John Williams - Possessions and Documents

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Following the historic 'Reconciliation Ceremony' that was held on the island of Erromanga in November 2009 to commemorate the 170th Anniversary of the tragic death of John Williams, I was able to make contact with Charles Milner Williams, the Great, Grandson of John Williams, and I was invited to visit his home in Hampshire to share much of the Family History information that Charles holds regarding his esteemed ancestor.  I spent a number of hours at his home and he kindly permitted me to photograph a number of objects that were either once owned by John Williams or were constructed by him using only the primitive tools and materials available to him in the South Seas. These items are truly remarkable and help illustrate what a craftsman he was. One can appreciate now both the talent and confidence he had to undertake the construction of ocean going vessels as well as the many houses and churches he built during his years as a missionary.  

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Telescope; This is the original telescope that John Williams personally used throughout his travels. It was contained in a cylindrical box that I have not pictured. As you may know there are often references to the use if his telescope within his journals and stories and it's therefore fascinating to see and hold the object itself.

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Microscope: Once again an original item owned by John Williams. The box contains a wide selection of lenses but most fascinating of all are the numerous slides that still contain specimens that he had personally prepared.

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Chest of Drawers: The Chest of Drawers and the wardrobe pictured below  were hand made by John Williams and once furnished his homes in the South Seas. Many of the metal fittings were also hand crafted using the skills he had obtained as an apprentice ironmonger.
wardrobe.jpg (42208 bytes) Wardrobe: The wardrobe appears to have been modified a little since it was originally constructed but a fine specimen nonetheless. Apologies for capturing an image of Charles Milner-Williams in the Mirror.

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Table: This really is a most amazing item. I must confess that this is not my photograph as the table today resides in Botswana with other members of the 'Williams' family. Charles explained to me that the table had been constructed by John Williams himself and he understands the central spine of the table to have been fashioned from one of the masts from his ship the 'Messenger of Peace'. However it is the table top that is of particular interest since it is said to have been crafted from different woods from each of the 23 Islands that he converted to Christianity.

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Original Journal 1823: I made a special point of photographing this document as I realised this to be the original hand-written version of the document that had been painstakingly transcribed by the Revd. Glyn Jenkins from the microfiche copies held in New Zealand. Clearly it was only possible for me to photograph the first page and no doubt it will be difficult to read from this scaled down image but it does give an indication of his handwriting

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Duke of Devonshire Letter -April 1840: This is a copy of the first page from a letter written by John Chawner Williams to the Duke of Devonshire to inform him of the death of his father the Revd. John Williams. In the fuller version it also refers to the plight of his mother and makes reference to the plants that had been sent back to the Duke from the South Seas. Hopefully it should be just legible to read. I am afraid I only focussed it roughly by eye so no real precision when taking the photograph.

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Philatelic Magazine -1968: This is a copy of an article written by Charles Milner-Williams for a Philatelic magazine back in 1968. It shows a number of commemorative stamps for 'John Williams' from Islands in the 'South Seas'. I thought this was rather poignant given John Williams place of birth in Tottenham and the fact that the 'Postage Stamp' and postal reform was introduced by Sir Rowland Hill when living at Bruce Castle House in Tottenham.

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Commemorative Stamp -Cook Islands: This is a colour illustration of the stamp depicted in the above article by Charles Milner Williams.

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Commemorative Stamp - South Seas Missionary Ships: We are indebted to the Revd Glyn Jenkins for providing this wonderful illustration of commemorative stamps. It shows the 'DUFF', which was the first ship of the London Missionary Society (LMS) that took the original missionaries to the South Seas in 1796.

There is also a wonderful illustration of the 'MESSENGER OF PEACE', the vessel that John Williams constructed himself in 1828 when marooned on the island of Raratonga. She made some remarkable voyages over a period of 6 years and travelled thousands of miles between the Islands that he and his colleagues converted to Christianity.

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JOHN WILLIAMS MEDAL:  Charles Milner-Williams has quite recently managed to acquire from an on-line auction site his own copy of the commemorative medal that was struck on the death of the Revd. John Williams.

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'JOHN WILLIAMS' Missionary Ship 1845 - R.B Spencer:

This is a colour illustration of a painting by R.B Spencer showing the first of the 'John Williams' missionary ships arriving in Melbourne harbour in 1845.

Article prepared by Alan Swain -February 2010. We acknowledge the permission given by Charles Milner-Williams and Glyn Jenkins to reproduce some of these images on the website.

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