Edward Willan was probably the son of Robert Willan, Rector of Herringswell and Stoke Ash in Suffolk. If so he was baptised on the 6th November 1612 at Stoke Ash.
Edward entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge at Easter 1631. He achieved a B.A. 1633-4 and an M.A. in 1637.
He was ordained a Deacon by the Bishop of Norwich on 24th May 1635 and a priest on 2nd September 1638. He became vicar of Hoxne on 21st November 1646. He seems also to have become Rector of Benacre from 1667 to 1671 (Patron Henry North of Laxfield), Rector of Shipmeadow in 1686 and he was chaplain to James Howard, Earl of Suffolk (1620-1689).
He married Grace Gardiner on the 21st May 1653 and they had 6 children, only 2 surviving infancy. Grace was buried in Hoxne on 22nd November 1669.
His children were Grace (born 2nd August 1654 Bap. 10th August 1654 buried 27th November 1659), Robert (born 24th May 1656 Bap. 12th June 1656 buried 2nd November 1659), Gardiner (Bap. 27th January 1663), Elizabeth (Bap. 18th August 1664), Edward (Bap. 23rd October 1660) and Edward (Bap. 29th September 1668 - infant buried 13th June 1671). The first Edward must have died but there seems to be no record of his burial.
Edward was the principle witness and interrogator of women suspected of witchcraft in the Hopkins Witch Trials of 1645 to 1647. In 1645 he appears to have been preaching in Norfolk and Suffolk, giving a sermon in June in Norwich. He was a Presbyterian clergyman who later became a great persecutor of the Quakers. In 1658 he was responsible for the arrest and imprisonment of George Whitehead (1636-1723), a leading member of the Quaker movement, when he rode through Hoxne on the 12th May. He was forced to go before Anthony Barry, J.P. of Syleham who committed him to the County Jail in Ipswich under the pretence of having 'reviled' Edward Willan. George Whitehead remained in prison until the next quarter session when Edward Willan and Thomas Yellop, a bailiff of Hoxne, appeared to prosecute him. They gave false information that George had 'reviled the word of God' at a meeting in Hoxne. He was fined 20 shillings and returned to prison until Oliver Cromwell died and an appeal was made on his behalf. He was then freed after 16 weeks of imprisonment. These details are from George Whitehead's Journal, titled 'The Christian Progress of George Whitehead'.
In 1680 Robert Hunting of Hoxne, a Quaker, died in Ipswich prison. Did Edward Willan have a hand in his imprisonment?
In 1651 Edward published his 'Six Sermons'.
According to the churchwardens accounts for the period 1690 to 1693 Edward's son, Gardner, was paid 4 shillings for 'writing ye accounts and bills indented and ye Hallowmass Rents into ye Towne books'.
Edward was buried on the 24th January 1691 at Hoxne where he had been vicar for 45 years.