John Smyth of Nibley (als. John Smith) was steward to the Berkeleys 1589-1640 and became extensively involved in the settlement of the New World colony of Virginia. He was born in 1568 in Leicestershire. His father was Thomas Smith "de Hooby", Leicestershire, second son of William (Willmus) Smith of Humberstone in Lincolnshire.
William Smith had married Emot (or Emmott) (unknown family name - perhaps a cousin, Smith) who was one of five heiress daughters of her family - there being no sons. It may be assumed that this William Smith was born during the early years of the 16th century, perhaps towards the end of the reign of Henry VII. The eldest son of this marriage was Richard Smith who also married and had children - not listed in TPL's reference source.
The younger son, Thomas (de Hooby) Smith married Joane Alleyne, daughter of Richard (Allen) Alleyne of Derby. The son of this marriage was John Smyth (of Nibley - 1568). He had no brothers and only one sister - who married Stephen Fowler. A daughter of this latter marriage, Mary Fowler, married her cousin, Thomas Smith, son of her uncle, John Smith of Nibley and his second wife, Mary Browning.
The history of the ironmonger family of Smythe of Oxford (qv Smythe Index) mentions that a Thomas Fowler married a daughter of John Smythe - Oxford ironmonger. Fowler "also is described as Ironmonger and may have been associated with his father-in law ..." and, perhaps associated with the Smyth family of Nibley. As the Oxford family can be traced back into previous centuries, perhaps they, too, may connect with the Lincolnshire roots of this Smith/Smyth family. "During the seventeenth century and possibly earlier, the principal Ironmongery establishment in Oxford was owned by the Smythe or Smith family, and from them the business has descended to the present Proprietors."
John Smyth of Nibley
Of John Smyth's involvement in the Virginia colony, the following is stated:
"Sir Walter Raleigh's two attempts to establish a settlement in Virginia, the first in 1585, and again in 1587, were not successful: the support of such a settlement was found to be beyond the means of any one individual, however well-off or well-connected. Yet interest in such a project remained high and a few years later, early in the next century, the Virginia Company of London was formed to exploit the immense resources of the country. Soon afterward, in 1618, appreciating the possibilities for financial return of such an enterprise, a group of local Gloucestershire merchants and gentlemen came together to form The Berkeley Company.
The principal backers of the enterprise: John Smyth of Nibley, agent to, and historian of, the Berkeleys, Richard Berkeley, George Thorpe of Wanswell Court, Sir William Throckmorton, and Sir George Yeardley, Governor of the new territory, negotiated a grant of land on the James River in Virginia, some 8000 acres, on which to form a private colony to be named the Berkeley Hundred. Accordingly, at eight o'clock in the morning of 16th September 1619, 38 voyagers, under Captain John Woodleaf set sail in a barque called The Margrett, of "Bristow" (47 tons), to cross the Atlantic and establish the new settlement. On the 4th December the settlers arrived in America and celebrated what has become recognised as the first Thanksgiving."
John Smyth of Nibley wrote his "Lives of the Berkeleys" in about 1618. "The Description of the Hundred of Berkeley was dedicated by the antiquary John Smyth of Nibley (1568-1641) to his son John, who succeeded him as estate steward to Lord Berkeley and to his clerk William Archard. It was written over many years, the final revision apparently occurring in 1639. It combines information that would be useful to his son as estate steward with the antiquarian gleanings of four decades spent in the Vale of Berkeley. Smyth's description of the dialect of the Vale of Berkeley in the first half of the seventeenth century is a useful resource for historians, studying local documentary evidence of the period. It provides a tantalising glimpse of the modes of expression of middling and common sorts of people of the Vale of Berkeley. By the use of the phrase "wee hundreders," Smyth associates himself with his neighbours, although he was not a native of the Vale of Berkeley. Smyth was born in Leicestershire, took up residence in Gloucestershire when around 30 and spent a significant part of most years in London." Gloucestershire Miscellany - Vale of Berkeley.
