The Revd Dr Daniel Williams

The Revd. Dr. Williams (1643-1711), was a formidable non-conformist preacher who had a major influence on religious dissenters throughout the Kingdom. He acquired great wealth through marriages and inheritances, which included the Beckingham Hall estate at Tolleshunt Major, which enabled him to establish trusts to continue his influence long after his death and right up until the present day. In his will he left a substantial trust to the New England Company, which was, and still is, a missionary society in North America. One of its founders and the first Governor of the society was John Winthrop, a life-long friend of Goldhanger Rector the Revd. Edward Howes.


          Beckingham Hall in 1630                                      Beckingham Hall Gatehouse in 1830                        .

Until recently Beckingham Hall farm was in the possession of the New England Company's trustees. Under his will for 2000 years £60 annually from the income of this estate was to be spent in employing two itinerant preachers in the West Indies and "for the good of what pagans and blacks lie neglected there". The remainder was to be paid to Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, or "such as are usually imployed to manage the blessed work of converting the poor Indians there, to promote which I design this part of my gift."

Dr. Williams also left funds to set up a research library in London for English Protestant nonconformity to be called the Dr Williams Library, which is still located at University Hall, Gordon Square, London. He also established a trust for 2000 years for religious and educational purposes. A full biography of Dr Williams is available in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies at…



The New England Company

the following are short extracts from a booklet entitled:

The New England Company – A Short Note and History

 published in 1991

The New England Company is an ancient missionary society — the first to be established in England since the Reformation - set up in 1649 to spread the Gospel among the North American Indians, and, since 1745, among the people of the West Indies. Its North American mission was at first to the Indians in New England, mainly in Massachusetts but also in Connecticut and Rhode Island. After the American War of Independence in 1775 the Company transferred its work to the native Indians in Canada, some of whom had migrated there with the loyalists. In time it enlarged its sphere of operations in Canada. The Company's mission work in the West Indies started effectively only in the early nineteenth century.

The term "Company" can be misleading. "Company" — a translation of the Mediaeval Latin "Societas" — was the term used in the 16th and 17th centuries for any corporation, charitable or trading for profit. The New England Company is a society that does not work for profit but uses its income entirely for its charitable purpose of spreading the Gospel in its commitments areas. Its objectives and the sphere of operations are strictly defined and the funds may not be spent outside these limits.

The New England Company can lay claim to being the oldest missionary society still active in Britain. It was founded by an Act of Oliver Cromwell's Parliament on 27 July 1649. Following the restoration of the monarchy it was granted a Royal Charter by Charles II in 1662. The Charter provided for the promotion and propagation of "the Gospel of Christ unto and amongst the heathen natives in or near New England and parts adjacent in America". To this end the Company sent both missionaries and teachers to New England and later further afield to Virginia and New York. Its first Governor was John Winthrop the elder, a lawyer from Suffolk who later became the first governor of Massachusetts.

The American War of Independence forced the Company to change the scene of its operations. It took a little time but in 1786 the Company was advised that it was unable, safely and legally, to "exercise the Trusts of its Charter in any part of America which is out of the King's Dominions". Accordingly it transferred its operations to the remaining Loyalist Colonies in North America in what is now Canada, and major activity began in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. At the same time the Company began to give grants to the West Indies. Under his will of 1711 Dr Daniel Williams had left a substantial bequest to the Company, the proceeds of which could be applied towards "the advancement of the Christian Religion amongst Indians, Blacks and Pagans in some or one of the Plantations of His Majesty King George the Third", but missions did not begin until 1790.

The nineteenth century saw an expansion of the Company's work westward in Canada, mirroring the political expansion and development of the country. The Company continued to appoint missionaries and teachers directly, but came more and more to work in conjunction with the newly appointed colonial bishops and eventually with the Canadian Government Department of Indian Affairs. In 1828 for example it was agreed that a missionary should take directions from his bishop "in matters purely spiritual" and in all other matters take "the direction of the Company".

