The son of Protestant parents, William Ward was born in England about the year 1560 with the surname Webster. He was a young teacher when he journeyed to Spain with a Catholic friend. There he was received into the Church. Returning to England, he converted his own mother. Openly professing his faith, he was repeatedly imprisoned.
He was over 40 when he traveled to Belgium to study for the priesthood. Ordained and with the new name of Father William Ward, he traveled to Scotland. There he was immediately cast into prison and released three years later.
He spent the next 30 years in the vicinity of London, secretly ministering to the Catholic population and earning a reputation as a holy priest with a special love for the poor. For this he was frequently imprisoned or banished from the country. He was eventually betrayed by a priest-hunter and thrown into Newgate Prison. Condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered, he died on July 15, 1641, uttering the words: "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, receive my soul!"
William, who was a Secular Franciscan, was beatified in 1929 along with 162 other English martyrs.