For researchers anxious to further their consideration of both the man, John Smyth, and the times in which he operated, this source is fundamental: "The Berkeley MSS: the Lives of the Berkeleys, lords of the honour, castle and manor of Berkeley in the county of Gloucester from 1066 to 1618, with a description of the hundred of Berkeley and its inhabitants by John Smyth of Nibley" - edited by Sir John Maclean. Gloucester. Printed by John Bellows for the subscribers 1883.
John Smyth of Nibley married twice. His first wife (October 1597) was Grace Thomas, the daughter and heir of William Thomas and his wife Alice Hill (a daughter of Richard Hill). Grace had first been married to John Drew of Nibley who died in March, 1597. It appears there were no children of the marriage and that Grace (Thomas/Drew) Smyth died on the 9th November 1609; but, according to the details - taken from "The Visitations of Gloucestershire 1623 and 1683" - John Smyth's second marriage, to Mary Browning, (daughter of John Browning) took place at Cowley in Gloucestershire on 9th January 1609. Allowing for the calendar operations of the era, perhaps that should be interpreted as 1608 and 1609 - or 1609 and 1610 since the first child of the second marriage, John Smith of North Nibley, was baptised at Nibley on 12th September 1611. John Smith of North Nibley died on 17th September 1692, aged 82 and was buried at Nibley.
John Smyth of Nibley (d. 1641) and Mary Browning had five sons and four daughters.
Of the sons (siblings of John Smith of North Nibley) who married and had children:
William Smith - (William Smyth) - eldest son of William Smith and Catherine Martin - is later noted as living at North Nibley and as having married (possibly October 1683 at Fisherton Anger, Wilts) Mary White, daughter of Thomas White of Fidleford, Sturminster Newton, Dorset. He was Mary's second husband, the first having been Edward Codrington of Sutton in Wiltshire. No children are listed at this time.
John Smith of North Nibley was one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for Gloucestershire. He also married twice. His first wife was Anne Bromfield, daughter of Sir Edward Bromfield of Suffolk Place, Surrey. She died in 1643 at the age of 36. By this marriage were born 10 children, the eldest of whom was Edward Smith of North Nibley, who was born in about 1631. He died in 1700 at the age of 70. Edward Smith was a Bencher of the Middle Temple and was one of His Majesty's Judges for the Curcuit of South Wales. He was also High Steward of the Borough of Southwark in London. He married (1658) Rose Leigh, youngest daughter of Sir Edward Leigh of Shipley, Derbyshire. Rose was buried at Nibley in October 1689. Edward Smith and Rose Leigh had eleven children, only one of whom lived into the eighteenth century - James Smith of the City of London, aged 11 in 1682 but whose Will is dated 1709.
The second son of John Smith and Anne (Sir Edward ) Bromfield was John Smith, who died at Naples in 1665. The third son, William Smith, married (1681/2) Cordelia Everett, daughter of John Everett of the City of Canterbury in Kent. William Smith had associations with the West Indies. In 1682, there was recorded an eighteen year old son of the marriage, John Smith. The fourth son, Thomas Smith (baptised January 2nd.1637/8) is recorded as being forty-four years old and living in Ireland in 1682. He is said to have married Elizabeth, daughter of unknown Carrick, of Ireland. Listed children of this marriage are John Smith (aged 8 in 1683) and twins, Thomas Smith and Elizabeth Smith, aged six. There were, so it is recorded "others". The fifth son (1640/1) was James Smith, listed as aged forty and unmarried in 1682. The sixth son, Charles Smith (1642) of Barton End, Horsley, Glos. married Frances Talboys, daughter of Richard Talboys of Duston, Tetbury, Glos. In 1682 they are listed as having two daughters, Anne Smith - aged five and Mary Smith, aged four. The seventh son, Richard Smith, (1643) is also listed as unmarried and aged 37 as of July 1683. Of the daughters of John Smith and Anne (Sir Edward) Bromfield, the eldest daughter Anne Smith married John Nourse (parents, John Nourse and Lettice Jones) of Weston under Penyard in Herefordshire. The second daughter, Margaret Smith (b. 1638) married (1658) William Archard of Nibley. He was buried in 1668 and she in 1708. Elizabeth Smith (1639) the third daughter, married 22 (January 1662/3 at Nibley) Thomas Veel (Veale) of Simmondshall, Glos.
