Ebenezer Daniel Williams came from a well-established Southampton family connected with the Corporation from the third quarter of the eighteenth century. He was born in 1818. His father, Ebenezer Williams, was an auctioneer in the town and a town councillor and alderman for many years. Ebenezer junior was appointed a clerk in Southampton Post Office on 31 October 1840.

It was, typically of the age, a political appointment. He was recommended by Lord Duncan, Liberal MP for Southampton since 1837, who would probably have been guided by Richard Andrews, later 5-times mayor of Southampton and the effective dispenser of small government patronage in the town. The Tory Hampshire Advertiser (7 November 1840) characterized Andrews as "the arbiter of berths in the post-office". The Southampton postmaster at the time was Robert Lankester, appointed to the lucrative post on 6 September 1831. Lankester was a member of one of the most influential Liberal/nonconformist families in the town (brother to the ironfounders William and Joseph Lankester) and was one of the founders of the Albion Congregational Chapel, established in 1844 as a breakaway from the Above Bar Chapel. The separatists first met - in October 1842 - at the Post Office in Hanover Buildings.

E D Williams was a co-religionist of Robert Lankester. In his early life the Reverend William Thorn, Congregational minister at Winchester, had offered to sponsor him at a training college for the ministry. Williams was one of the founders of Albion Chapel, becoming deacon in 1857 and chapel secretary, his opinion "valued in questions of church finance and in all questions of Christian casuistry" (Hampshire Advertiser, 10 October 1868). He was throughout his time in Southampton identified with various free church movements and was secretary to the Nonconformist association.

He came from an extended family of nonconformist ministers: grandson of the Reverend D Williams of Fairford and nephew of the Reverend D Williams of Faringdon (both Baptists), half-brother to the Reverend H J Bevis of Ramsgate, cousin of the Reverend H J Gamble of Hanover Chapel, Peckham and later of Upper Clapton, cousin of the Reverend George Martin of Lewisham, later of Upper Clapton and father of the Reverend Arthur Martin, pastor of the Avenue Chapel in Southampton at the time of Williams's death. The latter were all Congregational ministers.

One of Lankester's innovations was the Post Office directory of the borough of Southampton, and the neighbourhood comprised in the Postmaster's official district, first issued in January 1843. Williams assumed the editorship for the fourth edition (issued November 1848), taking over from William Cooper, chief clerk at Southampton Post Office and his immediate superior. Williams was second clerk. Andrew Forbes, a fellow member of Albion Chapel and married to Rebecca Lankester (Robert's niece), was publisher.

Southampton Post Office employed nine clerks (1849 Post Office directory). Nevertheless in the reminiscences of Frederick Ebenezer Baines (On the track of the mail-coach, 1895), Lankester, Cooper and Williams "divided the world between them". Williams was engaged in the foreign mail department. It was strenuous employment. He had to meet the mail ships, whatever the time of day or night, and personally superintend the mail from its transfer to shore by tender until its dispatch to London by train. In October 1868 Williams was sent to Chatham as chief postmaster. He retired in 1887 after completing the full term of 47 years employment in the Post Office service.

In his new post he continued to serve the Congregationalist cause as vice-president and secretary of the Kent Congregational Union, a member of the Congregational Union of England and Wales and a director of the London Missionary Society. He also became vice-president of the Chatham Liberal Association. On retirement he moved back to Southampton. He resumed membership of Albion Chapel, appointed deacon again, until - in company with old friends such as William Goddard Lankester and Colonel Edward Bance - he took a leading part in the secession of the Avenue Congregational Church. He was an office bearer from the start. For five years he was chairman of the Hampshire Congregational Union.

E D Williams was an active member of the Foster Society, a mutual education society founded in 1848. In 1865 he was appointed one of the adjudicators for the essay competition organised by the Southampton Society for Mutual Education. He accompanied Henry Gaze, also a member of Albion Chapel, on a gruelling 17-day tour of Switzerland and the Alps in the summer of 1858. In December the following year gave a lecture at the Southampton Athenaeum on "A tour in Belgium and the Rhenish Provinces".

Ebenezer Williams was twice married. His first wife Charlotte (youngest daughter of James Davies of Brunswick Square) tragically died in June 1848, less than two months after their marriage in Albion Chapel. His second wife, Miriam (daughter of George Bullock of Southampton and 19 years his junior, who he married in 1860), became a zealous supporter of her husband's mission in Albion Chapel: active in the benevolent society, the district visitors' association and (health permitting) the Sunday school. In later years she became secretary to the Southampton women's auxiliary of the London Missionary Society and took part in the deliberations of the board of directors in London (Southampton Times, 18 February 1899). E D Williams died, aged 80 years, on 10 February 1899 at his residence, 6 Rose Road, The Avenue. He left effects valued for probate at £3575.3s.9d. He is buried in Southampton Cemetery. His widow Miriam died, aged 88 years, on 22 February 1926. Probate was valued at £27,857.12s.5d.

Ebenezer Daniel Williams

Image Unavailable

Photograph from Albion Congregational Church, Southampton: a jubilee souvenir, 1899


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