Open main menu

Rowland Williams
Reverend Professor Rowland Williams

Rowland Williams (16 August 1817–18 January 1870) was vice-principal and Professor of Hebrew at St David’s College, Lampeter, from 1849 to 1862 and was one of the most influential theologians of the nineteenth century. He supported biblical criticism and pioneered comparative Religious Studies in Britain. He was also a priest in the Church of England, the vicar of Broad Chalke, where he is buried. Williams is also credited with introducing rugby football to Wales – Lampeter's team was the first to be established in the nation.


Williams was the son of the Welsh clergyman and writer Rowland Williams(d. 1854).[1]

Following the publication of Essays and Reviews in 1860, in which Williams compared those opposed to the new biblical criticism then coming out of Germany to “degenerate senators before Tiberius”, the editor of the paper and Williams were tried and condemned for heresy in the Court of Arches; their acquittal, on appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, afforded a valuable protection to liberty of thought within the Church of England.

Lord Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, opened a new research centre at the University of Wales, Lampeter, on Friday 8 April 2005, named in honour of Williams: The Rowland Williams Research Centre for Theology and Religion. In attendance at the first conference were three great-great nephews of Rowland Williams.


  • "Williams, Rowland" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.


Academic offices
Preceded by
Edward Harold Browne
Vice-principal of St Davids College, Lampeter
Succeeded by
John James Stewart Perowne