Setting the scene ...
In York, Thomas de Roseton and William Smyth of Fossegate were Wardens of Foss Bridge for 1391. This is more than one hundred years before the time of "Smithdike" - but the "de Roseton" name of William Smyth's fellow warden is significant - being, possibly, "Rosedale".
William Smithdike - the name at least - is something of a mystery. The person, however, has a history and there is some tangible evidence as to his standing and position in life. He would have been born not long after the end of the Wars of the Roses and his father, and perhaps his grandfather too, would have been closely involved with that dynastic struggle - ending up, it would seem, on the victorious side.
The Wars of the Roses, which "ended" in 1485 with the defeat of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and the subsequent accession to the English throne of King Henry (Tudor) VII by virtue of his victory over Richard, saw the closing of a long and bloody chapter in the country's history. For a period of some thirty years, family after family had been divided by opposing loyalties - to York or to Lancaster - and almost every arms-bearing family of noble or royal connection had lost land, wealth and kin to a greater or lesser degree. A study of the 1924 publication of E. M. G. Routh's work, "Lady Margaret Beaufort, a Memoir" will exemplify the political background to and the key players in this struggle.
Marriage - the institution by which the power and wealth of these medieval families were perpetuated - was equally torn assunder. It was not uncommon for one person to marry two or more times and often to the spouse of some killed or executed comrade, with children being born of both, or sometimes all, marriages - thus making for a complex web of kinship where, as happened in one line of the Smyth/e family, step-kin married step-kin or where a widow married the brother of her dead spouse in order to hold together the political and baronial heritage broken by battle. Against this background of death and uncertainty, it was less than easy to create and maintain dynasties. Instead, each new generation seemed to be perilously propelled into the bloodbath created by its parent generation until just a few were left holding lands and titles. Others grew rich and were granted lands and manors as the spoils of war.
David Smyth, a descendant and family historian of the Hutchinson Smyth line of Ireland, has this to say about William Smithdike: "We have no explanation available for the contraction of the Smithdike name to Smyth, but according to the Rosedale history this William Smithdike had some connection with the court of King Henry VIII, so perhaps further research of Henrys reign may dredge up some new information on the Smithdike ancestry."
David's history continues: "Rosedale Abbey was a small priory of the Cistercian Order, founded in the Twelfth Century in the narrow little valley of the River Seven (which is actually a small stream) at the foot of Spaunton Moor, about a days ride on horseback northward from the city of York. There is not much left of it now, and it does not seem to have been a very impressive place to begin with.
All that remains, as I found on a visit in 1996, is the stump of a tower and part of a staircase. Rosedale Abbey still shows on the map of Yorkshire but it is now the name of a small village rather than an abbey. The abbey itself was dissolved in 1538. At the time of its dissolution it consisted of only eight nuns and a prioress (who were compensated with state pensions) and twelve lay workers, mainly farmers and shepherds. But it did own a considerable amount of land, donated at various times by prominent local families, including the de Rosedales, Stutevilles, Wakes, Malcakes, and Bolebecks.
A History of Rosedale, a local history written in 1971 by Raymond H. Hayes, MBE, FSA. states of Rosedale that On the dissolution of the priory, on July 9th, 1538 together with Keldholme Priory it was granted to Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, who leased it to William Smithdike of the household of the King, at seven pounds nine shillings per annum for twenty one years.
The King in question was Henry VIII who came to the throne in 1509 and died in 1547.
It would be logical to consider that if William Smithdike was "of the household of the King" then his father or a close relative would have held some post of merit within the Royal Household of the same or a previous monarch.
This information from the biography of Sir Henry Neville of Billingbere House in Berkshire is significant.
[Sir Henry Neville] "married Anne, daughter of Sir Henry Killigrew, and had five sons and six daughters. Of the sons, Sir Henry, the eldest,(d. 1629) succeeded him and was father of Henry Neville (1620-1694), the political writer. William, the second son, was fellow of Merton College, Oxford; Charles died in 1626; Richard was sub-warden of Merton, died in 1644, and was ancestor, in the female line, of the Nevilles, Barons of Braybrooke; and Edward, a fellow of King's College, Cambridge, died in 1632. Of the daughters, Elizabeth married, firstly, William Glover, secondly, Sir Henry Berkeley, and, thirdly, Thomas Dyke. Catherine married Sir Richard Brooks; Frances married, firstly, Sir Richard Worseley, and, secondly, Jerome Brett; Mary married Sir Edward Lewknor; Dorothy married Richard Catlyn; and Anne remained unmarried.
One particular Smyth family member who was very closely connected with the household of King Henry VII (and for a short time, Henry VIII) was William Smith or Smyth/e, a Bishop of Lincoln. (Click on image of his armorial device adjacent for details.)
Additionally, there lived also a Richard Smythe who was born in about 1460 - the same approximate year as William Smyth/e, Bishop of Lincoln. Richard Smythe died on 27 Mar 1527 in London. His son, John Smith (Smythe) of Corsham, Wilts. was High Sheriff of Essex and was also an assistant to King Henry VIII. He married Jane (of) Brouncker. This is the line of Thomas "Customer" Smythe of Wiltshire, the great Elizabethan entrepreneur and of his son, Thomas Smith/e - Smyth/e who was instrumental in the English colonisation of the New World.
