Herbert Williams (bishop)

Herbert William Williams FRS (10 October 1860 – 7 December 1937)[1] was the 6th Anglican Bishop of Waiapu and a distinguished Māori scholar.[2][3]

Herbert Williams

Bishop of Waiapu
ProvinceEast Coast, New Zealand
DioceseAnglican Diocese of Waiapu
PredecessorWilliam Sedgwick
Personal details
Birth nameHerbert William Williams
Born10 October 1860
Gisborne, New Zealand
Died7 December 1937(1937-12-07) (aged 77)
Napier, New Zealand
NationalityNew Zealander
ParentsLeonard Williams and Sarah Wanklyn
SpouseBertha Louise Gertrude Mason
Alma materChrist's College, Christchurch
The University of New Zealand
Jesus College, Cambridge

Williams was born at Waerenga-ā-Hika, Gisborne, New Zealand, the son of Sarah Williams and Leonard Williams.[2] He was educated at Christ's College, Christchurch, The University of New Zealand and Jesus College, Cambridge; graduating Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1884.[2][4] He was ordained in 1886,[5] then embarked on his ecclesiastical career with a curacy at West Wratting, Cambridge diocese, Ely from 1886-1888. Williams married Bertha Mason on 27 September 1888 in Edinburgh, Scotland.[6] Their children include Nigel Williams (a priest; 23 March 1901 – 25 July 1980).[6]

He was a member of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). From March 1890 to 1894 he was a tutor at Te Rau Kahikatea Theological College, which had been established in Gisborne by his father, Leonard Williams. He became the vice-principal in 1894, and from 1894 to 1902 he was the principal of the college.[6] He was appointed as the Superintendent of the Missionary East Coast District. He established Te Rau Press, which published religious texts including Te Māramataka, a lectionary, from 1899 to 1921.

From 1907 to 1930 he was Archdeacon of Waiapu. In that year he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather (William Williams, the first Bishop of Waiapu)[7] and his father (Leonard Williams, the third)[8][9] and was appointed to the episcopate,[10] at Waiapu Cathedral.

Williams campaigned with Āpirana Ngata for the recognition of Māori language as a subject for study in the University of New Zealand, with the study of Māori becoming eligible for a degree of bachelor of arts in 1928.[2] In 1917 Williams published the fifth edition of A dictionary of the New Zealand language, which updated the work of his father and grandfather. Williams received honorary doctorates in literature from the Universities of New Zealand (1924) and Cambridge (1925). In 1923 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and he was the president of the Royal Society of New Zealand from 1935 to 1936, and president of the Polynesian Society from 1929 until his death.[2]


  1. Obituary Bishop Of Waiapu Maori Scholar And Missionary The Times Wednesday, Dec 08, 1937; pg. 11; Issue 47862; col C
  2. Biggs, Bruce. "Williams, Herbert William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  3. Firth, Raymond (May 1938). "Bishop Herbert William Williams". Man. Vol. 38, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. pp. 74-75. 38: 74–75. JSTOR 2792622.
  4. "Williams, Herbert William (WLMS881HW)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. "The Clergy List, Clerical Guide and Ecclesiastical Directory" London, John Phillips, 1900
  6. "Blain Biographical Directory of Anglican clergy in the South Pacific" (PDF). 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  7. "William Williams family". Pre 1839 foreigners in NZ. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  8. Porter, Francis (30 October 2012). "Williams, William Leonard". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  9. NZETC
  10. “Who was Who” 1897-1990 London, A & C Black, 1991 ISBN 0-7136-3457-X
Anglican Communion titles
Preceded by
William Sedgwick
Bishop of Waiapu
Succeeded by
George Gerard