Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Williams, David (1536?-1613)

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WILLIAMS, Sir DAVID (1536?–1613), judge, born about 1536 (Jones, Brecknockshire), was the third and youngest son of Gwilym ap Johnychan, a substantial yeoman of Blaennewydd in the parish of Ystradfellte, Brecknockshire. Sir John Price [q. v.], the historian, was first cousin to his father. Having been admitted a student of the Middle Temple on 24 June 1568 (when he was described as the second son of William Williams of Stradbelye), he was called to the bar on 10 Feb. 1576, and served as Lent reader in 1591, and double Lent reader in 1594. Williams acquired much wealth by the exercise of his profession, and must have enjoyed a large local practice, for he was recorder of Brecknock from 1587 to 1604, and his name appears as recorder of Carmarthen on 10 July 1594 (Corporation Records). From 30 June 1581 to 15 Aug. 1595 he was the queen's attorney-general in the court of great sessions for the counties of Carmarthen, Cardigan, Pembroke, Brecknock, and Radnor. He occasionally argued before the Star-chamber. He was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law on 29 Nov. 1593, and after that date his name appears as practising in the court at Westminster, where he argued in Brown v. Foster for the defendant (37 Elizabeth), and in the Earl of Pembroke v. Sir Henry Berkley.

Williams served as M.P. for Brecknock in the four parliaments 1584–5, 1586–7, 1588–9, and 1597–8 (Official Returns). On 11 June (or July) 1598 Burghley wrote to Sir Robert Cecil: ‘As for choice of a baron … I think Savyll or Williams may supply the place … tho' they be men of small living’ (Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, p. 182). Though Williams did not receive the appointment at this time, on the accession of James I he was knighted on 23 July 1603, and on 4 Feb. following was appointed fifth, or an additional, puisne justice of the court of king's bench, and was sworn into office seven days afterwards. On 13 Nov. 1609 Ralph, lord Eure, president of Wales, wrote complaining of Williams's laxity in allowing recusants to take the oath of allegiance in a modified form at the last Hereford assizes. On 21 Jan. 1610–11 Williams was placed on a commission with Sir Edward Phelips [q. v.], master of the rolls, Sir Peter Warburton [q. v.], and others, to hear causes in chancery.

Williams died on 22 Jan. 1612–13. He was interred in the priory church of St. John the Evangelist, Brecknock, where a sumptuous monument still exists to his memory, but the monument in Kingston Bagpuze church, recording the fact that a portion of his remains was buried there, is no longer to be found. His will, made on 15 Feb. 1611–12, was proved on 27 Jan. 1612–13. An oil-painting of the judge is preserved at the manor-house, Nether Winchendon, Buckinghamshire.

Williams is said to have been enormously rich. His landed possessions were extensive. In 1561 he had purchased lands in Ystradfellte and Devynock, and in 1600 he bought the Gwernyfed estate (Jones, History of Brecknockshire). By grant or purchase he also acquired many manors in Brecknockshire, Radnorshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and Berkshire, while it is probable that his second wife brought him the manors of Shifford and Golofers, and the Cokesthorpe estate in Oxfordshire. By deed, dated 1612, he gave the great tithes of Gwenddwr, which had been granted to him by the crown, to trustees to be spent in various charitable uses; the annual income is now 82l. He made his principal residence at Kingston House (now called Ham Court, Bampton, once the residence of the Empress Matilda), on the side of the Thames, in Kingston Bagpuze, Berkshire, to the church of which he gave a new belltower (Davenport, Annals of Oxfordshire).

Williams married twice: first, before 1579, Margaret, youngest daughter of John Games of Aberbran, Brecknockshire, a descendant of David Gam [q. v.] of Newton; by her he had nine sons and two daughters, of whom, however, only four survived him. He married, secondly, at Kingston Bagpuze on 26 June 1597, Dorothy, widow of John Latton of Kingston, and daughter and coheiress of Oliver Wellsborn of East Hannay, Berkshire (Register). She was buried at Kingston Bagpuze on 20 Dec. 1629, her will being proved in the prerogative court of Canterbury on 1 Feb. following.

Williams's eldest son, Sir Henry (d. 1636), was father of Sir Henry Williams (d. 1652), who was created a baronet on 4 May 1644, and left two sons, Henry and Walter, the second and third baronets. On the death of Sir Walter in 1694 or 1695, the baronetcy became extinct, but was wrongfully assumed by the Rev. Gilbert Williams of Rose Hall, Hertfordshire, and used by his son and grandson until the latter's death in 1798. The judge's third son, Roger, left descendants, who intermarried with the Coombes and Leaders of that county, and spread into Berkshire.

[Jones's Hist. of Brecknockshire and Burke's Extinct Baronetage, which are, however, on some points very inaccurate; Clark's Genealogies of Glamorgan; Croke's Reports; Williams's Parl. Hist. of Wales; Foss's Judges; private information, supplied by Sir Edward Leader Williams, knt., of The Oaks, Altrincham, and by H. J. T. Wood, esq., barrister-at-law, of Lincoln's Inn.]

W. R. W.