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Edward Willes (1693–1773), Bishop of Wells (1743–1773)

Image credit: The Bishop's Palace & Gardens

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Willes served as Dean of Lincoln and became Bishop of St David's in 1742 and Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1743. He was decipherer to King George I and the duties of his office were shrouded in secrecy and were probably influential in his promotion in the Church. He was Bishop of Bath and Wells for thirty years and shared the job as decipherer with his eldest son Edward, who was Archdeacon of Wells. He had 5 sons and 4 daughters with his wife Jane. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. His work as decipherer is supposed to have contributed to the downfall of Bishop Francis Atterbury of Rochester, who was imprisoned for treason and exiled on account of his Jacobite sympathies.

The Bishop's Palace & Gardens



Edward Willes (1693–1773), Bishop of Wells (1743–1773)




oil on canvas


H 123 x W 99 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

acquired, 1827–1829

Work type



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Normally on display at

The Bishop's Palace & Gardens

Wells, Somerset BA5 2PD England

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