The process of withdrawal from direct involvement continued apace in the twentieth century and the Company agreed to hand the remaining schools and lands it owned to the Department of Indian Affairs. Its efforts became concentrated on effective management of its lands and investments in England, and it was content to send cheques to the bishops in both Canada and the West Indies and to allow them to dispose of the money as they thought fit. Direct contact with the bishops was spasmodic to say the least, the main occasions being the Lambeth Conferences which only took place at ten year intervals.



The Dr Williams Library

short extracts from Dr William's Library website…

Dr Williams's Library is the pre-eminent research library of English Protestant nonconformity.  Established under the will of Dr Daniel Williams, the Library is one of the oldest open to the public still conducted on its original benefaction.  It has never received government funding.


The Charity of Dr Daniel Williams commonly known as Dr Williams's Trust was established by Dr Daniel Williams in his will dated 26th June 1711. After a number of specific gifts and provisions, Daniel Williams granted the residue of his estate to 23 Trustees for a period of 2000 years. The main areas supported by the Trustees today are the education of ministers of ‘the Three Denominations’ and the Library, with the Library now the most important public work of the Trust.


The Trust also supports an annual lecture in Wales, which alternates between the Welsh Independent College and the Department of Religious and Theological Studies, University of Cardiff. The Trustees also have the right to present candidates to a bursary at Glasgow University established by Dr Daniel Williams


Dr Williams acquired considerable property, which he used sparingly ‘as to self, that he might be more useful to others both in his Life and after his Death’. He was to leave the bulk of his estate (estimated at £50,000) to charitable purposes. After provisions for his widow, bequests to the poor, and endowments for the universities of Glasgow and Harvard, and for the Presbyterian meetings at Wrexham and Burnham in Essex, he established a Trust for 2000 years for religious and educational purposes. Williams died at Hoxton on 26 January 1715/6.


Because of errors in the execution of his will, his Trustees faced major obstacles in carrying out his trust. Difficulties concerning his heir at law were only finally settled following Chancery proceedings. In addition, the provisions Williams made in his will for establishing the Library, now the most important part of his Trust, were inadequate. The establishment of the Library in Red Cross Street was only achieved as a result of the efforts of his trustees. The Library finally opened in 1729, with Williams’s original benefaction of about 7600 books.


Dr Williams wrote many books. His Will directed his trustees to reprint his works ‘all such as are not controversial,’ at stated intervals for two thousand years. His books included…

o        The Vanity of Childhood and Youth … Sermons to Young People, 1691

o        Gospel-truth, stated and vindicated,  1692.  It was translated into Latin by and published as ‘Veritas Evangelica,’  in 1740, and as  ‘Tractatus Selecti,’ in 1760

o        A defence of ‘Gospel truth’, being a reply to Mr Chancy's first part, and as an explication of the points in debate, may serve for a reply to all other answers, 1693

o        Gospel truth stated and vindicated, wherein some of Dr Crisp's opinions are considered, and the opposite truths are plainly stated and confirmed, the third edition, a large postscript is now added, 1698

o        A Letter to the Author of a Discourse of Free Thinking, 1713,

o        Some Queries relating to the Bill for preventing the Growth of Schism, 1714

o        Practical discourses on several important subjects by the late Reverend Daniel Williams

Some of the above books have been translated into Latin and Welsh.




There is a strong possibility of a connection between the Revd Dr. Daniel Williams, the Winthrop Governors, The New England Company and Revd. Edward Howes, who is another of our Local Authors.   Beckingham Hall and Highams Farm (part of Dr. Williams estate at the time), are less than a mile from St Peter’s Church, Goldhanger. Although no direct link between Howes and Williams has been established, in 1629 Governor Winthrop was appointed as the first governor of The New England Company even before he emigrated to the Americas and a Mr Howe is listed as a friend of Dr. Williams, as seen in these extracts…



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