Ancestor Index Ancestor Index
William Smith/Smyth/e (Bishop of Lincoln, 1496 - 1514)
and the Beaufort/Stanley/Neville/Smith family backgrounds

William (Smith) Smyth(e) was the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield (1493-1496) and then translated Bishop of Lincoln, (1496-1514). He was born in Lancashire in about 1460 and he probably passed some of his early days at Knowsley under the roof of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. This lady was none other than the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt and Catherine Roet - and the mother of the future king, Henry Tudor. She was of the same family as Joan de Beaufort, wife of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland which latter, according to Burke, is supposed to have leased Rosedale Abbey to William 'Smithdike' and the Smyth/e family. Also use this link - Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland - to access a comprehensive set of Tudor era family histories.Thomas, 1st Earl of Derby

Margaret Beaufort (1443 -1509) founded another school in 1497, This was the original of what is now Queen Elizabeth School - in Dorset. Later (1505) she refounded God's House, Cambridge as Christ's College and was also the foundress of St. John's College, Cambridge - although the latter was achieved after her death and not without difficulty since her bequest was in the form of an unsealed codicil. It is chiefly to the credit of Bishop John Fisher of Rochester - who was also her confessor - that Christ's College came into existence. Bishop William Smythe of Lincoln was instrumental in overseeing other aspects of her Will, relating to her properties - particularly in the West Country.

Margaret Beaufort's first marriage had been to John de la Pole (son of William de la Pole) - her second to Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond who died at Carmarthen Castle in 1456. Her third husband was Sir Henry Stafford (d. 1481) and she was married a fourth time - to Thomas Stanley, the first Earl of Derby who had previously been married to Eleanor Neville who had died c. 1472. Thomas, the 1st. Earl of Derby, gained the title for service to Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth.

From information gleaned from "The Complete Peerage" Vol. IV pp 205-207 - The father of Thomas, 1st Earl of Derby, was Thomas Stanley, Knight, Lord of Latham; his mother, Joan Goushill.

Thomas STANLEY (Knight Lord of Lathom) Born: BEF 1405/6, probably Knowsley, Lancashire and died: 11/20 Feb 1458/59, Knowsley, Lancashire. He succeeded his father in Mann and his other estates in 1432. He had been knighted some years before his father's death. In the same year he was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland for six years, and shortly afterwards Comptroller of the King's Household. During the first year of his rule in Ireland he called together a Parliament for the redress of grievances; but, being called to England by the King's command soon afterwards, that kingdom fell into great disorder, and he was obliged to return to it in 1435, when he successfully repressed a serious revolt. In 1441 he was appointed one of the Lieutenant justices of Chester, at a salary of £40 per annum. He was one of the Commissioners who treated with the Scotch for a truce in 1448, and, when it was concluded, he became one of its conservators. He also served on a commission for the custody and defence of the town and castle of Calais from 1450 to 1455. During the year 1451 he held the office of sole Judge of Chester, and in 1452 he was commissioned to treat for a new truce with Scotland. In 1456 he was summoned to the House of Peers as Baron Stanley, being made Lord Chamberlain of the King's Household, and, in the following year, one of the Council of Edward, Prince of Wales. He was again appointed one of the ambassadors to treat with the Scots in 1460, "but, dying the latter end of the year, the nation was deprived of this very great and valuable person, and the King of one of his best subjects" . . . He was brave in the field, wise in the Senate, just to his Prince, an honour to his country, and an ornament to his family." He married Joan, daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Goushill, by whom he had issue three sons, Thomas, William, and John; and three daughters.

Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, died on 29th July, 1504 at Latham in Lancashire. The Stanley/Neville children were as follows: George (Strange of Knockin), John, Thomas, William, Edward (1st Mounteagle), Richard, Jane, Catherine, Anne, James (Bishop of Ely) Margaret, Alice and Agnes.

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Margaret BeaufortBishop William Smith/Smyth and Margaret - 'My Lady - the King's Mother' ...

