On 25 July 1584 , John was apprenticed to the goldsmith ‘ Mr. Richard Martin , Alderman ’ (q.v. in D.N.B. ; goldsmith to queen Elizabeth , warden and afterwards master of the Mint , three times lord mayor ), and on 7 Sept. 1593 became a freeman ‘by service’ of the Goldsmiths' company . His business, ‘at the sign of the Cross Keys in Cheapside ,’ was clearly very prosperous. The Inner Temple in 1609 ordered of him a gold cup costing £666 ( Cal. Inner Temple Records , II, xix). On 6 Aug. 1612 , John Williams , ‘ goldsmith to the King ,’ was admitted into Gray's Inn — such honorary admissions were not uncommon. The first reference in Cal. S.P. Dom. to him as one of the king's goldsmiths is under 30 March 1604 ; in Oct. of the same year he is mentioned for the first time in Cal. Wynn Papers ; both Calendars (indexed) have frequent references to him during James I 's reign. In Dec. 1609 the king is advised to make Williams a justice of the peace , as Martin had been made in the previous reign. Warrants for considerable payments to him (of course, the cost of bullion was included — or an ‘imprest’ for bullion) are mentioned, e.g. in 1604 ‘£1,000 for chains of gold,’ and in 1616 £6,733 to him and his associates; grants of land (of the value of £200 and £173 respectively) to him are twice mentioned. As was customary, the goldsmith was also a banker and a moneylender . The Wynn papers show that Williams lent money (as much as £500 at a time) to his kinsman Sir John Wynn of Gwydir (q.v.) , and that he had trouble in getting it back — the last reference to him in the papers ( Feb. 1626 ) shows Sir John appealing to him to be patient, but Owen Wynn reports to his father that ‘ Williams has grown very high since the bishop of Lincoln is fallen’ — why the ‘fall’ of his namesake the future archbishop should have caused this hauteur is not clear. Again ( Rug Deeds in N.L.W., no. 759 , and Cal. Wynn Papers, 588 and 615 ), we find him in 1615 taking a mortgage on Bachymbyd and other lands from William Salusbury of Rug . And we find from a codicil to John Williams junior 's will that Henry Cary ( first viscount Falkland , and father of the Civil War hero) had become bound ‘in greate somme of money’ to the elder John Williams . An even more exalted borrower appears in an entry in Cal. S.P. Dom. , 28 Sept. 1621 : ‘grant and sale to John Williams , goldsmith , of certain jewels as security for a loan to the King of £3,000 and in discharge of a former loan of £2,000, to be redeemable on payment of £5,000 within the year’ — on 9 Nov. we learn that ten jewels had been ‘mortgaged to John Williams .’
The Goldsmiths' company 's record of the admission of the younger John Williams ( 1623 ) styles the father ‘ John Williams , Esq. , late His Majesty's Goldsmith '; he must therefore have lost his official status by then. And in 1623 , too, a certificate granted to him ( E. A. Jones , loc. cit.) by the earl of Suffolk and viscount Falkland states that ‘ there was no evidence that he sold deceitful plate to the king. ’ Was this just a formality on quitting office, or had there been trouble? — it may be noted that both peers were deeply embarrassed, and that Cary (at least) was heavily in debt to Williams . The date of Williams 's death is uncertain — no will of his has been discovered. It was said in the 1678 lawsuit mentioned above that he d. before Sir John Wynn , i.e. before 1 March 1626/7 , but the lapse of time forbids our being too confident in relying on this; and it is not impossible that the goldsmith was the ‘old Mr. Williams' whose death is mentioned in Cal. S.P. Dom. , under 23 Aug. 1628 .
John Williams cared for other things besides money. He is credited by the attorney-general in 1678 with having founded, c. 1608 , the well-known free school at Llanrwst , and the alms-houses there; the Crown averred that the original scheme was to set up these institutions at Dolwyddelan ( qua the founder's birthplace?), but that this proved too expensive. The execution of the project, says the Crown , was entrusted to John Williams the younger and Sir John Wynn . The Wynn s in 1678 would have none of this story, and claimed that the benefaction derived entirely from Gwydir . An involved account of the proceedings is printed in the 1838 Charity Report ( Denbs. , pp. 54-9); the matter is discussed in Trans. Denbs. Hist. Soc. , ii, 51-63, by A. H. Williams , who thinks it ‘more likely’ that it was John Williams who provided the money.
He concerned himself, too, with literature and history . The epigrammatist John Owen ( 1564? - 1628? ) (q.v.) addressed two epigrams to him (in 1607 and in 1613 ). Michael Drayton , in a special preface (‘ to my Friends the Cambro-Britans ’) to Polyolbion , 1612 , declares that ‘ the free and gentle companie of that true lover of his Country (as of all ancient and noble things) M. John Williams , his Majesties Gold-smith , my deare and worthy friend, hath made me the more seek into the antiquities of your Country ’; another source ( Pennant , loc. cit. — but the ultimate source is Hearne 's preface to Leland 's Collectanea ), tells us that Williams had given some of John Leland 's papers to Drayton .
Williams had at least two sons and at least one daughter. His eldest son,
Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor
Published date: 1959