William was born to George and Sarah (nee Whittington) Richards, on 11 March, 1854, in St Briavels, Gloucester, UK.
William left home at the age of 14 to become a carpenter's apprentice. He worked on the restoration and extension of Cardiff Castle (1867 - 1875) and possibly also the construction of the whimsical Castell Coch from 1875 to 1878. These buildings were commissioned by Marquis of Bute and designed by William Burges. The builder of Castell Coch was Albert Estcourt from Gloucester, so perhaps William came to Cardiff with him as an apprentice. Both buildings are of stone and timber, and working with the eccentric Burges would have been an amazing learning experience for William.
In Cardiff he met and married Gwenda Jane (nee Richards). Jane was born in 1856 in St Melons, Wales, and their wedding took place in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Cardiff, in November, 1877. William and Jane travelled to Australia in the sailing ship "Caroline", on Oct 15, 1878. Their first child, Sarah May, was born 15 Aug, 1879 at Murrumburra (NSW). They returned to Wales almost immediately and Hector Howell (Herbert) was born there in 1880. At some stage, either in Wales, en route, or in Queensland, Sarah May died.
They were back in Australia by 1881 and finally settled in Mittagong, living at "Dimora", 29 Alfred Street. William was an alderman on Mittagong's first council in September 1889. He was voted mayor in 1892 (age 45) and 1894, and in April of that year stood (unsuccessfully) for election as the Bowral candidate for parliament. He built the Mittagong Hotel which still stands on the Old Hume Highway.
By the time he and his family were fondly farewelled by the congregation of the
Mittagong Methodist Church in September, 1901, there were eight children in the Richards household: Hector Howell (Herb) aged 21; Gwenda Jane, 19; Sarah May (2nd), 17; Wesley, 15; Beatrice Joan, 14; Annie Mary (Nance), 12; Owen Arthur, 4; Harold Whittington, 1.
It's possible that building work had slowed in the southern highlands area and, with a large family to support, William may have seen greater opportunities in the rapidly developing city. He may have had "contacts" to follow up. In any case he and Jane moved the family to Sydney and purchased "Brooklyn" in Burwood Road, Burwood, in 1903. For the next eleven years his company, W Richards & Sons, built the 36 houses of Hoskins Estate. He built many other houses and shops
that we don't know of in the area, as well as the observatory (now demolished) at the back of "St Clouds" in Burwood Road, and the tower on St Pauls church.
William was a kind-hearted soul. He had a workshop in the garden of his home in which he built, among other things, toys for local children's homes, including Dalmar Homes. He also did building and repair work for them. He was a vigorous lay preacher, giving sermons at Burwood Methodist Church. He is remembered as being quiet and reserved, while family life went on around him in their large home. He spent his later years at home in his study, reading his bible with a magnifying glass.
William died 28th Feb, 1944, aged almost 90. Jane died several years later and the house was left to their daughter, Annie Mary, and her granddaughter.