Sir John Williams Miscellanea

Scope and Content

The archive contains miscellaneous personal items of Sir John Williams, including calling cards, souvenirs, a bank book and a wallet.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir John Williams was born 6 November 1840 at Gwynfe, Carmarthenshire, the son of David Williams, Congregational minister and farmer, and his wife Eleanor. Educated locally, he entered the Normal College, Swansea with the intention of joining the ministry, but left to study medicine at Glasgow University, 1857-58. He was subsequently apprenticed to two Swansea doctors, and went on to the University College Hospital, London.

Once qualified, Williams returned to Swansea to practice, where he began collecting books of Welsh and Celtic interest which would form the basis of the collections of the National Library of Wales. In 1872, he married Mary Elizabeth Anne Hughes, and returned to London. He took up the post of House Surgeon at the University College Hospital - the beginning of a successful career as a medical practitioner, teacher, and Court Physician. He also dedicated his energies toward the establishment of a Welsh Hospital in South Africa during the Boer War, and toward the campaign for the eradication of tuberculosis in Wales. In 1894, Williams was made a baronet, and he received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Wales.

1903 saw Williams return to Wales once again, settling at Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire, in order to be closer to, and more involved with Welsh culture during his retirement. He had become involved with the Welsh Library Committee of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which was calling for the establishment of a national museum and library for Wales. In 1898, Williams purchased the Peniarth collection of manuscripts, with the aim of donating it to the National Library of Wales - if that institution was established at Aberystwyth. It was, and Williams donated the Peniarth and Llansteffan manuscripts, along with his own library of books, to the institution on its opening in 1909. He was naturally made first President of the National Library of Wales, a position to which he was re-elected on many occasions. He was also made President of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1913. He died at Aberystwyth, 24 May 1926.

Access Information

The papers may be consulted through application by e-mail to: or by post to: Aberystwyth University, Archives, Information Services, Llandinam Building, Penglais, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DB. Tel: 01970 628593.


This archive is held at the Hugh Owen Library, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth.

Description compiled by Rhian Phillips, Archives Hub project archivist, with reference to John Edward Lloyd, R T Jenkins and William Llewelyn Davies (eds), The Dictionary of Welsh Biography Down to 1940, (London: The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1953), pp. 1055-56.

Other Finding Aids

Basic finding aid available on request from the Archives staff.

Related Material

Further papers of Sir John Williams are held by the National Library of Wales, as are the manuscript and book collections donated by him to the Library on its establishment in 1909.