John Williams

Dr John Williams was Dean of Westminster from 1620-1644. He has no monument in the Abbey and he is buried at Llandegai, near Penrhyn castle in Wales (his monument there shows a kneeling figure with an epitaph by his chaplain John Hacket). A full length portrait of him, dated 1624, hangs in the Library and there is another portrait in the Deanery.

Williams was a great benefactor to the Abbey, endowing the Library with bookcases, books and manuscripts, improving the quality of the music in the Abbey, providing scholarships for boys from Westminster School and giving money towards the restoration of the fabric of the Church. To celebrate the betrothal of the Prince of Wales (later Charles I) to Princess Henrietta Maria he re-decorated the Jerusalem Chamber and gave the carved cedarwood overmantle there (he had given a dinner to entertain the French officials negotiating the marriage).

He was born at Aberconwy on 25th March 1582 and educated at Ruthin and Cambridge and was ordained. According to the inscription at Llandegai he was descended on his father's side from the Williams' of Cochwillan and on his mother's from the Griffiths of Penrhyn. His father was Edmund Williams of Conwy and his mother Mary (Wynne). His sister Elizabeth married Captain Hugh Williams of Cochwillan and her daughter Elizabeth married the Revd. William Dolben.

Some of the other posts he held were prebendary of Hereford, archdeacon of Carmarthen, prebendary of Lincoln and of Peterborough, Dean of Salisbury, Bishop of Lincoln, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and lastly Archbishop of York. He preached the sermon at James I's funeral and then rather fell from favour at Court and had a rival in William Laud, who had become a prebendary at Westminster. His enemies succeeded in removing him from Westminster and he was imprisoned from 1637-1640 and briefly in 1641-1642 but later released and re-instated. His last years were spent at Gloddaeth, where he was cared for by his cousin Lady (Mary) Mostyn. He died unmarried on 25th March 1650.

Further reading

"Scrinia John Williams" by John Hacket, 1693

"Letters of Archbishop Williams" edited by J. Mayor, 1866

"John Williams of Gloddaeth" by Judge Ivor Bowen 1929

"Mitre and Musket.." by B. Dew Roberts, 1938

"Westminster Abbey Reformed 1540-1640 edited by C.S. Knighton and R. Mortimer, 2003

"Acts of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster 1609-42" edited by C.S. Knighton, 2006

MS.44 in the Abbey Library is a book about Abbey burials probably written by Jack Mostyn, son of Williams' cousin, which also has a sketch of the Dean's life and work at Westminster


25th March 1582


25th March 1650


Dean; philanthropist

John Williams
Dean Williams, detail from Library portrait

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

John Williams
Abbey Library

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster