William Jones was born in 1545 in Newland in the Forest of Dean, a few miles from Monmouth in South Wales. He was a member of both the Company of Merchant Adventurers and the Haberdashers’ Company.
For the greater part of his working life Jones traded in wool and linen in Germany, particularly in Hamburg and in Stade, which is some 20 miles north-west of Hamburg on the River Elbe. His business acumen must have been considerable because when he died in 1615 in Hamburg, where he spent the last two years of his life, he was described by the city’s Lord Mayor as the richest merchant among those trading there; and this was at a time when Hamburg was the biggest city in Germany.
Jones was a man of strong Puritan convictions. In his will drawn up in 1614 he left money for the poor and orphans in Germany, for the setting up of almshouses in Newland and for both almshouses and a school to be established in Monmouth. Monmouth was chosen as the site for a school because it was partly to combat Catholic adherences there which were very strong in the area.
As well as allocating money to cover the building costs in Monmouth, arrangements were made to purchase the Hatcham Barnes Estate in south-east London to provide a regular income to meet running costs, salaries and alms house pensions. The acquisition of land for charitable purchases required permission from the monarch. This permission was given by James I who signed the necessary Letters Patent on 19 March 1614, and so it is from this moment that the founding of the Monmouth School is dated. The Haberdashers’ Company was appointed executor of his will and given responsibility as trustee for overseeing in perpetuity his generous benefaction.
Since the opening of the Boys School in 1614 and the Girls School in 1892, it is estimated that some 65,000 pupils at the Monmouth Schools have received the benefit of a Haberdashers’ sponsored education.
Artist - Unknown Artist. English School late 17th century.
This spirit of philanthropy continues at the Company today. Members regularly support the charitable endeavours of the Haberdashers’ Foundation in order that the Company increases the impact of its work with schools, churches and communities. If you would like the opportunity to be part of the Company’s philanthropy, the giving page is here. Thank you.