Early life and studies
A rubbing of a memorial bronze created by Eric and Max Gill in 1905
Gill was born in 1882 in Hamilton Road, Brighton and grew up in the Brighton suburb of Preston Park. One of twelve children, he was the elder brother of MacDonald "Max" Gill (1884–1947), the graphic artist. His father was the Rev.d Arthur Tidman Gill, minister of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, who had recently left the Congregational church, after doctrinal disagreements. In 1897 the family moved to Chichester. He studied at Chichester Technical and Art School, and in 1900 moved to London to train as an architect with the practice of W. D. Caröe, specialists in ecclesiastical architecture.
Frustrated with his training, he took evening classes in stonemasonry at the Westminster Technical Institute and in calligraphy at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where Edward Johnston, creator of the London Underground typeface, became a strong influence. In 1903 he gave up his architectural training to become a calligrapher, letter-cutter and monumental mason.