Descended from original Beaufort illegitimacy, Margaret's son, Henry VII, was regarded by many as usurping the throne. By design - through a previous vow to join the two factions through marriage if he became King through battle, the new king quicky cemented his position by marrying one of the two legitimate claimants - but eventually executing the other - in 1499 - the Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence and the Lady Isabel Neville.The Tudor connection ...

Almost all of the old noble houses were swept away or vastly reduced by the Wars of the Roses and it is not difficult to ascertain the kind of atmosphere in which the key players of church and state moved at this time; those who met with success were clearly those who cast their lot with the winning House. Such a man was William Smythe. He was a member of Lincoln College, Oxford but his early connections held him in good stead because, in 1485, just after the Battle of Bosworth, he was made Keeper of the Hanaper of Chancery. The duty of the Keeper was to record fees paid on the writs that began every action at common law. In this capacity, William Smythe would have been apprised of each and every action to be heard and, as such, would have been a useful source of information for a new king grappling with insecurity. The office was so named because the writs, and the returns to them, were kept in a wickerwork box called a hanaper - or hamper. The office was eventually abolished in 1852.

Two of King Edward IV's daughters were entrusted to William Smythe's keeping. In 1485 he was paid the princely sum of £200 for this purpose. It is recorded that he transferred this sum to Margaret (Beaufort) - Countess of Richmond (Henry VII's mother) who "of late hadde the keping and guiding of the ladies, daughters of King Edward iiiith.".

He was a member of the Royal Council and he obtained the livings of Combe Martin, Devon, of Great Grimsby and of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. In 1491 he was made Dean of St. Stephen's, Westminster and two years later Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. The Bishop was a member of Prince Arthur's council in the Marches of Wales, and in 1501, five years after he had been translated to the important Bishopric of Lincoln, he became Lord President of Wales. Whilst he was Bishop of Litchfield, he "refounded the ruionous hospital of St. John, originally a priory of friars, but transformed by him into an almshouse and free grammar school. To it he annexed the hospital of Denhall or Dunwell in Cheshire and secured for it liberal patronage from Henry VII. This Hospital still survives at Litchfield as a monument to Smyth's memory." (Dictionary of National Biography)

Because of his association with the Prince of Wales (Arthur) he spent much of his time at Ludlow in Herefordshire and Bewdley in Worcestershire. In 1501 - a man of great substance and wealth by this time - he bought an estate at St. John's, Bedwardine, near Worcester. In about 1507, at the close of Henry VII's reign, with Sir Richard Sutton (d.1524) (see inset panel below) he set to work to found a new college (Brasenose) in Oxford. They rebuilt Brasenose Hall, added other existing halls to it and, having obtained a charter in 1512 - the third year of Henry VIII's reign - called it The King's Haule and College of Brasennose. At this time, Oxford lay within the vast See of Lincoln.

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The "Brazen Nose" door knocker of the Oxford College (left) and (right) the Sanctuary knocker of Durham Cathedral ...

Extracted from Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire Volume I, The High Peak Hundred, by Joseph Tilley - transcription by Rosemary Lockie © 1999-2001

" ... There was a mesne manor within the Manor of Over Haddon, and within the mesne manor stood the Hall of the Suttons, who were lords of the soil.

Thomas Sutton, who feebly tottered down to Bakewell at the age of eighty-four, leaning upon the arm of a niece, three or four degrees removed, to declare his pedigree before St. George. Clarencieux King-at-Arms in 1611, was the last of his line. His ancestor was the founder of Brasennose College, in Oxford. The Suttons of Over Haddon, were from the Suttons in Cheshire, and, what is curious, both houses became extinct together; still, from the female branches, the blood of the Suttons runs in the veins of the Viscounts Galway and the Earls of Lucan. What finer subject for the lower line of the Academy than this old gentleman, in his low broad hat and ruffles, embroidered frock and hose, which dated from the days of Elizabeth, broken in fortune, but with all the pride of the great House of Sutton in his look, accompanied by a fair girl of sixteen, dressed in the Stuart abandon, confronting the starchy St. George.

