WILLIAMS, alias SCOTT, John (by 1519-61 or later), of Bedford.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1519. m. Dorothy, at least 3s.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Bedford 1546-7, 1549-50, 1551-2.2


A grant to John Gostwick, early in 1540, of houses and land in Bedfordshire included ‘a meadow called Hanchurche mead, now in the tenure of John Scott’, the name by which John Williams alias Scott appears to have been usually known early in his career. By the time of his first mayoralty he was using either name, or both, but from about 1549 he seems to have dropped the use of Scott. No reason for these changes is known: possibly he claimed some relationship with John Williams, later Lord Williams of Thame, whose brother-in-law Gerard Harvey alias Smart sat for Bedford in 1547.3

Whether or not he was related to Williams of Thame, they had at least one activity in common, speculation in monastic lands. The source of the Bedford man’s capital is unknown, but he may have acquired it by legal practice. It was in the mid 1540s that Williams made his largest acquisitions of property. Perhaps the John Williams who in October 1544 bought unspecified crown land to the value of nearly £80, he was certainly the John Williams alias Scott of Bedford who in the following year paid £254 for ex-monastic property in the town. Several of the houses involved were in the tenancy of William Bourne. Another was the old schoolhouse in School Lane, later Mill Street. During Williams’s first mayoralty the church of St. Peter Dunstable in Bedford was demolished and he used part of the materials to repair the school. With other stone and rubble from the church he made‘a large and pleasant place before his door where he dwelt at that time to bait bull and bear’. It was also during his first mayoralty that Williams brought an action against William Johnson I when the latter tried to obtain wages from the borough for the Parliaments of 1539 and 1542.4

Williams has been identified, it appears correctly, as the legal adviser to the town on the status of the hospital of St. John, declared by the Edwardian government to have been a chantry. In or soon after 1561 the town won the case, and Queen Elizabeth revoked the grant made to one John Farnham. But Williams was alleged to have retained in his hands all the title deeds and other legal documents concerning the hospital: after his death the corporation brought a lawsuit for possession against his widow and sons. The matter became more complicated since Williams had apparently bought up, in his son’s name, John Farnham’s dubious right to the hospital.5

No will or inquisition post mortem has been found for Williams. He was probably dead by 1566, his name not appearing among the ex-mayors who were ‘associate to’ the existing holder of the office when Bedford received a confirmation of its arms in that year.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 72; information from G. D. Gilmore; C. F. Farrar, Old Bedford, 159 seq.; Reps. Charity Commrs. xxxii(2), 574-89.
  • 2. Bedford yr. bk. ex. inf. G. D. Gilmore.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xv.
  • 4. Ibid, xix, xx; C. F. Farrar, Bedford Charity, 2-3; Godber, Beds. 194-5; Beds Hist. Rec. Soc. xxxvi, 16 and n, 18; C24/27.
  • 5. Farrar, Old Bedford, 159 seq.; Reps. Charity Commrs. xxxii(2), 574-89.
  • 6. Vis. Beds. 72.