The world-famous comedian was born in January 1924 and christened Alfred Hawthorne Hill after his father. The family were living in Bridge Road (now Bernard Street) at the time of his birth, but soon moved to Westrow Gardens in Banister's Park. His father, a former circus performer, managed a surgical goods store in Canal Walk. Benny went to Shirley Primary School and later won a scholarship to Taunton's School.
The Hills loved the music hall and every Wednesday evening the entire family went to either the Palace Theatre on Above Bar Street or the Hippodrome in Ogle Road to see live acts. Benny was particularly fond of the stand-up comedians.
On leaving school he worked for the Phoenix Coal Company and Woolworths in Southampton before getting a job as a milkman for Hann & Son Dairy in Eastleigh. Because of the early morning starts, he moved out of his parent's home and found lodgings in the Nook, Eastleigh. He was performing on stage from an early age. He joined a local concert party in Southampton while still at school, and in Eastleigh he joined a local musical group. He became interested in stand-up comedy and persuaded the leaders of the musical group to let him try out some of his comedy routines on stage. He gradually introduced more and more comedy into the show and soon gained a local reputation. In the summer of 1941 at the age of 17 he moved to London to try to break into the world of show business.
In later years, when he was a world-famous performer and a reputed millionaire, he continued to live an unassuming life at the family home in Westrow Gardens, seemingly indifferent to the trappings of luxury that could easily have been his. He was often seen around the town carrying his shopping bags, waiting for a bus or picking up a takeaway. He died in 1992.
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p85-57. (HS/t)
The Real Benny Hill, by Margaret Forwood. (HS/t)
Saucy Boy, by Leonard Hill. (HS/t)
Benny: The True Story, by Dennis Kirkland. (HS/t)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 27.
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