The manor passed to the Cokes, about whom a great deal can be learned from the Melbourne Papers and Gardiner's History, but they, too, are gone; then it came to the Lambs, Viscounts Melbourne; they all have passed away, and now it is held, or was but recently, by the Cowpers, Earls Cowper ... "

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Argent a chevron sable between three roses gules seeded or barbed vert - the Coat of Arms - William SmytheThe Arms of Brasenose College - Smyth/Oxford/Sutton.From Camden's Britannia, Oxfordshire, 1586
Translated into English, with Additions and Improvements by Dr Edmund Gibson, 1722

"In the Reign of Henry the eighth [(ann. 3.)] for the further advancement of Learning, William Smith Bishop of Lincoln, built Brazen-Nose-College [(so called from a Hall, distinguished by that name;)] which, ann. 1572. was endow'd by that pious and good old man Alexander Nowell, Dean of St. Pauls, [with Exhibitions for thirteen Scholars. Of late years, it hath been adorn'd with a beautiful Chapel, Library, and Cloysters; the elegant structure whereof was begun in the year 1656, and the Chapel consecrated by the Bishop of Oxford An. 1666.] About the same time, Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester, founded Corpus-Christi-College, [which was design'd for a Seminary of Monks to the Priory of St. Swithin in Winchester, An. 1513. But the Founder, diverted from that design, and assisted by Hugh Oldham Bishop of Exeter, establish'd it for a Society of Students, An. 1516, with Endowments so ample, and Statutes so admirable, as have made very many of its members men of singular piety and learning.]"The Cathedral, Lincoln

Bishop William Smythe was one of the executors of Henry VII's will but he retired from public life just after this King's death, possibly because of differences between Bishop Richard Fox and himself. He was, however, President of Wales until his death at Buckden in Huntingdonshire on the 2nd of January 1514. After his death, Wolsey became Bishop of Lincoln. Wolsey had been Chaplain to Henry VII and would, of course, endure many turbulent years during Henry VIII's reign.

Although an able and scholarly man, William Smythe had little sympathy with the new learning of the time. He bestowed rich livings upon his relatives, one of whom (supposedly related) was Matthew Smythe, the first Master/Principal of Brasenose College and the last of Brasenose Hall. In addition to his liberal gifts to Brasenose College he gave money or land to Lincoln and to Oriel Colleges. He founded a school in Lancashire and, from 1500 to 1503, was Chancellor of Oxford University. To access further information about Bishop William Smythe - use this link to access material supplied by Brasenose College Archives. The information provides a wider dimension to the material and accompanying conjecture supplied by this page.Matthew Smyth  died 1583

There was another celebrated Matthew Smyth who was of the Bristol Smyth family - portrait link adjacent. He married Jane Tewther. He was a legal man and sometime Master of the Revels. The link explores the history of the Bristol Smyths and examines some portraiture associated with that branch.

Site Note: In browsing through the Family Vault, observe the various Smith/e - Smyth/e male portraits and notice, particularly, the setting of the eyes - which seems to be a genetic feature - not conclusive in itself but sufficiently interesting to suggest links between various family branches.

The question hangs in the air: did Bishop William Smythe perhaps have an illigitimate son, dubbed William Smithdike? Bishops (and clergy in general) were not permitted to marry until after the Reformation but, notwithstanding this vow of celibacy, over the centuries several children were born to men of the cloth - including those holy men who wore the "robe". For example - and very "close to home" - James Stanley (born c. 1471) - who was one of the sons of Eleanor Neville and James Stanley, the 1st Earl of Derby - became a father ... and he was the Bishop of Ely. He was associated with a woman named Margaret by whom he had a son, Sir John Stanley of Honford. The mother of this child later married Sir Urian Brereton. Thus, it is not impossible that his 'brother' Bishop created a similar "indiscretion" - named William! Unlikely - but possible.

In his closing years he made many generous gifts, endowments and bequests to relatives and to the places he held most dear - to complement a series of charitable acts, during his lifetime, not least of which was the founding of the Grammar School at Farnworth in Lancashire where he had been born and raised and where he spent some youthful years at Knowsley, "beneath the roof of Margaret Beaufort".

