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Richard Williams (d. 1579)

Mayor of Oxford 1565, 1571/2, and 1578/9


Richard Williams (or Wyllyams/Willyams) was admitted as a Hanaster in the mayoral year 1536/7, and in 1543 he paid two shillings on goods of £6 towards the subsidy in the South-West Ward.

Williams was a whitebaker, and he took on seven apprentices between 1543 and 1577: Robert Patchett of Gloucestershire (25 March 1543); Richard Coke of Yarnton (29 September 1543); Gilbert Beverley of Oxford (29 September 1551); John Hartley of Oxford (25 December 1551) Hugh Corbett of Oxford (25 March 1558); and John Long of Newington and William Kenshole of Warwickshire (both on 25 December 1577)

On 16 May 1555 Williams was fined 6s. 8d. by the Clerk of the Market because “unus panis” of his was 2oz. too light.

Williams was elected a Senior Chamberlain on 29 September 1547, Senior Bailiff on 29 September 1550, and one of the Mayor’s eight Assistants on 28 May 1554. In October 1554 and again in October 1555, it was agreed that “Rychard Wyllyams and Thomas Cogeyn shall sett the stondyngs of Frydyswyde ffayer thys yere.” In 1554/5 Williams was also a Keykeeper, and paid himself “xxvi old aungells” (thirteen shillings) in receipts from the Austen Fair.

On 13 October 1556 Williams was appointed one of the two people to arbitrate between the City and John Wayte regarding timber that the latter had bought from Lord Williams.

On 7 January 1557/8 Richard Williams was elected Member of Parliament for Oxford.

In 1562 Williams was one of the two people nominated for Mayor, but was beaten by Ralph Flexney. The Mayor of Oxford for 1564/5 (William Mathew) died in February 1565 just five months into his term of office, and Williams took over as Mayor of Oxford for the rest of the mayoral year (February to 28 September 1565).

On 3 April 1565 Williams was granted a lease of the orchard “within ye almose howse” for 21 years, paying yearly 26s. 8d. or else “ye keepynge of a cowe, to goo and have pasture in ye same orcharde”, to commence at the next council election in September. At the end of his year of office, it was agreed that he should be paid “for all suche charges as he was at in London at ye tyme of ye takynge of his othe”.

On 1 April 1568 Williams paid ten shillings in the South-East ward towards the money gathered for the lottery.

Richard Williams was elected for his first full term as mayor in September 1571 (for 1571/2). It was agreed that at the end of his year of office the riding of the franchises should take place the day before the election of the new mayor and that the dinner should take place on the election day. It was also agreed on 22 August 1572 that:

Mr Richard Williams, nowe Mayor, shall have the preferring of one of his kynsmen, or els one …. Evans, wch nowe ys and of long tyme have bene his servaunt at his choyse, into the fredom of this Cytie for the only fees of iiiis vid, when and at such tyme as it shall please the said Mr Williams, because he hath noe child to prefer for his gylt penye, accordyng to the custome of the said Cytie.

On 16 October 1572 Williams appears in a list of eleven bakers who had agreed to contribute towards the charges of a load horse: he undertook to pay five shillings a year. In 1573/4 the following item appears in the Chamberlain’s accounts:

Item, of Rychard Wylliams, gent., for the rente of a water or fysshinge plote nyghe the est parte of the blacke ffryers: xiid.

On 14 February 1575/6 he was granted the following lease:

Yt ys also agreed att thys Counsell that Mr Rychard Williams and hys wyffe shall have a leas of the great garden behynde the Brydewell churche, from oure Ladye daye next unto xxjtie yeares, yf they lyve so longe, for the yearelye rent of xxvjs viijd.

Williams (described as “Richard Williams, senr”) was elected an Alderman on 29 September 1577. He was still listed as a whitebaker on 26 March that year.

His’ wife Joan Williams was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 2 July 1578.

Williams was appointed Mayor again on 29 September 1578 (for 1578/9). As before, on 20 August 1579, it was agreed that:

Mr Richard Williams, Mayor, for that he hath no children of his owne, shall bringe in any one person to be a freman into the libertie of this Cytie for the somme of ixs vjd to the use of this Cytie….

† Richard Williams died on 19 September 1579, less than a fortnight away from the end of his term of office, and was buried in St Mary-the-Virgin Church two days later. Anthony Wood records his memorial thus:

Neare the entrance into the chancell are the proportions of a man in his gowne, and his wife, engraven on brass plates fix’d to a marble stone, and this inscription under:–

Here under lyeth the bodyes of Richard Williams, Alderman and twyse Mayor of the citie of Oxford, and Johan his wyfe, which Richard deceased Anno Dom. 1579 in the 21 yeare of the reigne of Queen Elizabeth, being then the second tyme of his Mayraltie.

The said Johan was buried here 2 Julie an. 1578.

When describing how St Mary’s College was converted into a charity school and almshouse called Bridewell, Wood writes:

Only some well disposed people would at their times of their death leave a small portion of money towards their sustenance. Amongst whome and the greatest summ that I have yet meet with was the gift of Richard Wylliams, twice Mayor sometimes of this city, who dying 1579 the 21 Elizabeth, did leave to them 4£ towards their apparrelling – who allwayes were habited with blew coates.

And in a list of benefactors to the city in 1581, praise is given to God

For Mr Richard Williams, late Alderman, who gave unto dame Margarett Northens coffer xxtie poundes, and unto the bodie of this Citie two tankerd cuppes of silver and parcell gilt, and a dozen of apostle spones of silver.


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©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 September, 2018

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