William Helyar 1693-1723

From Book Owners Online

William HELYAR 1693-1723

Biographical Note

Son of William Helyar of East Coker, Somerset and Joanna Hole. Matriculated at Hart Hall, Oxford in 1712. Married Mary Goddard, with whom he had three daughters and one son. Helyar was born into a well-established gentry family, but his early death meant that he never inherited the family’s land and properties in Somerset and Devonshire and their slaves and plantations in Jamaica. Family correspondence seems to point towards ill-health, and his father, an MP, entreated him to ‘shake off’ melancholy in 1722.


‘A true and perfect Inventory of .. the goods, chattells and personal Estate of William Helyar, late of Coker’ (Somerset Heritage Centre, DD/WHh/1106) made in 1723 refers to ‘129 Folio books, 536 other books of all sizes’. Another inventory of 1728 (DD/WHh/27A) valued these (or the ‘other books’) at £30. ‘Late of Coker’ implies that they were this William Helyar’s, but as his father was still alive in 1723, conceivably ownership had become confused or muddled with other books at Coker Court, the Helyar family’s manor house since the early seventeenth century. The family had several generations of first sons bearing this name; further research is needed to explore in addition a seventeenth-century catalogue of books of a ‘William Helyar esquire’, listing about 700 books (DD/WHh/17), as well as a smaller mid-18th century list (DD/WHh/18).

Helyar’s will, which makes no reference to books, bequeathed everything to his infant son William. Helyar’s grandfather and father made no reference to books in their wills .

Forest Books listed a manuscript catalogue of books at Coker Court compiled in 1842, describing them as a ‘small but select general library… contained within 3 large bookcases... catalogued by bookcase and shelf number’, with approximately 580 volumes. It is not known how many, if any, of these had once been owned by Helyar. Nineteenth-century bookplates for Coker Court, extant in assorted items now privately and institutionally owned, might assist towards reconstructing some of his library.