On 30 January 1513 the Will of Bishop Smythe was proved. Amongst his bequests to Brasenone College Chapel was 'a pair of orgaynes bought at London of the facion of a countyng borde or lowe-table'.

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As may be seen, this Stanley/Neville line was very closely connected with Bishop William Smyth (Smith) and it may well have been collateral descendants of this line who were granted the lease of Rosedale Abbey in Yorkshire and founded the majority of the Irish Smyth houses – notably Drumcree, and Barbavilla (qv The Smith Smyth Smythe families of Ireland - David Smyth's in-depth study of this lineage)

David Smyth notes, 'A Charles Duncombe bought the Rosedale estate from George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, at some point between 1620 and 1628.  Was this Thomas Smith ('or Neville') a brother of our William Smyth? And was Dacomb a variant of Duncombe in that era of free-form spelling? And above all, why does the diarist refer to Thomas Smith as "Thomas Smith, or Neville, son and heir of Sir Thomas Neville? If he was the legitimate son and heir, how does the Smith name come into play?'

Rosedale Abbey in Yorkshire, was a seat of the Nevilles and it was in their gift to lease it ... to a favoured family. The Smyths were being looked after very well, it seems - and this was because of a Smyth/Neville kinship. In fact, the Neville family features prominently in a variety of "Family Vault" connections - Cecily Neville providing the key link in the maternal line but the Nevilles were also closely associated with Smyth/e family in the 15th century.

Another clear example of the Smyth/Neville relationship is seen through the person of Isabella Nevill/e - born after 1457 and d. 1516 - who married Sir William Huddleston and then - after 1505, Sir William Smythe, Sheriff of Staffordshire, who had a daughter, Margery Smythe, by his first (Staunton) marriage.

Some analysis -

Click for enlarged viewThe adjacent image (click for enlarged view) - courtesy of Robert Maxtone Graham, cousin in the maternal line of this site - is page 12 of a manuscript in his family possession; a 17th century heraldic MS with the title "A Cathaloge of the Nobilitey of England ... 1628". Robert states that, in an 18th century hand, a previous owner has written on the title page his name - "Rob Smyth" - and the motto (presumably [says Robert] the family motto) "Conabor" -- in the sense of 'I will try' or 'I will strive'.   Robert invites suggestions as to who this Rob. Smyth might have been. He has consulted the DNB as well as "The Family of Smith" and Fairbairn's Book of Crests (and mottoes), but without success. Anyone with information or theories is invited to contact this site by e-mail.

Robert concludes by clarifying that his paternal line is descended (through his paternal grandmother - née Blair-Oliphant) from the 7th Earl of Derby and his wife, Charlotte de la Tremoüille. "Going back from her, we can claim descent from St Louis, King of France, and from him back to Charlemagne. One ends up with millions of potential ancestors -- more than the size of the population of Western Europe at that time!"

It is known from the Burke genealogy  that the William Smyth who went over to Ireland (the 'first settler') from Rosedale Abbey (which had become Neville property after the Dissolution and was almost immediately leased to the Smyth family) was the third son of James Smyth and Helen Sayers, but unfortunately (as David Smyth in America points out) 'we do not know the names of his (William Smyth's) two older brothers. It is a pity, as that knowledge might possibly establish a connection with the Neville family in that generation.'

A clue to this is to be found in The Diary 1603-1623 of William Camden - a hypertext edition by Dana F. Sutton - The University of California, Irvine. An entry for January 27th., 1618 presents this Smith/Neville conundrum:-

"Sir John Dacomb, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, died, whose daughter married Thomas Smith, or Neville, son and heir of Sir Thomas Neville of Holt in the County of Leicester."

Site Note July 2003

From this source comes the following clarification - through Dacomb family records:-

Dacomb was elevated to the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster on 8th June 1616 after the death of Sir Thomas Parry in the preceding May. He was not expected to get the post but, rather, it was believed that it would go to Sir Thomas Edmonds; however, a week later, it went to Dacomb and the position was accompanied by a knighthood.

