Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILLIAMS , WILLIAM ( 1788 - 1865 ), Member of Parliament .

Born 12 Feb. 1788 at Tredarren , in the parish of Llanpumpsaint, Carms. , the fourth son of Thomas Williams and Esther Phillips . He was educated only in the school held in the parish church, where David Owen ( Brutus ,) was a contemporary. After apprenticeship to a shopkeeper in Carmarthen he obtained, in 1804 , a post in a wholesale cotton warehouse in Bread Street in the city of London . By 1820 he had set up on his own account as a wholesale cotton and linen warehouseman , and he amassed a great fortune. He travelled extensively in foreign countries , including Russia and the United States , in the interests of his business. He had a good mastery of foreign languages .

He became a member of the Common Council of the City of London in 1833 and, in 1835 , Member of Parliament for Coventry . With Joseph Hume , he was for many years the leading radical in the House of Commons , advocating the ballot, shorter parliaments, an extension of the franchise , and various other reforms. A Churchman , he yet believed in the separation of Church and state. He was defeated at Coventry in 1847 , but was returned for Lambeth in 1850 , and retained his seat until his death at Regent's Park on 28 April 1865 .

On 10 March 1846 he moved an address that ‘ an Inquiry be made into the state of Education in the Principality of Wales , especially into the means afforded to the labouring classes of acquiring a knowledge of the English tongue .’ It was this address which led to the establishment of the Education Commission , whose report has been designated ‘ the treason of the Blue-books .’ In 1848 he wrote two pamphlets: A Letter to Lord John Russell on the Report of the Commissioners (answered by Evan Jones ( Ieuan Gwynedd ) in his A Vindication of the Education and Moral Condition of Wales) and a Second Letter on the present defective state of Education in Wales . He presided at the meeting held at the Freemasons’ Tavern , London , 1 Dec. 1863 , to further university education in Wales , and promised a gift of £1,000 for this purpose. He made provision for this gift in a codicil inserted into his will a few weeks before his death. A bust, by Joseph Edwards is in the University College of Wales , Aberystwyth .


  • Daniel Evans , Life and Work of William Williams M.P. for Coventry 1835-1847, M.P. for Lambeth 1850-1865 (Llandysul, 1939) .


Emeritus Professor David Williams, D.Litt., (1900-78), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959