Leonard Williams (bishop)

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William Leonard Williams
Bishop William Leonard Williams
Born (1829-07-22)22 July 1829
Paihia, New Zealand
Died 1916
Napier, New Zealand
Nationality New Zealand
Occupation Anglican Bishop
Known for Study of the Māori language and contributing to the study of New Zealand plants
Spouse(s) Sarah Wanklyn

William Leonard Williams (1829–1916) was an Anglican Bishop of Waiapu. He was regarded as an eminent scholar of the Māori language.[1]


A 1930 publication of his book

Williams was born on the 22 July 1829 at Paihia, Bay of Islands, New Zealand. He was the third child and first son of William Williams of the Church Mission Society and his wife, Jane.[2][3]

His father was the first Bishop of Waiapu, Leonard Williams was the third bishop,[1][4][5] and his son, Herbert Williams, was the 6th bishop of Waiapu.

He was educated in New Zealand before attending Magdelen Hall (now Hertford College, Oxford) where he obtained a third class honours degree in June 1852. He became a member of the Church Missionary Society and undertook theological training at the Church Missionary Society College, Islington. He was admitted to Deacon's Orders by the Bishop of London on 22 March 1853.[6]

Leonard met the daughters of Mr. J. B. Wanklyn of Halecat, Witherslack, Cumbria when visiting his aunt, Catherine Heathcote, at Southwell, Nottinghamshire. They had been pupils at Catherine Heathcote's School. In the following year he married Sarah Wanklyn at St Paul's Church, Witherslack on 6 June 1853,[6] and both set sail in August on a five month journey to New Zealand.

Williams was made responsible for the training of Māori students into the Anglican church. He was regarded as the most learned scholar of Māori culture. He would travel on horseback around his diocese accompanied by two assistants.

During his lifetime he reissued his father's publication, A dictionary of the New Zealand language twice, as well as publishing his own book introducing the Māori language and contributing to the study of New Zealand plants.[2] The dictionary was again reissued by his son, the Rt Revd Herbert Williams, who also followed Williams and his father as a bishop of the same diocese.

Williams became the third Bishop of Waiapu in 1895.[7] Williams retired in 1909 when he found the job too difficult. He died at his home in Napier in 1916.[2]


  1. ^ a b NZETC
  2. ^ a b c Porter, Frances. "Williams, William Leonard". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  3. ^ "Rev. William Williams family". Pre 1839 foreigners in NZ. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Porter, Frances (30 October 2012). "Williams, William Leonard". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  5. ^ “Who was Who” 1897-1990 London, A & C Black, 1991 ISBN 0-7136-3457-X
  6. ^ a b Harvey-Williams, Nevil (March 2011). "The Williams Family in the 18th and 19th Centuries - Part 3". Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  7. ^ 'Williams, William', from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966. Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 18-Sep-2007, accessed 9 January 2007
Religious titles
Preceded by
Edward Stuart
Bishop of Waiapu
Succeeded by
Alfred Averill