State Papers (incomplete) Ref: : Calendar of State Papers Domestic - 2nd March 1614 - Agreement between Wm Smith and John Dackombe in reference to a projected marriage between Henry Smith son of Sir Henry Neville alias Smith and Alice daughter of John Dackombe (v38)

Middle Temple minutes 1620-47: 11th May 1632: Mr William Nevile alias Smith when he becomes a member may be admitted into Mr John Dackombe's chamber upon his surrender. 19th June 1632 Mr William, son and heir apparent of Henry Nevile alias Smith of Cressing Temple, Essex esq admitted; bound with Bartholomew Hall and Ralf Freke esqs fine 4l; also to the chamber of John Dackombe and Ralf Freke esqs on surrender by the former, fine 3l. 12th June 1635 The chamber of Messrs Freke and Nevile in Bricke Court shall be made an office for the Court of Requests....(other sone of Henry Nevile alias Smith of Cressing Temple admitted at other dates)

Neville of Holt: Ref.: trans. Leic. Arch. Soc. vol 13 p200: Notes: Sir John Dackombe's daughter Alice married Henry Smith alias Nevill of Cressing Temple in 1614, presumably one of Thomas and Mary's sons. One of Alice's sons William took John Dackombe's place at Middle Temple; another Thomas bart, was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The manor of Holt (Leicestershire) came to the Nevills in the 15th Century and was named Nevill Holt. Thomas Nevill died in 1570 with no legitimate son > Humphrey who died 1590 and thence to Thomas Smyth of Cressing Temple Essex, who had married Mary Neville the only legitimate daughter of Thomas. Thomas Smyth took the name of Neville.

NB: Cressing Temple is one of the earliest Smith/Smyth/Smythe demesnes and is also connected with Carrington/Smith.

Site Note July 2003 - Camden Biography

Dana F. Sutton has also made a biography of Camden available on the Internet. This is a translation of the work of Dr. Thomas Smith.

Dr. Thomas Smith's Camden

The following biography of Smith is extracted from Dana Sutton's Introduction to the work ...

Dr. Thomas Smith [1657-1710] graduated with a B.A. from Queen’s College, Oxford in 1661 and achieved his M.A. two years later. He was appointed Master of the free school attached to Magdalene College and in 1666 was elected a perpetual Fellow of the College.

He was a specialist in Semitic languages (he was sometimes called “Rabbi Smith” or “Tograi Smith”).

From 1668-1671, he served as chaplain to Sir Daniel Harvey, ambassador to Constantinople.

Later, having turned to divinity, he was sometime rector of the parish of Stanlake in Oxfordshire (a living at the disposal of his college), and subsequently enjoyed a prebendship of the church of Heyghtbury, Wilts.

In 1688 he was deprived of his Fellowship of Magdalene College (of which he was then Senior Bursar) because he could not get along with the Catholic faction that dominated the college, but was soon restored. He lost the Fellowship permanently in 1692, for refusing to take the oath of supremacy to William and Mary, and died in 1710.

Another Smith/Smyth (Edward Smyth) - also had connections with Constantinople - and became Chaplain to the same Crown!

Dana Sutton states in her introduction that Dr. Thomas Smith's credentials as a writer "were impressive, for he wrote on a large number of subjects. Besides Semitic philology, on the strength of his Constantinople period he wrote a good deal on the Turks and the Eastern Orthodox Church. British antiquarianism was also on his agenda: in 1664 he published Syntagma de Druidum Moribus ac Institutis."

It would seem, therefore, that this is the same Thomas Smith as Thomas Smith (the "Non-juror") who wrote "The Life of Cotton". (Reference Henry Walton Smith research page which states: "The Life of Cotton by his grandson's librarian, the Non-juror Dr. Thomas Smith, is not only written in Latin, which removes if several degrees from reality, but, as well, it is without one single spark of humour. It is not entirely lacking, however, in touches of nature, and here is one of them: ..." Royal Blood, A Fly in Amber, Hope Mirrlees, p. 15. - Source "

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