Select Williams Miscellany

Here are some Williams stories and accounts over the years:

Williams at Herringstone

John Williams was a prosperous merchant in Dorchester who bought the Herringstone estate near Winterborne for £360 just before his death in 1515.  It was his grandson John who began a major rebuilding of the house in the 1580’s.

He is generally credited with the “spectacular splendor” of the great chamber at Herringstone.  This was redecorated in the later Jacobean style, apparently to mark the creation of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1616 (since its ornaments include his initials and the heraldic emblem of three feathers).

The project was left unfinished, perhaps because of John Williams’ death in 1617.  He was buried with his ancestors at St. Peter’s Church in Dorchester.  A sumptuous monument was later erected in his memory.  He was succeeded at Herringstone by his grandson, his eldest son having predeceased him.

Williams at Glasbury

Glasbury on the river Wye in Breconshire has associations with three notable Williams.  

First there was Sir David Williams, a prominent judge, who died there in 1613.  He was the first in his family to adopt the Williams name, his father being Gwilym ap John Vychan. 

Unrelated was the Sir Thomas Williams who died at Glasbury and was buried there in 1712 at the grand old age of 108.  He was the grandson of Thomas Williams of Tallyn in Llangasty parish and had trained as a doctor.  He became physician to both Charles II and James II.  Charles heaped honors on him and he died a baronet and a wealthy man. 

Then there was Henry Williams of Glasbury who cast bells in the period 1677 to 1719.  Colin Lewis’s book Henry Williams: The Glasbury Bellfounder described his life, his craft, and his family background.

Roger Williams, Founder of Rhode island

Roger Williams had arrived from London on the Lyon in Boston with his wife Mary in early 1631.  He preached first at Salem, then at Plymouth, then back to Salem, always at odds with the structured Puritans.  

When he was about to be deported back to England, Roger fled southwest out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was befriended by local Indians.  He made his first settlement on the east bank of the Seekonk river, but found that it still lay within the boundaries of the Plymouth colony.  He eventually settled at the headwaters of what is now Narragansett Bay.  Roger purchased land from the Narragansett chiefs, Canonicus and Miantonomi, and named his settlement Providence, as in “thanks to God.”  From this purchase came the Rhode Island colony. 

Roger Williams was Governor of the colony from 1654 to 1658.  During the later years of his life, he saw almost all of Providence burned during King Philip's War of 1675-1676.  He lived to see Providence rebuilt.  He continued to preach and the colony grew through its acceptance of settlers of all religious persuasions

Williams from Cornwall to Canada

John Tucker Williams, from the Williams family in Cornwall, had started his career in the British Navy.  At the age of 16, he was in a ship fighting under Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.  He later fought in Canada in the War of 1812, remaining there until the British navy in the Lower Lakes was dispersed in 1816. He went back to England, but quickly returned to Canada in order to marry Sarah, the daughter of another sea captain and an early settler in Port Hope, Ontario.  He made his home there.

His life in Canada was a mixture of military adventures (in putting down the Rebellion of 1837), land speculation, and local politics.  He died at his estate in Port Hope, Penryn Park, in 1854.

His elder son Arthur had the same range of interests, but died of fever after a military skirmish along the Saskatchewan river in 1885:

“Colonel Williams was the only nationally known figure to die in the northwest campaign and his body was brought home in state. A huge funeral was held in Port Hope where citizens erected a statue in his honor. Parliament voted his orphaned children a special pension. Then, like most heroes, he was gradually forgotten.” 

His son Victor had a military career.  He fought in the Boer War and was a Canadian Brigadier-General in Europe during World War One.

Henry and William Williams in New Zealand

The Williams brothers had Welsh nonconformist blood in them, but grew up in Nottingham.  The eldest Henry had served as a naval officer during the Napoleonic war before embarking as a Christian missionary to New Zealand in 1823.  He was joined three years later by his younger brother William.  They and their wives Marianne and Jane were to be active missionaries with the various Maori tribes they encountered over the course of their lives. 

Henry was leader of the Anglican mission in the Bay of Islands and became Archdeacon of Waimate in 1844.  He was active in succeeding years as a peacemaker between hostile tribes and was instrumental in the negotiations with the Maoris over the Treaty of Waitangi.  His brother William was consecrated the first Anglican bishop of Waiapu in 1859.  He was a translator of the Bible and the prayer book into Maori and wrote a comprehensive dictionary of classical Maori that was first published in 1844.

The two families had a total of 94 grandchildren.  Descendants of the two families now number several thousand, scattered throughout New Zealand and overseas.  Details about these descendants were first published in the 1991 book Faith and Farming: The Legacy of Henry Williams and William Williams by Evagean Publishing.

John Williams, Early Australian Settler

John Williams was little more than a youth when he arrived in Sydney aboard the Portland in 1833.  John was English, from Manchester, but had embarked on the vessel in Ireland.  The 385 ton ship took four months to complete its journey from Cork to Sydney.  John could have considered himself lucky to have disembarked in New South Wales as the ill-fated vessel was to be wrecked on rocks off the coast of Tasmania on its onward journey to Launceston.

During his early years in the colony, John worked for John Macarthur, the man who was responsible for the introduction of Merino sheep to Australia.  John Williams and his wife Mary later settled in the Hunter valley of NSW near Singleton and both lived into their nineties.  Along the way they raised a large family, twelve children in all.

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