Cooper Willyams

Birth: 1762


Rev. Cooper Willyams (June 1762 – 17 July 1816), topographer and artist, born in June 1762, probably at Plaistow House, Essex, was the only son of John Willyams (1707-1779), commander R.N., by his wife, Anne Goodere, daughter of Sir Samuel Goodere, and first cousin of Samuel Foote He was educated at the King's school, Canterbury, where he was contemporary with Charles Abbott, first lord Tenterden, Bishop Marsh, and Sir S. E. Brydges. In 1789 he preached the annual sermon before the King's School Feast Society (Sidebotham, Canterbury School, p. 24).

Willyams was entered in October 1780 at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. in 1784 and M.A. in 1789. In the spring of 1784 he was in France with his friend Montagu Pennington, and in that year he was ordained to a curacy near Gloucester, where his mother lived. He was appointed in 1788 to the vicarage of Exning, near Newmarket, and in 1793 to the rectory of St. Peter, West Lynn, Norfolk. An illustrated account of Exning by him appeared in the 'Topographer' for September 1790 (iii. 192-4), and he furnished other illustrations to that periodical (iii. 256, 391, iv. 17, 59). He contributed to 'Topographical Miscellanies' (1792) a view of Kirtling Hall, near Newmarket. He resigned the benefice of Exning in 1806.

In early life Willyams had imbibed a love of the sea, and on 24 Nov. 1793 he started as chaplain of the Boyne to the West Indies, in the expedition under the command of Lieutenant-general Sir Charles Grey and Vice-admiral Sir John Jervis. Through deaths from yellow fever the ranks of the officers were much thinned; he himself suffered from it, and during the latter part of the campaign was the only chaplain in the expedition. The French soldiers at Fort St. Charles, Guadeloupe, surrendered on 22 April 1794, and Willyams was appointed chaplain to the English troops in that island, but the ministry at home would not confirm the appointment. He published in 1796, with illustrations, 'An Account of the Campaign in the West Indies in 1794;' a German translation of it came out at Leipzig in 1800. Some details of this war were inserted from his 'comprehensive and circumstantial Account' in Bryan Edwards's 'History of the West Indies' (1819, iii. 444 et seq.).

Willyams became in 1797 domestic chaplain to Earl St. Vincent, and from 24 May 1798 he served as chaplain of the Swiftsure (Captain Hallowell), a vessel in the squadron under the command of Nelson. He was present in this vessel at the battle of the Nile, and his narrative, which was full of engravings from his own drawings, of 'A Voyage up the Mediterranean in the Swiftsure,' contained 'the first, the most particular, and the most authentic account of the battle.' A German version was published at Hamburg in 1803. After the death of Willyams there appeared in 1822 a volume containing 'A Selection of Views in Egypt, Palestine, Rhodes, Italy, Minorca, and Gibraltar, with descriptions in English and French.'

Willyams landed at Portsmouth on 10 Sept. 1800, and stayed some weeks with Brydges, who in 1806 appointed him to the rectory of Kingston, near Canterbury. In the same year he was nominated by the lord chancellor, through the influence of Lord St. Vincent, to the neighboring rectory of Lower Hardress, which he at once exchanged for that of Stourmouth. These two benefices together produced an income of over 1,000l. per annum. He died at Bernard Street, Russell Square, London, on 17 July 1816. He is said to have been buried at Fulham, near his sister, Beata Willyams (d. 1791). He married at Cheltenham, on 20 July 1801, Elizabeth Rebecca, third daughter of Peter Snell. They had four children. Willyams was a clever artist. His journals and drawings of the expeditions in which he took part are 'intelligent and useful.' Another work by him was 'A History of Sudeley Castle' (1791, folio), with an illustration of the ruins, dedicated to Brydges. It was reprinted in octavo form, and without the view, at Cheltenham in 1803. Poems by Brydges referring to Willyams are in 'Censura Literaria' (iv. 79-100, viii. 87, 91), and are reproduced in his 'Ruminator' (i. 5, 209).

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 891-2; Boase's Collect. Cornub. p. 1271; Gent. Mag. 1779 p. 104, 1797 i. 50, ii. 1137, 1801 ii. 672, 1806 ii. 1240, 1809 ii. 1171, 1810 ii. 91, 1816 i. 91, 184; Brydges's Autobiogr. i. 44-6, 147-9; Annual Biogr. i. 604-6 (by Brydges); Faulkner's Fulham, p. 116; Reuss's Alphabetical Reg. of Authors, 1804; Letters of Mrs. Carter (1817), iii. 216.]


William Prideaux Courtney, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62. pgs. 57-58.

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