In Search of William Smithdike

David Smyth's History of SmythPortions of the following text are adapted from the Family History of David Smyth, a descendant of this line.

To read his comprehensive analysis of the Smyth family of Ireland, beginning with the mysterious William Smithdike, click on the 'Rosedale Spot' on the map adjacent.

Ancestor IndexAncestor Index

Smith, Viscounts HambledenAccess to the line of Dyke-Acland and Acland of Devon - which family lineage is considered as it relates to Smith, Barons Hambleden.

This is the line of the family of Smith, founders of the well-known British (and now international) book sellers and stationery company, W. H. Smith. See also this link for Smith/Dyke connections.

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 Henry’s reign may dredge up some new information on the Smithdike ancestry."

The only remains of Rosedale Abbey, the stump of a tower - adjacent to the more modern church.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 day’s 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.

"Henry [VIII] was the King of England at a pivotal time in European and particularly English history. New schools of thought were flourishing all over Europe at the time that Henry inherited the throne, and these schools of thought, among them, humanism and Protestantism, were going to greatly affect England during the course of his reign. England, when Henry inherited it, was largely a medieval country, staunchly Catholic and because of its isolation and recent history of civil war, somewhat backward compared with France, Italy and other parts of Europe where the Renaissance had already flowered. By the end of Henry's reign, England was a Protestant country, free of the dictates of the Roman Catholic church. The old social structure had been permanently changed, with the dissolution of the monasteries, the confiscation of Church land, and the declaration that the English head of state was also the head of the English Church. These enormous changes, particularly over such a short time historically, amounted to a paradigm -- after the changes brought about in England during Henry's reign, nothing would ever be quite the same again. There was no way that England could revert to the medieval, Catholic country it had been." (Tove Foss)

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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.William Smythe - Bishop of Lincoln. Argent a chevron sable between three roses gules seeded or barbed vert - the Coat of Arms

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 Queen’s 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. Bayneton’s 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.

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The LDS International Genealogical Index has this entry: WILLIAM SMYTHE
Birth:  About 1500  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England
Marriage:  About 1521  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England
His wife is named as just "Mrs. William Smythe".
The above William Smythe is listed as having the following first born child, a son: THOMAS SMYTHE
Male - Birth: 1522  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England. Further children of William Smythe and "Mrs. William Smythe" of Stainforth and Hatfield were:

   Birth:  1524  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England  
   Birth:  1526  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England  
   Birth:  1528  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England  
   Birth:  1532  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England
   Birth:  1534  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England  
   Birth:  1536  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England  
   Birth:  1538  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England  
   Birth:  1541  Stainforth And Hatfield, Yorkshire, England

This genealogy may also be seen as follows:-

See this link for William Smythe of Stainforth (Birth: ABT 1500 Hatfield, Stainforth, Yorkshire, England Death: 1559/60 Hatfield, Stainforth, Yorkshire, England).
His daughter, Mary Smythe, married William Brewster in 1564 at Scrooby in Nottingham.
These details are also for the same William Smythe and state that he died before May 1560. He is buried at "Lady of Hatfield". His children are listed as follows and include Mary Smythe who married first John Simkinson and then William Brewster.
Mary Smythe born about 1566.
John Smythe born about 1555 and died 1590 - married firstly to Jane (unknown) with a son Edward Smythe. He married secondly Anne (unknown).
Thomas Smythe born before 1551 and died before July 1569. He married (unknown) and had two sons, William Smythe (-1591) and John Smythe who died after 24th Marth 1568.
Agnes Smythe born before 1551 and died after 8th August 1592. She married John Parke who died before 7th June 1582.
Margaret Smythe who married Thomas Saile and died after 8th August 1592.
Francis Smythe fl. circa 1540-1604
Richard Smythe who died after 25th January 1559
Jenet Smythe who was born before 1551 and died circa October 1575. She married firstly John Grene who died about 1562 and then married secondly Nicolas Cressy.
Cuthbert Smythe who died before 1551.

There is an internet note that accompanies the reference to Cuthbert Smythe which states that in the Will of his son, also Cuthbert Smythe - of Fishlake - dated 25th January 1559 and proved 2nd May 1560

- William Smythe might have had two wives with Thomas, John, Jenet and Agnes being the older siblings born of the first wife and Mary, Margaret and Cuthbert being born of the second. From the wills of John and William Parke and of Sir Francis Hastings, it appears that he may have married his second wife before 1551 and that she may have been the mother to John Parke (his son-in-law by Agnes) and William Parke.

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.

The fact that she (Mary) was not mentioned in the will of John Smythe of Hull, 1592, and that he did mention nearly every one of his nieces and nephews, suggests that she had no further children after William (Brewster), and thus probably died soon after 1566. - Source: "The Mother of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower" by John G. Hunt, NEHGR 125:25 0 (1970) -

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
   Birth:  < 1531>  <Hatfield, , Yorkshire, England>
2.   Jenet SMYTHE   
   Birth:  < 1533>  <Hatfield, , Yorkshire, England>  
3.   Thomas SMYTHE     
   Birth:  < 1537>  <Hatfield, , Yorkshire, England> Death:  02 MAY 1569    
4.   Agnes SMYTHE    
   Birth:  < 1539>  <Hatfield, , Yorkshire, England> 
5.   Margaret SMYTHE    
   Birth:  < 1541>  <Hatfield, , Yorkshire, England>
6.   Sir Francis SMYTHE    
   Birth:  < 1543>  <Hatfield, , Yorkshire, England>  
7.   John SMYTHE     (twin)
   Birth:  < 1545>  Of, , , England  
8.   William SMYTHE (twin)   
   Birth:  < 1545>  <Hatfield, , Yorkshire, England> Death:  1560  

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." Burke’s Irish Family Records states: "THOMAS SMYTH, born 1520, married Jane Layton, of West Layton, and had with other issue, Thomas Smyth."

[Thus] "William Smithdike’s 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."

There is also this LDS IGI record: THOMAS SMITH
Birth:  About 1520   Durham, Durham, England
Marriages: Spouse:  ELIZABETH LAYTON
Birth:  About 1520  West Layton, , Durham, England

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 -

JOHN SMITH 06 MAY 1560  Watford, Hertford, to ANGELL DIKES
WILLIAM SMITH 18 AUG 1570  Syerston, Nottingham, to ALICE DIKES
THOMAS SMITH 26 OCT 1636  Ludlow, Shropshire, to ANN DIKE
JOHN SMYTH 14 MAY 1637  Chesterton, Cambridge, to JANE DYKES
RICHARD SMITH 25 JUL 1639  Boldre, Hampshire, to DOROTHY DIKES
WILLIAM SMYTH 25 MAY 1674  Ludlow, Shropshire, to MARGARET DYKE

Go to the start of this line ..."Smithdike’s 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.

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