William Williams (bishop)

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William Williams
William Williams
Born (1800-07-18)18 July 1800
Nottingham, England
Died 9 February 1878(1878-02-09)
Napier, New Zealand
Nationality British
Other names Parata[1]
Occupation Missionary
Spouse(s) Jane Williams (née Nelson)
To be distinguished from William Williams (missionary) (1859–1892) in Khasi Hills India

William Williams (18 July 1800 – 1878) was the first Anglican Bishop of Waiapu and the father and grandfather of two others. He led the CMS missionaries in the translation of the Bible into Māori and he published an early dictionary and grammar of the Māori language.

Early life[edit]

His grandfather the Reverend Thomas Williams (1725–1770) was a Congregational minister at the Independent Chapel of Gosport.[2][3][4]

William's father was also called Thomas and he was the second child and only son of Rev. Thomas Williams and Rebecca Williams. William was born in Nottingham to Thomas and Mary Williams on 18 July 1800. After the death of Thomas in 1804 Mary Williams moved with her younger children to Southwell, Nottinghamshire where she opened a school for young ladies.[5] William Williams was educated at Southwell Grammar School. He completed an apprenticeship to a Mr. Forster, a Southwell surgeon.[5]

William was influenced by the Rev. Edward Garrard Marsh to convert to Anglicanism in February 1818 and then to join the Church Missionary Society (CMS).[4]

William entering Magdalen Hall (later Hertford College, Oxford), in 1822, as a prospective CMS trainee. He came down from Oxford in 1824 with a BA in Classics. On 26 September 1824 William was ordained as a deacon of the (Anglican) Church of England on 19 December 1824. In 1825 he entered the Church Missionary Society College,Islington with the intention of following his brother Henry to New Zealand.[6]

On 11 July 1825, Williams married Jane Nelson of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, a teacher at his mother's school.[5] On 12 August they embarked on the Sir George Osborne to sail to Sydney, Australia, then on to Paihia, Bay of Islands, where they arrived on 25 March 1826.[7]

Williams and his wife had nine children:[8]

  • Mary, born 12 April 1826; married Samuel Williams[9]
  • Jane Elizabeth, born 23 October 1827; married Henry Williams, jr.[10]
  • William Leonard, born 22 July 1829[11][12]
  • Thomas Sydney, born 9 February 1831
  • James Nelson, born 22 August 1837
  • Anna Maria, born 25 February 1839[13]
  • Lydia Catherine, born 7 April 1841
  • Marianna, born 22 August 1843
  • Emma Caroline, born 20 February 1846

Paihia Mission and the translation of the Bible into Māori[edit]

On his arrival in Paihia, Williams became a teacher of the boys in the school for the children of the CMS families.[14]

Williams had a talent for the study of the Māori language and worked with his brother Henry on translating the Bible into Māori.[15] After 1826 William took over responsibility for leading the CMS missionaries in further translation of the Bible and other Christian literature. In July 1827 the first Māori Bible was printed comprising 3 chapters of Genesis, 20th chapter of Exodus, 1st chapter of the Gospel of St John, 30 verses of the 5th chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew, the Lord's Prayer and some hymns.[16][17] In 1833 further parts of the Maori Bible were published.

The Rev. Robert Maunsell also worked with Williams on the translation of the Bible. Williams concentrated on the New Testament and Maunsell worked on the Old Testament, portions of which were published in 1840 with the full translation completed in 1857.[14] William Gilbert Puckey also collaborated with Williams on the translation of the New Testament, which was published in 1837 and its revision in 1844.[14]

Williams published the Dictionary of the New Zealand Language and a Concise Grammar in 1844.[14]

Waimate Mission[edit]

In 1835 Williams, his wife and their children move to Te Waimate mission. On 23 and 24 December 1835 Charles Darwin visited while HMS Beagle spent 10 days in the Bay of Islands.[18][19]

Journeys to the East Cape, Thames and Waikato[edit]

