Much is known about the history of "W.H. Smith" and its development as a company but few people are aware of the story of the men behind it - whilst the lineage of Henry Walton Smith himself, founder of the enterprise more than two hundred years ago, remains something of a mystery.
Follow the 'mystery' link (or click on the image of Walton Church) for some clues that indicate a few of the possibilities and which may suggest further avenues of research. The symbol m - when placed beside a reference on this page - suggests consulting the "mystery" link page.
Some of the information on this page has been extracted from the indexing work of Margaret Bailey for GenUKI Moretonhampstead in Devonshire from the article, Lord Hambleden and Moretonhampstead by M.A. Simkins and R..J..J. Simkins - Trans. Devon. Ass. Advmt. Sci., 123 (December 1991) pp.167-188.
Further details have been kindly supplied by Camilla Gemmingen von Massenbach - (FreeBMD co-founder) http://FreeBMD.RootsWeb.com/ | IIGS member http://www.iigs.org/ | Personal site: http://www.links.org/surnames.htm who shares an interest in this Smith line and is equally anxious to go back in time beyond Henry Walton Smith.
What's in a name?
It has been said that the village of m Wrington in Somerset was especially important in the family history of Henry Walton Smith and it is also possible that the 'Walton' element in the name of William Walton Smith refers to a geographical region - in this case, Walton, also in Somerset, a village fractionally south west of Glastonbury and somewhat further south than Wrington. It is a common Smith/Smyth/e device to use place names in order to distinguish different 'branches' of the various families. Significantly, his grandson called his residence in Bournemouth "Walton House" - which was eventually bought by a firm of London solicitors and used as their offices in the 20th century.
Henry Walton Smith arrived in London at some point towards the end of the 18th century and became an assistant to m Charles Rogers.
In m 1784 he married Anna Eastaugh. She was a servant girl - whilst he was the son of a well-to-do family and because of the nature of his family background and the associated class structure of the day, the marriage led to the loss of any inheritance that Henry might have once expected. He was disowned and disinherited.
Thus, without 'expectations', Henry Walton Smith began in business with his new wife as a newsagent on Little Grosvenor Street and from there he expanded into bookselling, bookbinding and country newspaper distribution - achieved via coach and horse, using the turnpike road system. It was modestly sucessful but he died in 1792, some eight years after the marriage - in the same year in which his son, Willam Henry Smith, was born. Thereafter, Anna - with a new baby and very young children - continued to run the business until she herself died in 1816. She was clearly a remarkable woman and was determined to repay the faith placed in her by her late husband when he cast off his family ties and threw away any possible inheritance.
It is stated that Henry Walton Smith was born in 1738 and that he died on the 23rd of August, 1792 which would have made him about 54 at the time of his death - not a great age, even in those days. He married Anna Eastaugh when he was about 46 which places him as a somewhat 'confirmed bachelor' when he met her. Anna had been born in Suffolk but when she first met her husband-to-be, she was a domestic servant living at 95 Watling Street (near St. Paul's Cathedral) in the employ of a coal merchant's widow. They were married on 27th October, 1784 at Spittlefields Christchurch in the district of Stepney. (LDS IGI). The children of the marriage were (information from Camilla) as follows:
Given the fertility of the marriage - and the spacing of the children's birth years - it would seem logical to suggest that a child would have been born in or around 1785 and that it may have died. What became of the daughter, Mary Anne? When Anna died, in 1816, she left the business in equal portions to her two sons, Henry Edward and William Henry. They formed a partnership called H. & W. Smith in which, Camilla states, "William Henry was the more dynamic partner" and "they fell out and the partnership was dissolved in 1828." The business became a private company in 1929 and a public one in 1949.
The last child of the marriage between Henry Walton Smith and Anna Eastaugh was William Henry Smith (Sr.) (1792-1865)
William Henry Smith (Sr.)
As the youngest son, it would seem likely that he would have been closer to his mother than his siblings. At the time of his mother's death, in 1816, he would have been about 24 years old. It is also likely that he would have been her 'favourite', given the circumstances of her husband's death in the same year that William Henry had been born. It is not difficult to conjecture, therefore, that this is the reason for his intense interest in the family business and why he was the one to continue it after the partnership with his brother was dissolved.
William Henry Smith (Sr.) was twice married - or so the Moretonhampstead indexing notes. The name and details of his second wife are currently sought. His first wife was m Mary Ann Cooper who was a strict Wesleyan. They were married in 1817 in St. George's Hanover Sq. and they had eight children. There were seven girls and one boy (also named William Henry). One of the daughters married The Reverend William Beal (Church of England) who was appointed Master of Tavistock School in 1838 where William Henry (Jr.) was educated (under his brother-in-law) and where he made lasting friendships - friends who would later join him in business - William Lethbridge, the Barrister, being one of these.
William Henry Smith (Jr.)