Anne (Sir Edward) Bromfield died in 1643 and John Smith of North Nibley married for a second time. His second wife was Anne Bromfield, youngest daughter of John Bromfield of Udimer, Sussex. Anne (John) Bromfield died in March 1686 at the age of 72. There were six children of this marriage of whom only the fifth child, Gabriell Smith - aged 28 in 1682 - is listed as being married. He became a druggist in London. His wife was Anne Symonds, daughter of Samuel Symonds, also a druggist of London. Gabriell Smith and Anne Symonds are listed with three children in 1682 - Gabraeil Smith (1), Anne (5) and Grace (3). The other children listed from the marriage of John Smith and Anne (John) Bromfield are Arabella Smith (d. 1647) Geo(rge) Smith, Henry Smith and Robert Smith (all "Ob. s, pr.") and John Smith, living unmarried at age 24 in 1682.
Given the numerous sons with the name Thomas Smith/Smyth descended from family members of this line - and given the proximity of this Costwold area to Oxford, it is not impossible that one of these Thomases has links with the following - further details of which may be found on the family web site of Catherine (Monticue) Smith in America. Catherine states that "In about 1700 there appeared in Wales, a linen weaver named Thomas Smith (Sr). His parentage was unknown but in a few years he moved to Abington, [Abingdon] Oxfordshire, England. Here, he became very successful in the manufacturing of a finer grade of linen than was usual at that time and which was used for ruffs and mens shirts. At this business he amassed quite a fortune, which he left to his four children. "
Catherine Smith draws attention to the following: "In Gloucestershire is a small village called [Saintbury], situated in a valley on either side of [which] towers high hills. On one of these hills stands a small church overlooking the valley. From it leads a flight of steps one hundred and fifty in all down to the village. From this picturesque town Thomas Smith, Jr. received his wife, Catherine Green." The number, one hundred and fifty, may be significant for it was supposed to represent the number of beads on a rosary ...
The story of this family contains anecdotes of a Thomas Smith who was a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford, and who is purported to have been a fellow student of John Wesley; there is also a story of a "Wild Bill" Smith who sold his wife back to her father at market for a few shillings ... and also of a disposessed but tenacious Thomas Smith who was later delegated to buy carriage horses for a king. All these snippets of information - and more - are contained in papers that have come down through her family and which in the Smith and Monticue lines contain echoes of similar associatioins within Smith/Smyth genealogy explored elsewhere on this site. Catherine is especially interested in discovering a link which is supposed to exist between her line of Smith and the family name of Mann.
Also of interest to this site is the name of Cooper linked with Smith and the fact that, whichever line this was, it was of sufficient standing to be known in official circles as having marked expertise in horse confirmation - enough to prompt George III to delegate the tenacious Thomas Smith to seek carriage horses from Flanders on his behalf. It may also be significant that the names of Smith, (Smyth), Cooper, Thorpe and "Smyth Thorpe" conjoin in Norfolk at a later date - where one, as yet of unknown background, Thomas Smyth died in about 1831, a very wealthy man, associated with the family name of Dickens.
The line that Catherine Smith is researching runs as follows: Thomas Smith (Sr.) - Linen Weaver (circa 1700) had a son, Thomas Smith (Jr.) who married Catherine Green. Their son, Thomas Smith, married Sarah (or Mary) Fletcher. This Thomas Smith was the oldest son and was born at Chibness (Oxford) in 1761. He was educated in Magdalen College and was a fine musician, able to play any instrument of his day. He was a fine singer too and led the college choir. However, whilst at University he displeased his father in some way and was "turned away from home". He went to an aunt, Mrs. Robert Cooper, who was living with her father - "a great sheep man" in Gloucestershire. Thomas was well-liked and worked hard on the farm. He ended up with the farm but then lost it through no fault of his own. See Catherine's site for the full story. Any reader/researcher with further information is encouraged to contact Catherine via her site or this site with details. A son of this third Thomas Smith was Henry Smith who married twice - first, June Jordan Steward and second, Elizabeth Lake. Henry went to America.
Curiouser and curiouser ...