A further clue may be found within the marriage saga of Henry VIII. His third wife, Jane Seymour, (the Seymour family are ancestors to the maternal line of this site) had as her Surveyor, one John Smythe. He wrote a letter to Cromwell in June of 1536 whilst about the Queen's business. "We have been in the west parts and surveyed all the Queen's lands in Hampshire, Dorsetshire, Somersetshire, Wiltshire. We have found all the Queens farmers and tenants as glad of her Grace as heart can think, and have been well entertained. On our return to the Court, which will be within 10 or 12 days, I trust you will see we have done her good service, and that the king will be pleased ... Bromeham, Wiltshire, at Mr. Baynetons house, 29 June. Bayneton was the Queen's Vice-Chamberlaine and the Seymour estate was no more than thirty miles distant from Bromeham. Thus it may be assumed that this John Smythe was the son of Richard Smythe mentioned above.
As it happens, Bayneton had also served in the households of Henry's two previous wives and there is a suggestion that he may have been the person who helped to bring Jane Seymour to the Court. It may be surmised, therefore, that the Seymours, Baynetons and Smythes were not only neighbours but also well established in the politics of Court - and already favoured by Henry. It is also clear that John Smythe was a Smythe with connection to the Cromwells ... significant for this and later generation Smyth/e family. Whoever Smithdike was, he would certainly have known this John Smythe, given that Smithdike, too, was an "assitant to Henry VIII". Similarly, Smithdike would have known John Smythe, High Sheriff of Essex, if the two Johns were not one and the same person ...
In the "Essex" Smythe line, we find Sir Thomas Smythe (1513-1577) who was was 'one of the most upright statesmen of his era'. He was born at Saffron Walden, Essex, 23 Dec 1513, the eldest son of John Smith (Smythe) (d. 1547) and Agnes Charnock - b. Lancashire; d. 1547 - in the same year as the death of Henry VIII.
Sir Thomas Smythe (1513-1577) married first 15 Apr 1548 Elizabeth, daughter of William Carkett. Born 29 Nov 1529. She died childless in 1552. He married secondly 23 Jul 1554 Philippa, daughter of John Wilford of London, widow of Sir John Hampden of Theydon Mount, Essex who died 21 Dec 1553. Philippa outlived her husband (she died in 1584) but they had no children. For an expansion of this biography, see the Essex Smyth/e page.
2. JENET SMYTHE
This genealogy may also be seen as follows:-
Mary Smythe - other related notes with credible sources ...
Her father was William Smythe of Hatfield, Yorks. Mary Smythe married secondly - and as his first wife - William Brewster. She was the widow of John Simkinson of Doncaster, Yorks. William Smythe was a witness to the will of Thomas Simkinson, alderman of Doncaster. John Smythe was Mary's brother. He was an alderman of Hull. His will, dated 8th August 1592, was proved in the October following.
Thomas Smythe & John Smith were among those named in the will of Thomas Simkinson. Francis Smythe, brother of John Smythe was vicar of Crowle, Lincolnshire. Edward Smythe, Bachelor of Divinity, was a 1st cousin of William. Brewster, 1553-1585.
Another William SMYTHE of Hatfield, Yorkshire with wife, 'Mrs William SMYTHE' is noted as having the following children with this particular family branch producing a knight - Sir Francis Smythe - about whom it should be possible to trace further details. By comparing the names of the children, it would suggest that the two fathers, William, were probably related cousins ...
1. Richard SMYTHE
David Smyth says, "William Smithdike was, apparently, the father of Thomas Smyth, the first ancestor mentioned by name in the Burke genealogy of the Irish Smyth family." Burkes Irish Family Records states: "THOMAS SMYTH, born 1520, married Jane Layton, of West Layton, and had with other issue, Thomas Smyth."
[Thus] "William Smithdikes son, Thomas, was fifteen years old when the dissolution of the monasteries was first decreed by Henry VIII in 1535. It would appear from the initial Burke entry that the Smyth family had moved from Durham to Yorkshire before that event, in the early 1500s, but the timing is not very clear. It seems probable that the Earl of Westmorland leased Rosedale Abbey to Smithdike in the mid to late 1530s and that the family moved from Durham to Yorkshire at that time."
Was there a Smyth/e family - headed by William Smythe - at Stainton and Hatfield in Yorkshire whose eldest son was Thomas who perhaps married Jane Layton as well as a Smith family in Durham of whom a son, Thomas Smith, was born in Durham and married Elizabeth Layton? Could the father of Thomas Smith of Durham have been William Smithdike - a differentiating name to separate him from the local Smythe name - which would most likely have been pronounced Smith as well ... adding the 'dike' (or Dyke) as if it were "hyphenated" as in later generation Smyth/e tradition? Perhaps an earlier generation of this Smith of Durham family married a daughter by that name; certainly, there is ample evidence of later generations of Smyth/e - Smith/e in England marrying daughters of that family -
"Smithdikes twenty-one-year lease apparently ran from about 1538 to 1559. The size of the property at that time is not known, but according to the History of Rosedale, some years later, when the Manor of Rosedale was leased in 1576 there were forty farms and six mills. We may therefore conclude [says David Smyth] that William Smithdike was probably running a rented estate of considerable size."
To read, in detail, further information about this lineage, click on the 'Rosedale spot' on the adjacent map. This provides a different access point to the history from that provded by the link at the head of this article.