Williams, William Peere (1664-1736) (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, WILLIAM PEERE (1664–1736), law reporter, only son of Peere Williams of Gray's Inn (admitted 14 Aug. 1635), clerk of the estreats 1652–79, by his wife Joanna (born Oyley), a Dutchwoman, was born in 1664. The seat of his ancestors is said to have been Denton, Lincolnshire, but his grandfather, Anthony Williams, was of St. James's, Clerkenwell. He was admitted on 14 Sept. 1680 student at Gray's Inn, and was there called to the bar on 11 Nov. 1687. He established a considerable chancery practice, and was one of the counsel assigned for the defence of the Jacobite rebel, George Seton, fifth earl of Winton [q. v.], on his impeachment in 1716. He delivered an elaborate argument in arrest of judgment (19 March), on the ground that the impeachment was void by reason of vagueness (see Howell, State Trials, xv. 879 et seq.) He represented Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, in the parliament of 1722–7. He purchased in 1722 the manor of Northall, Middlesex. At his death, 10 June 1736, he was owner of Grey Friars, Chichester, probably also of an estate at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, in the church of which parish his remains were interred. By his wife Anne, second daughter of Sir George Hutchins [q. v.], he had issue four sons and two daughters.

Williams's eldest son, Sir Hutchins Williams, bart. (so created on 4 April 1747), died on 4 Nov. 1758, leaving, by his wife Judith (m. 1726), daughter of James Booth of Theobalds, Hertfordshire, two sons—Sir William Peere Williams, bart., M.P. for New Shoreham, Sussex, 1758–61, whose premature death without issue in the operations against Belle Ile in the latter year was mourned by Gray in an epitaph still to be seen in the church of Le Palais (Works, ed. Mathias, i. 56); and Sir Booth Williams, bart., on whose death on 2 Feb. 1784 the baronetcy became extinct. The reporter's second son, Frederick Williams, rector of Peakirk, Northamptonshire, was father of Admiral Peere Williams, afterwards Williams-Freeman (1742–1832) [q. v.] The fourth son, George James [q. v.], familiarly known as ‘Gilly,’ Williams, is noticed separately. A daughter, Anne, married George Speke of White Lackington [see Speke, Hugh], and had a daughter, Anne, who married on 20 Nov. 1756, Lord North, famous as George III's minister.

Peere Williams collaborated with William Melmoth in the edition of Vernon's ‘Reports’ published at London in 1726–8 [see Vernon, Thomas, 1654–1721]. For the blemishes in this work he was probably not responsible. He was himself a singularly faithful and judicious reporter, and, labouring assiduously throughout the greater portion of his professional life, left in manuscript a rich repertory of case law illustrative of the period of Somers, Wright, Harcourt, Macclesfield, and Talbot. The bulk of the collection appeared at London in 1740 (2 vols. fol.; 2nd edit. 1746). A third volume was added in 1749. All three volumes were edited by Peere Williams, jun., under the title, ‘Reports of Cases argued and determined in the High Court of Chancery, and of some Special Cases adjudged in the Court of King's Bench.’ The third volume is perhaps not altogether on a par with its predecessors; but the reports as a whole are of unusual value by reason of the accuracy and perspicacity with which not only the decisions but the material facts and arguments of counsel are recorded. The somewhat tantalising brevity of the decrees is due, not to the reporter, but to the laconic sententiousness then affected by the judges. The three volumes were reprinted in 1768 (London, 3 vols. fol.) Later editions, with additional references by S. C. Cox, appeared at London in 1787 and 1793 (3 vols. 8vo). A reprint of Cox's edition, with improvements by J. B. Monro, W. L. Lowndes, and J. Randall, followed in 1826 (London, 3 vols. 8vo). An engraved portrait of the reporter, from a painting by Kneller, is frontispiece to the folio editions.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. Addenda, March 1625–Jan. 1649 p. 372, 1651–2 p. 160; Chamberlayne's Angliæ Notitia, 1670 ii. 209, 1676 ii. 110, 1679 ii. 110; Gray's Inn Admission Reg. ed. Foster, and Call Reg.; Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Berry's County Genealogies (Sussex); Noble's Continuation of Granger's Biogr. Hist. of Engl. iii. 208; Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights (Harl. Soc.); Dallaway's Sussex, vol. i. Chichester, App. No. xii.; Horsfield's Sussex, ii. 161; Cussans's Hertfordshire, vol. ii. Hertford Hundred, p. 188, iii. Broadwater Hundred, p. 146; Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire, ii. 67; Lysons's Environs of London, iii. 309; Sussex Archæolog. Collections (Sussex Archæolog. Soc.), vols. xvii. xviii.; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham; Gent. Mag. 1736 p. 356, 1752 p. 384, 1784 i. 122, 152, 1805 ii. 1176; Ann. Reg. 1761, p. 17; Members of Parl. (official lists); Court and City Reg. 1776, p. 119; Royal Kalendar, 1801, p. 226; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 39, 40, iv. 390; Misc. Geneal. et Herald., ed. Howard, new ser. iv. 321, 2nd ser. v. 281–3; Burke's Landed Gentry, ‘Freeman of Clapton;’ Burke's Commoners, ii. 110; Bridgman's Legal Bibliography; Wallace's Reporters; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

J. M. R.