In response to questions concerning this research, the following information is kindly provided by Robin Darwell-Smith, Archivist of Magdalen College, Oxford.
Writing in November 2003, Robin states: "We are lucky at Magdalen: in the nineteenth century, one of our Fellows compiled a large set of biographical registers which, among other things, covered all the known members of our Chapel Choir. By the eighteenth century, it is fair to say that our sources are such that we probably know everyone who was a member of it. I therefore looked through the registers of boy choristers and clerks (the men who sang alto, tenor and bass) from the 1740s to the 1780s in search of a Thomas Smith, but could find no one of that name. At the time the organists of Magdalen (who also ran the Chapel Choir) were William Hayes (1743-77) and his son Philip Hayes (1777-97).
I also consulted "Alumni Oxonienses" by Joseph Foster, the only biographical register which covers everyone who ever matriculated at Oxford from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Although there were several Thomas Smiths there, none came up in the 1770s (when I would expect someone born in 1761 to do so). Indeed the only Thomas Smith with Magdalen links from the eighteenth century was a scholar here from 1728-34, who came from Essex, and went on to become a vicar there from 1735-1791. So he doesn't sound like a potential Methodist [reference to Wesley] to me.
As a result I have had to draw a blank: as it stands, there is nothing to prove that Thomas Smith had any links with Magdalen College, and am therefore left wondering how the story arose. I know from elsewhere how family legends can grow, and how an event which happened to one member of a family can be changed in the telling so that it gets attached to another. I wonder whether something like this is at work here."
With regard to the place name "Chibness" both this site and Robin Darwell-Smith could find just one mention of it - a birth listed in a set of 1871 census returns. Of Chibness, Robin says, " "Chibness" still bothers me, as it is not a name I have encountered anywhere. I had a look at the website you recommended, but I'm not yet convinced: the place name could easily be an error on the part of the transcriber. I also tried "Chibness" on Google, and came up with both the sites you recommended, and not much else. I think that someone ought to have another look at the 1871 census returns to see what the place name is.
I am sorry that, instead of providing any answers, I appear to have provided more questions, but sometimes even that can be of use."
Geographical note ...
The village of Saintbury in Gloucestershire and Chibness, [see above caveat] Oxford are both featured in this line - from which a later descendant - Thomas Smith - also moved to America and died at North Fork, Illinois, in 1841. Catherine's line also contains a son who was apprenticed at Oxford as a druggist. Through the ages, the Smith/Smyth families in general have had a number of apothecaries within their ranks. This was true, too, of several who were in the clothing trades - at a time when clothing was a very valuable commodity indeed. Yeoman famers who enclosed land and produced wool were well represented in the family and, nearby, was the Forest of Dean - Tudor centre for Iron Ore (qv Smyth of Bristol) and allied families.
Saintbury Church - The church is built on the side of a hill, the main entrance being on the north side. To reach the rather inaccessible south side it is necessary to climb further up the hill.
"Saintbury itself is a dreaming Cotswold village, pure England, through which an ancient road now known as Buckle Street passes. The church is set high on the slopes of Willerspey Hill, the beginning of the Cotswolds proper. From the church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, commanding views of the Vale of Evesham are to be had. The spire is unusual in that it sits on a tower in the south transept, so is fairly central to the body of the church as a whole. The present church is Norman and later, but a Saxon church stood on the site. Fragments of this are preserved in the remarkable Saxon sundial on the south side of the church, and a gargoyle or two. Within the south transept is a strange octagonal stone, known commonly as 'the pre-Christian altar', for it is believed by many to pre-date the Saxon church at the site. In the north transept there is another great stone underneath a Jacobean table, and it is thought this may have been used as an altar in medieval times.
The top of Willersey Hill rears up immediately south of the church. Crowning the hill is a Bronze Age round barrow some 12 paces in diameter and now only about 2 ft high, having been reduced in the past by ploughing. It was excavated in 1935. The hilltop is circumscribed by earthworks which are apparently remains of a medieval village, known locally as 'Castle Bank'." Adapted from Paul Devereux and Ian Thompson - The Ley Hunter's Companion, Thames & Hudson, 1979.