Gill was born in Brighton where his father was a clergyman. The family later moved to Chichester, where Gill enrolled at art school at the age of fifteen. As the son of a clergyman, he had free access to Chichester's great medieval cathedral, where his passion for calligraphy and masonry was nurtured. In 1900 Gill moved to London to join an architectural practice and simultaneously attended evening classes, where he learned masonry, calligraphy and letter-carving. He abandoned his architectural studies three years later to set up as a letter-cutter. From 1909 Gill began to make three-dimensional, figurative sculptures.