William Henry Smith (Jr.) was born in 1825. He was fortunate to have grown up at a time when the "Industrial Revolution" was achieving its greatest impetus and he capitalised on this. He expanded the family business by using the growing network of railroads to set up and expanded a station bookstall and newspaper selling facility. The provision of newspaper and bookstalls at railway stations had a chequered history. Many providers sold less than 'genteel' reading matter and the locations on the larger stations provided ample cover for pickpockets as well as affording comparatively lucrative beats for prostitutes.
The morality concern led Henry Walton Smith (Jr.) to tender for an exclusive contract with the London and North Western Railway in 1848 which was granted for a five year period in 1849 at £1500 per annum.The contract included the free carriage of the company's library books and free passes for staff travelling on business. The stations served included Euston, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. The company's assets and turnover increased quite dramatically and he found himself a wealthy man. It is significant that from 1849 onwards, he found himself moving in élite social spheres and that he had probably bettered anything that his grandfather might have passed down to his progeny had he not 'taken up' with Anna Eastaugh!.
In 1858, he married Emily Danvers (d. 1913). Her father was Frederick Danvers - Clerk of the Duchy of Lancaster. William met his future father-in-law through a mutual association in Hospital Management at Kings' College Hospital. It was her second marriage. She had a daughter by the first which had been to one of William's friends.
There were four daughters of the marriage and two sons, one being William Frederick Danvers Smith (b.1868) with the other having died in infancy. Of the daughters of the marriage, Beatrice Danvers Smith was married in 1885 to Lt. Col. Alfred Dyke Acland (d.1937). Emily Anna Smith (d. 1942) m. William Alison Dyke Acland in 1887. Sir Henry Wentworth Dyke Acland, the father of the two Acland husbands was a physician and Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford. He served on hospital boards and was related to the Aclands of Killerton in Devon. He too met W.H. Smith (Jr.) through Kings' College Hospital. The Dyke Acland family is of interest in terms of William Smithdike, progenitor of the Irish line of Smyth/e - Smith.
William Henry Smith (Jr.) died in 1891 and, in honour of the success of Smith, the public figure, philanthropist and man of business, Queen Victoria created the Hambleden Viscountcy. His widow, Emily Danvers Smith, was named 1st Viscountess Hambleden and upon her death, in 1913, their only surviving son, William Frederick Danvers Smith, became 2nd Viscount Hambleden.
Notes pertaining to this site - the Somerset parish of Wrington and the Danvers and Hayward families appear in this lineage. Family connections via Jullion lineage (paternal grandmaternal line) The Jullion family were Huguenots who fled from France to Holland in 1688 and thence crossed to England.
John (iii) Jullion's mother was Rebeckah Hughes and his father, John (ii) Jullion. The parents of Rebeckah Hughes were Captain John Hughes and Sarah Evans whose sister, Margaret Evans b. 1685 d. 1771 m. John Danvers b. 1670 d. 1757 (Woollen Draper - The Strand). The father of Captain John Hughes was John Hughes whose wife was a Smith who, so an old family paper quotes was "Sister of Sir John Smith, a man known for lending large sums of money to the Government of the day."
Children: 1 son
William Frederick Danvers Smith - Lord Hambleden, was known as Frederick Smith but was referred to by various names and titles during his lifetime:
William Henry Smith (Jr.) was an
These details, also from Camilla, as follows:
Camilla adds these biographical details:
Camilla concludes -
* From America, David Smyth, of the Hutchinson Smyth line of Ireland, (a lineage originally from Yorkshire) places the lyric thus:
When I was a lad I served
As office boy to an attorney's firm.
I copied out the letters in a fair round hand
And I polished up the knocker of the big front door.
I polished up that knocker so carefullee
That they made me the ruler of the Queen's navee.
As a balance to this, Camilla states that Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his biography of WH Smith (Old Morlaity) says that Lord Salisbury recommended to Queen Victoria in 1891 that the post to be given to WHS. Salisbury said to WHS "It is a semi naval position and you have been since 1878 always exceedingly popular with naval people: and I think the Dover people would feel complimented at the Leader of the House of Commons taking it. I enclose the Queen's answer. Will you take it?" - and the Queen said to the Marquis of Salisbury at Windsor Castle, May 1 1891, showing that she highly approved of Mr. Smith's being offered the office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, "No one deserves it more than he does."
The following extract is from a collateral descendancy via the family of Sercombe --
"Two brothers, Rupert Clampitt Sercombe and Edwin Sercombe, married two sisters, Louisa Smith and Emma Sophia Smith. Louisa and Emma were daughters of William Henry Smith, Sr., proprietor of the WHSmith chain of bookshops and stationers.
Their brother, William Henry Smith, Jr., who took over the business from his father, went into politics, was elected to parliament, and held several cabinet posts. He served for several years as First Lord of the Admiralty, despite a complete lack of naval experience, and this inspired the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta H.M.S. Pinafore, in which the character of Sir Joseph Porter has risen from newsboy*(qv above) to admiral without ever going to sea.
The founder of the business was Louisa and Emma's grandfather, Henry Walton Smith. This is undoubtedly how Rupert's son came to be named Walton, and how Edwin's residence came to be Walton House, Bournemouth." Source.
Update - June 2003 - FOR SALE - Hambleden at ... £just a few m ..... Source