William was brought up in a close, contented Quaker family but had little contact with others of his own age. Both his parents travelled in the ministry and were often away from home, but their absences were accepted as normal. William grew particularly close to his father with whom he shared a love of study.
William was educated at home until he was eleven when he was sent away to Quaker schools, first in Weston-super-Mare and then in Scarboroough. Leaving school at seventeen, William went to University College London, graduating in 1881. He was active in sport but also in the Bunhill Adult School and the Friends Christian Fellowship Union.
|J.B. Braithwate, William's father|
His friend George Newman, who met him at this time, says he was 'a reserved, imperturbable man, of quiet but exceptional power...He never failed you. He was circumspect, seeing all sides and sympathizing with many...possessing a delightful sense of humour and a well-developed faculty of imagination.'
|Banbury Quaker Meeting House in 1910s|
As well as his other interests William became involved in public life in Banbury. He was a magistrate from 1906 until his death and chairman of the Education Committee for many years. He was also very involved with the local Quaker school, Sibford.
|John Wilhelm Rowntree|
At the beginning of 1922 several of William's long-term projects were nearing completion. The histories had been finished eighteen months earlier, the new Yearly Meeting Book of Discipline, which William was much concerned with compiling, had been agreed and Gilletts Bank had been amalgamated with Barclays after negotiations in which William had taken a major role.
In the last week of January William ministered at Banbury Meeting, took a leading part in a conference on Ministry in Oxford, began a series of Adult School evening talks and worked in the bank. On Friday he felt unwell but went to London by the early train to attend an educational meeting. He became much worse and only just managed to get to Paddington and onto the train home. He arrived in Banbury in a state of collapse, sank into a diabetic coma and died the next day, 28 January 1922, aged fifty nine.