WILLIAMS, Sir John (1653-1723), of Munster House, Fulham, Mdx. and Pengethley, Sellack, Herefs.
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Family and Education
bap. 24 Nov. 1653, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Williams, 1st Bt.†, of Elham, Kent by his 1st w. Anne, da. of John Hogbeane of Elham; bro. of Sir Edward Williams*. educ. King’s, Canterbury, KS 1669; Peterhouse, Camb. 1670. m. 14 Feb. 1675, Mary (d. 1704), da. and h. of Sir William Powell (formerly Hinson), 1st Bt.†, of Munster House and Pengethley, 2s. d.v.p. 6da. (3 d.v.p.). Kntd. bef. 8 Feb. 1675; suc. fa. 12 Sept. 1712.1
Surveyor of highways, Fulham 1687.
Williams’ father, whose loyalty as ‘chemical physician’ to Charles II and James II had extended to his declaring himself a convert to Catholicism, had in consequence been ruined at the Revolution. Williams himself had safeguarded his own fortunes by marrying an heiress. In this stratagem he enjoyed rather more success than did his brother Sir Edward, for he acquired an estate worth about £2,000 p.a.; in particular, his wife’s Herefordshire property was substantial enough to make him a likely contender for knight of the shire when a vacancy was rumoured in 1691, and again in 1693 when a by-election was necessitated by the death of Sir John Morgan, 2nd Bt.* However, on this occasion the great support for Sir Edward Harley* convinced Williams to withdraw before a contest. Six years later he was one of several persons reported to be ‘making . . . interest’ in Hereford, and he was victorious in a contest for the county in 1701, when he enjoyed the support of ‘nine out of ten of the clergy’ and of leading local Tories such as Robert Price*, who considered him ‘a gentleman without exception’. Even Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†), who did not know Williams well enough to back his candidacy, conceded that he had ‘a good character’. By the following general election Williams had won over Lord Weymouth. He had also been included in the Herefordshire lieutenancy. Robert Harley*, who ought to have been familiar with his politics, classed him with the Tories in an analysis of the 1701–2 Parliament, a prediction which was borne out by Williams’ vote on 26 Feb. 1702 in support of the motion vindicating the impeachments of the four Whig lords. As a result, Harley was happy to approve his standing for re-election in 1702. Having twice been forecast as a probable Tacker, Williams was named in subsequent black lists both as a Tacker and as a ‘Sneaker’. Perhaps because of this vote, whichever way it may have gone, he did not stand in the 1705 election. There may also have been some financial constraint: in 1702 a private Act had been passed to vest his late father-in-law’s estate in trustees, in order that Williams might be able to raise portions for his daughters and a jointure for a putative daughter-in-law.2
Williams does not seem to have taken any further part in parliamentary elections. In his latter years he let Munster House and made Pengethley his sole residence. He died on 28 Apr. 1723, three weeks after making his will in which he described himself as ‘being in good health (a cold only excepted)’. While the baronetcy went to a nephew, his property in Fulham and Herefordshire passed to his daughter Penelope, the wife of Thomas Symonds, whose descendant Thomas Powell Symonds sat for Hereford from 1800 to 1819. The family’s origins were remembered in the foundation of a charity at Elham for teaching six poor boys of the parish.3
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. C. J. Feret, Fulham Old and New, ii. 181–2, 189, 191; Old Wales, iii. 202; E. Woodruff and H. J. Cape, Hist. King’s Sch. Canterbury, 139; Mdx. Par. Reg. ii. 108.
- 2. HMC Portland, iii. 348, 611, 628–9; iv. 26; Add. 70234, Sir Edward to Robert Harley, 14 Aug. 1691; 70254, John Prise* to same, 28 Mar. 1702, Robert Harley to Prise, 7 Apr. 1702; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 25, f. 13; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(2), James Brydges’ diary, 16 Jan. 1701; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 255.
- 3. Feret, i. 46; ii. 192.