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1 - The Grave and the Memory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2012

Colin Haydon
Affiliation:
University of Winchester
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Summary

The Churchyard at Wellesbourne

John Henry Williams was vicar of Wellesbourne in Warwickshire for over fifty years. He died on 12 May 1829 at Leamington, and, six days later, when his body had been brought back to Wellesbourne, his funeral was conducted at the church, St Peter's, which he had served so faithfully. He was buried in the graveyard, by the church porch. If one visits Wellesbourne today, his resting place is easily overlooked: the worn, dingy horizontal slab which marks it has no decoration, no laudatory epitaph, only the simple inscription ‘IHW 1829’, the letters and numbers thick with moss.

Williams' inconspicuous grave is symbolic of his diminished reputation. The year before Williams' death, William Field, the prominent Unitarian minister and writer, stated that the Vicar of Wellesbourne might ‘justly claim a distinguished place among the most enlightened and liberal clergymen of his time’. Williams was, Field continued, ‘honourably known to the public, by … [his] admirable sermons’ – sermons which, preached and published in 1793, 1794, 1795, and 1802, eloquently denounced the war against revolutionary France. The celebrated pedagogue, cleric, and writer Dr Samuel Parr, who knew Williams well, ‘often spoke of him in terms of fervent admiration and esteem’. Yet, when Williams died, The Gentleman's Magazine baldly recorded, under ‘Clergy Deceased’, ‘Aged 82, the Rev. John Henry Williams' (and noted his Oxford college affiliations less than accurately). Locally, the Leamington Spa Courier just stated – in very small print – ‘DIED. – On Tuesday, the 12th inst., aged 82, the Rev. J. H. Williams, Vicar of Wellsbourne [sic]’.

Type
Chapter
Information
John Henry Williams (1747–1829): 'Political Clergyman'
War, the French Revolution, and the Church of England
, pp. 1 - 17
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2007

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