Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Heather, William

HEATHER or HEYTHER, WILLIAM (1563?–1627), musical composer, was born at Harmondsworth, Middlesex, probably about 1563 (Brown's ‘Dict.’ says 1584). He was a chorister of Westminster, and presumably remained in that choir until, on 27 March 1615, he was sworn in a gentleman of the Chapel Royal. While resident in Westminster he became an intimate friend of William Camden [q. v.], then master of Westminster School. In 1602 Heather nursed Camden through a fever, and in 1609, during another illness, and by reason of an outbreak of the plague, Camden was taken to the musician's house in the Almonry, and afterwards to Chislehurst, where Heather had land and a dwelling-house. When Camden determined to found a history lectureship at Oxford, he transferred all his right in the manor of Bexley in Kent to the chancellor, masters, and scholars of the university on the twofold condition that the profits of the manor (valued at about 400l. per annum) should be enjoyed by Heather, his heirs, and executors for the term of ninety-nine years after Camden's death, and that during that period Heather should pay to the professor of history in Oxford the sum of 140l. a year (Gibson). Heather carried the deed of gift from Camden to Piers, the vice-chancellor of the university, in May 1622, and on the 17th of the month convocation conferred on Heather and Orlando Gibbons [q. v.] the degrees of bachelor and doctor of music (Clark). On the 18th Piers wrote to Camden: ‘We have paid Mr. Heather's charges for this journey, and likewise given him the Oxford courtesie (a pair of gloves for himself and another for his wife)’ (Smith, Camdeni Epistolæ, p. 329). A proposed public disputation between Heather and Dr. Nathaniel Giles on musical questions came to nothing, and the music which served for Heather's exercise was actually composed by Orlando Gibbons [q. v.] (Wood). Heather afterwards disposed of his interest in Bexley Manor to Sir Francis Leigh of Addington, Surrey (Hasted, Kent).

In 1623 Heather, whom Camden had appointed his sole executor, followed his friend to his grave in Westminster Abbey (Visitation of Huntingdonshire, Camden Soc. 1849, p. xi). On 7 May 1625 he attended the funeral of James I. In the following year Heather founded the music lectureship at Oxford. The deed was dated 20 Feb. 1626, and set forth that of 16l. 6s. 8d., payable yearly out of his estates in Kent, 13l. 6s. 8d. should be employed for the music professor's salary (out of which he should keep in repair the instruments in his charge, and give at least one practical music lesson weekly); the remaining 3l., afterwards augmented by small sums, was to go to the reader of a lecture on musical theory, which should be delivered in English (17l. 6s. 8d. by the year is the amount of Heather's bequest by his will). The founder appointed Nicholson, organist of Magdalen, the first master or professor, and John Allibond of the same college was the first and last lecturer, the latter's salary being afterwards made over to the speaker at act time. After Heather's death the nomination of the professor was left in the hands of the vice-chancellor, the dean of Christ Church, the president of Magdalen College, the warden of New College, and the president of St. John's (all for the time being), since the four colleges maintained choirs. At the same time Heather gave to the Music School a ‘harpsycon,’ chest of viols, and music, printed and manuscript.

Heather died towards the end of July 1627, and was buried 1 Aug. in the broad aisle on the south side of the abbey (Westminster Registers, p. 126). His widow was buried there 6 Sept. 1635. His half-length portrait in the Music School represents him in cap and gown. An engraving is in Hawkins's ‘History of Music,’ ii. 572. Heather left many charitable bequests: 3l. annually for ever to Eton College, 50l. in the hands of the clerk of the cheque to be lent in cases of distress to such gentlemen of the chapel as should need it, besides a gift of 10l. to gentlemen and choristers. He had been a benefactor in his lifetime to the extent of 100l., and of 10l. in his will, to the hospital in Tothill Fields. It is probable that he was aged 64 when he made his will in July 1627, as he requested that sixty-four mourning gowns be given to so many poor men at his funeral.

[Rimbault's Old Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal, pp. 8, 12, 70, 156, 204; Camden's memorabil. de seipso, quoted in Biog. Brit. art. ‘Camden,’ p. 1125; Gibson's Life of Camden, i. xxv; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. i. 297, ii. 343; Wood's Fasti, i. 404; Gutch's Annals, ii. bk. i. 358, ii. bk. ii. 887; Hatton's New View of London, i. 339; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, ii. 572; Burney's Hist. of Music, iii. 359; Clark's Reg. of Univ. of Oxford, i. 148; P. C. C. Registers of Wills, book Skynner, fol. 86.]

L. M. M.