Williamson, Sir Joseph

, an eminent statesman and benefactor to Queen’s college, Oxford, was son of Joseph Williamson, vicar of Bridekirk in Cumberland from 1625 to 1634. At his first setting out in life he was employed as a clerk or secretary by Richard Tolson, esq.; representative in parliament for Cockermouth; and, when | at London with his master, begged to be recommended to Dr. Busby, that he might be admitted into Westminsterschool, where he made such improvement that the master recommended him to the learned Dr. Langbaine, provost pf Queen’s college, Oxford, who came to the election at Westminster. He admitted him on the foundation, under the tuition of Dr. Thomas Smith (for whom sir Joseph afterwards procured the bishopric of Carlisle), and provided for him at his own expence; and when he had taken his bachelor’s degree, February 2, 1653, sent him to France as tutor to a person of quality. On his return to college he was elected fellow, and, as it is said, took deacon’s orders. In 1657 he was created A. M. by diploma. Soon after the restoration he was recommended to sir Edward Nicholas, and his successor Henry earl of Arlington, principal secretary of state, who appointed him clerk or keeper of the paper-office at Whitehall (of which he appointed Mr. Smith deputy), and employed him in translating and writing memorials in French; and June 24, 1677, he was sworn one of the clerks of the council in ordinary, and knighted. He was under-secretary of state in 1665; about which time he procured for himself the writing of the Oxford Gazettes then newly set up, and employed Charles Perrot, fellow of Oriel college, who had a good command of his pen, to do that office under him till 1671. In 1678, 1679, 1698, 1700, he represented the borough of Thetford in parliament. In 1685, being then recorder of Thetford, he was again elected, but Heveningham the mayor returned himself, and on a petition it appeared that the right of election was in the select body of the corporation before the charter; and in 1690 he lost his election by a double return. Wood says he was a recruiter for Thetford to sit in that parliament which began at Westminster May 8, 1661. At the short treaty of Cologne, sir Joseph was one of the British plenipotentiaries, with the earl of Sunderland and sir Leolin Jenkins, and at his return was created LL.D. June 27, 1674, sworn principal secretary of state September 11, on the promotion of the earl of Arlington to the chamberlainship of the household, and a privy counsellor. On November 18, 1678, he was committed to the Tower by the House of Commons, on a charge of granting commissions and warrants to popish recusants; but he was the same day released by the king, notwithstanding an address from the House. He resigned his place of secretary | February 9, 1678, and was succeeded by the earl of Sunderland; who, if we believe Kapin, gave him 6000l. and 500 guineas to induce him to resign. In December that year he married Catherine Obrien, baroness Clifton, widow of Hen/y lord Obrien, who died in August. She was sister and sole heiress to Charles duke of Richmond, and brought sir Joseph large possessions in Kent and elsewhere, besides the hereditary stewardship of Greenwich. Some ascribe the loss of the secretary’s place to this match, through the means of lord Danby, who intended this lady for his son. She died November 1702. Sir Joseph was president of the Royal Society in 1678. Under 1674, Wood says of him that “he had been a great benefactor to his college, and may be greater hereafter if he think fit,” Upon some slight shewn by the college, he had made a will by which he had given but little to it, having disposed of his intended benefaction to erect and endow a college at Dublin, to be called Queen’s college, the provosts to be chosen from its namesake in Oxford, But soon after his arrival in Holland 1696, with. Mr. Smith, his godson and secretary, (afterwards, 1730, provost of Queen’s college, Oxford,) being seized with a violent fit of the gout, he sent for his secretary, who had before reconciled him tothe place of his education, and calling him to his bedside, directed him to take his will out of a drawer in the bureau, and insert a benefaction of 6000l. When this was done and ready to be executed, before the paper had been read to him, “in comes sir Joseph’s lady.” The secretary, well knowing he had no mind she should be acquainted with it, endeavoured to conceal it; and on her asking what he had got there, he answered, “nothing but news, Madam;” meaning, such as she was not to know: and by this seasonable and ready turn prevented her further inquiries.

Dr. Lancaster, the provost, applied this benefaction towards erecting the south-side of the college. Sir Joseph also gave to the library a valuable collection of Mss. especially heraldic, and memoirs of his foreign negociations. His benefactions to this college in his life-time, and at his death, in plate, books, buildings, and money, amounted to 8000l. He left by will 500l. to the grandchildren of his patron Dr. Langbaine; and to the parish of Bride-kirk gilt bibles and prayer-books, communion-plate, &c. He was also a benefactor to the cloth-workers’ company, of which he had been master, and left SOOOl, to found a | mathematical school for freemen’s sons at Rochester, which city he had represented in 1689, 1695, 1698, and 1700. He died in 1701, and was buried in Westminster-abbey. 1


Martin’s Hist, of Thetford. Burp’s Cumberland and Westmorelandand. Hutchinson’s Cumberland.