-wishers are invited to attend the celebration of his life on February 12 at Gornal Wood Crematorium, in Coopers Bank Road, Brierley Hill, at 1.30pm. It will be followed by a wake at Himley Hall. In lieu of flowers there will be a collection in aid of Mary Stevens Hospice.

Friend and local historian John Spally said: "Stan was a pillar of the Black Country and a credit to the area. He was an old Edwardian, or pupil of King Edward School, in Stourbridge, which is now a college.

"I would say that Stan was extremely helpful and generous. He liked ginger beer, ginger pop and Co-op Fairtrade 99 Tea, and he always swore by it. I'm planning to write a book about Stan."

Mr Hill donated the £2,000 profits from Stan Hill's Brierley Hill and Life to Mary Stevens Hospice trading company after compiling it as a sequel to his 1995 volume Brierley Hill in Old Photographs.

Deborah Hardiman

By Deborah Hardiman
@Deborahh_Star

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based out of the head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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