Early life & education
Evan Owen Williams known as Owen was the youngest of four children born to a Welsh grocer, also Evan Owen Williams, and his wife, Mary. Originally of farming stock, the Williamses moved to London some years before Owen was born. They raised their children in a flat above the family shop in Tottenham. Welsh was spoken at home.
One daughter, Mary Kate, died young, but the second born, Elizabeth Maud, became an author and Owen's older brother, Robert Osian, was a successful banker who in later life came out of retirement to manage the finances of his brother's engineering practice.
Young Owen did well at school, passing the London Matriculation while at Tottenham Grammar, which he attended from January 1902 to December 1906. His performance in mathematics earned him the school prize two years running.
In later years, Williams often expressed his interest in the law and said that, if he had not become an engineer, he would have liked to be a lawyer: however, his excellence in mathematics pointed the way to a more technical field.
He was apprenticed to the Metropolitan Electric Tramways Company from January 1907 to March 1911, studying all the while at the Northern Polytechnic Institute (now University of North London). Thus, he obtained a BSc (1st class honours) in Engineering from the University of London a rare, and possibly unique, achievement for a night-school student at the time.
Owen Williams archive, part of Amey plc