WILLIAMS, John (c.1545-1617), of Herringstone House, Winterbourne Herringstone, Dorset

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. c.1545, o.s. of Robert Williams of Herringstone and his 2nd w. Anne, da. of Sir Thomas de la Lynde of Winterbourne Clenston, Dorset and coh. to her nephew Edward. m. post-nuptial settlement 15 July 1568, Eleanor (d. 14 Apr. 1625), da. of Henry Uvedale of Little Crichel, Dorset, 7s. (4 d.v.p.) 4da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1569;1 kntd. 14 Mar. 1604.2 d. 7 Sept. 1617.3 sig. John Wyllyams.

Offices Held

J.p. Dorset by 1579-d.,4 sheriff 1582-3,5 commr. piracy 1601-3, 1611,6 subsidy 1608,7 aid 1609,8 sewers July 1617.9


Williams’ grandfather was a merchant of Dorchester, Dorset, who bought the Herringstone estate in 1513 for £360. Enjoying an ample patrimony, Williams rebuilt the mansion there in around 1582.10 ‘A very worthy man and a good patriot’, he enjoyed the confidence of the Elizabethan authorities, assisting Sir George Trenchard† in interrogating the Catholics arrested at Chideock, Dorset in 1594. However, in March 1603 he signed his county bench’s protest against the Crown’s demand for £600 in lieu of a levy of ships.11

Williams served as Dorset’s junior shire knight in the 1604-10 Parliament. He made no recorded speeches, and attracted only 14 committee nominations. In the opening session he was appointed to attend a conference on the proposed Anglo-Scottish Union, and to consider a bill for building a parish church at Melcombe Regis, Dorset (14 and 27 April). The latter measure’s success prompted a further bill in the second session, for relief of the vicar of Radipole, Dorset, and Williams was present at the committee meeting on 5 Feb. 1606 when it was agreed to abandon this legislation.12 He was also named to the committees to inquire into the Spanish Company’s patent, and to consider the fittest course for encouraging a learned ministry (5 Nov. 1605 and 22 Jan. 1606). During the third session Williams was nominated on 3 Mar. 1607 to help devise relief measures in the West Country following severe flooding in the Bristol Channel. He left no mark on the records of the Parliament’s final two sessions.13

Williams is generally credited with the ‘spectacular splendour’ of the great chamber at Herringstone, which was redecorated in the later Jacobean period, apparently to mark the creation of Prince Charles as prince of Wales in 1616, since its ornament includes his initials and heraldic emblem of three feathers. This project was left unfinished, perhaps because of Williams’ death in September 1617.14 He was buried with his ancestors in St. Peter’s, Dorchester, as he had requested in his will, and a sumptuous monument was later erected in his memory by his youngest son. Williams was succeeded at Herringstone by his grandson, his eldest son having predeceased him. No other member of this family entered Parliament.15

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 191; ii. 383, 524.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 130.
  • 3. Hutchins, ii. 524.
  • 4. SP12/145, f. 11; C66/1988.
  • 5. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 39.
  • 6. C181/1, ff. 12v, 62v; 181/2, f. 159.
  • 7. SP14/31/1.
  • 8. SP14/45/109.
  • 9. C181/2, f. 294.
  • 10. Hutchins, ii. 522-4; C142/652/183; A. Oswald, Country Houses of Dorset, 88-9.
  • 11. T. Gerard, Survey of Dorset, 73; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 488, 521; HMC Hatfield, xii. 700.
  • 12. CJ, i. 172a, 187b, 259a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle 183; Dorset RO, Weymouth Bor. ms S189/5.
  • 13. CJ, i. 256b, 258a, 346a.
  • 14. J. Newman and N. Pevsner, Dorset (Buildings of Eng.), 480-1; Hutchins, ii. 528.
  • 15. PROB 11/164, f. 346; Hutchins, ii. 524.