In December 1833 and January 1834 he and William Yate travelled on the schooner Fortitude to the East Cape and Mahia peninsula, to return a number of slaves, taken by Ngāpuhi, most of them Ngāti Porou. Between July and November 1834 he and Alfred Nesbit Brown walked through the Thames and Waikato regions. In January 1838, he walked from East Cape to Tūranga, Poverty Bay with William Colenso, Richard Matthews and James Stack. William returned to the East Coast with Richard Taylor from March to May 1839. These journeys convinced William of the need to establish a CMS mission on the East Coast in Gisborne area.[6][20] During this journey William found that Māori Christian teachers had started a school at Rangitukia and a chapel at Whakawhitirā.[21] He chose land for a house at the Ngāti Kaipoho pā of Umukapua, near Tūranga.[21]

Tūranga, Poverty Bay Mission[edit]

Williams and his family arrived at Tūranga, Poverty Bay on 31 December 1839.[6] The first mission station was built on the banks of the Waipaoa River and was named Kaupapa (to plan; first stage or step)[22] Rev. William Williams lived at Tūranga until 1850. The schools run by William and Jane were well attended, the classes school opened with five classes for men, two classes for women and classes for boys. Classes covered practical knowledge as well as the teaching of the scriptures.[22]

James Stack, had been a Wesleyan missionary at Whangaroa; then later joined the Church Mission Society. In 1839 James Stack joined William Williams at the mission station at Tūranga and later set up a mission at Rangitukia (1842–1847).[14]

During this time the first Anglican bishop of New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn, appointed Williams as archdeacon of the East Cape on 27 November 1842 and, on 3 April 1859, Williams became the first Bishop of Waiapu, basing his diocese in Waerenga-ā-Hika, Poverty Bay, where he established a school to train Māori missionaries.

Williams attempted to limit the acquisition of land by the New Zealand Association.[21] In a letter to Edward Garrard Marsh of 8 January 1840 Williams explained his plans to follow his brother Henry's lead in acquiring land to hold in ‘trust’ for the benefit of the Māori from whom the land had been purchased: "In proceeding to Turanga it is my intention to buy as much land as may suffice for the inhabitants, and I also hope to take the same step at Waiapu and Wairoa, & then I will set the association at defiance."[23] However this attempt was thwarted by Governor Gipps' proclamation of 14 January 1840, which annulled the trust deed that conveyed title over the Tūranga land;[24] at this time the commission of the Governor of the colony of New South Wales extended to any land that might be acquired in New Zealand.

In 1850 Williams and his family left for England, where he was involved the successful representations to have his brother Henry restored to membership of the Church Missionary Society – Henry having been dismissed from the CMS as a consequence of his refusal to follow the orders of Bishop Selwyn to give up land that Henry had acquired at Pakaraka.

Williams returned to Waerenga-ā-Hika and lived there from 1853 to 1865.[21] William left Waerenga-ā-Hika in 1865, when it was threatened by a band of Hauhau. Williams and his wife returned to Paihia where he established a Māori missionary training school at Horotutu.[6][25] The other CMS missionaries on the East Coast at this time were George Kissling (Kawakawa/Te Araroa 1843–46), Charles Baker (Tolaga Bay 1843–61) and Thomas Grace (Tūranga 1850–53).[21]

Treaty of Waitangi – te Tiriti[edit]

Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (te Tiriti), Henry Williams arrived in Poverty Bay on 8 April 1840 on the ship Ariel with a Māori-language copy of te Tiriti ('Tūranga Treaty copy'). Between 5 May and 9 June 1840, William Williams, presented the Tūranga Treaty copy to rangatira at Tūranga, Uawa, Wakawitirā, Rangitukia and Tokomaru so that those East Coast chiefs could sign te Tiriti; 41 signatures appear on the Tūranga Treaty copy, a number of important rangatira refused to sign, including Te Kani a Takirau of Uawa and Iraia Houkamau of East Cape.[21]

Napier, Hawkes Bay Mission[edit]

William and Jane moved to Napier in May 1867. Samuel Williams,[9] his nephew and son-in-law established the Te Aute estate, upon which William worked to establish as a school for Māori boys. Te Aute College opened in 1854, and in July 1875 school that became the Hukarere Girls College for Māori girls was established in Napier.[26] William continued as bishop until he had a stroke in 1876, as a consequence he resigned from his office as bishop. He died in Napier on 9 February 1878.[20]

His third child and eldest son, the Rt Revd Leonard Williams was born in 1829 at Paihia.[11] After completing his university education at the University of Oxford and taking holy orders his son worked with him for much of his life.


  • Dictionary of the New Zealand Language and a Concise Grammar (1844)
  • Plain Facts relative to the Late War in the Northern District of New Zealand (1847)
  • Letters to the Rt Hon. the Earl of Chichester (1851)
  • Christianity among the New Zealanders (1867)

Literature and sources[edit]


  1. ^ Journal of Marianne Williams, 16 January 1845, quoted by Hugh Carleton, The Life of Henry Williams (1874) p, 95
  2. ^ "Williams, Thomas (?-c.1770)". Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies. 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Daniels, Eilir (2010). "Research Report: Rev. Thomas Williams, Gosport, Hamsphire (1724/25-1770)". Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Harvey-Williams, Nevil (March 2011). "The Williams Family in the 18th and 19th Centuries - Part 1". Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Harvey-Williams, Nevil (March 2011). "The Williams Family in the 18th and 19th Centuries - Part 3". Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Porter, Francis (1 September 2010). "Williams, William 1800–1878". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Fitzgerald, Caroline (2004). Marianne Williams: Letters from the Bay of Islands. Penguin Books, New Zealand. p. 103. ISBN 0-14-301929-5. 
  8. ^ "Rev. William Williams family". Pre 1839 foreigners in NZ. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Boyd, Mary (1 September 2010). "Williams, Samuel - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Cyclopedia Company Limited (1902). "The Hon. Henry Williams". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Auckland Provincial District. Christchurch: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Porter, Francis (30 October 2012). "Williams, William Leonard". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  12. ^ NTETC
  13. ^ Flashoff, Ruth (30 October 2012). "Williams, Anna Maria". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Rogers, Lawrence M. (1973). Te Wiremu: A Biography of Henry Williams. Pegasus Press. 
  15. ^ Journal of Henry Williams, 12 July 1826
  16. ^ Gillies 1995, p. 48
  17. ^ Rogers 1973, p. 25, f/n, p. 70
  18. ^ Charles Darwin, Journal of a Voyage Round the World, 1831–36
  19. ^ Fitzgerald, Caroline (2004) Letters from the Bay of Islands p. 219-230
  20. ^ a b Evans, Rex D. (compiler) (1992) – Faith and farming Te huarahi ki te ora; The Legacy of Henry Williams and William Williams, Evagean Publishing
  21. ^ a b c d e f Derby, Mark (July 2007). "Wai 900 – East Coast inquiry, 'Undisturbed Possession' – Te Tiriti o Waitangi and East Coast Māori 1840 – 1865 (Scoping Report)". Ruawaipu. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  22. ^ a b Fowler, Leo (1974). Te Mana o Turanga. Penrose Printing / N.Z. Historic Places Trust. p. 1 & 4. 
  23. ^ Derby (2007), Wai 900 – East Coast inquiry (Scoping Report), page 23, quoting letter from William Williams to Edward Garrard Marsh, 8 January 1840
  24. ^ Derby (2007) Wai 900 – East Coast inquiry (Scoping Report), page 41
  25. ^ Gillies, Iain and John (1998) – East Coast Pioneers. A Williams Family Portrait; A Legacy of Land, Love and Partnership
  26. ^ "Hukarere Girls School". Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
Religious titles
New title Bishop of Waiapu
Succeeded by
Edward Craig Stuart