According to "official" sources ... (Burkes Irish Family Records) ..."This Smyth(e) family originally came from Stainton in the Palatinate of Durham (new window) but moved to Yorkshire circa 1500, settling at Rosedale Abbey (new window) which was leased to them by Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmorland after the dissolution of the Monasteries." (For a chronological analysis of this incorrect statement, see David Smyth's comments below.)
Barbavilla Smyth(e) information comes courtesy of Canon Ronald Smythe, 2002 and other information is with reference to Burke's Irish Family Records. Also used are sundry verified and unverified Internet sources, IGI/LDS files + Ancestry.com records with associated Curtoys material contributed by Judy Jerkins and Professor Jeremy Curtoys. In August 2002, a most comprehensive and informative addition was donated by David Smyth who now lives in America and who descends from the Hutchinson Smyth line of the family. These Smyth(e) history pages are the richer for the fruits of his extensive family research - both commissioned and personal - research which poses as many questions as it gives cogent and pertinent answers to much of the early history of the family.
As with so many family histories, inevitably, there are anomalies to be found. When it comes to tracing this particular family line there are more than most. This is not only because of the Smith/Smithe/Smyth/Smythe conundrum but also because of the manner in which family information was collected (or not, as the case often was) and in the way it was handed down by official sources or by family tradition.
David Smyth has, for example, discovered one source which states that the earliest known link is a William Smithdike (dates unknown) = wife unknown - (Children: THOMAS, perhaps others unknown). Click on the Rosedale "spot" on the map to follow David Smyth's work and read his comments on his (and the early Smyth(e) family) background. He also considers the evidence and accuracy involved in annotating early clusters of this family.
Of William Smithdike, David Smyth writes: "William Smithdike was apparently the father of Thomas Smyth, the first ancestor mentioned ... 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 ... for the present, the fact that the Irish Smyths [of Gaybrook] did not know the name [qv below] of the man who first leased the property [Rosedale] ... indicates that their knowledge of the period is very sketchy."
With reference to the family origins being the Palatinate of Durham and subsequent settlement in Yorkshire in property leased by Ralph Neville after the dissolution of the Monasteries, David Smyth points out ... "There is already one mistake here. Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmorland, was born in 1364 and died in 1425. The dissolution of the monasteries was decreed by Henry VIII in 1535; so the reference is presumably to the Fourth Earl. Stainton is a town just north of Darlington in County Durham, near Hartlepool on the northeast coast of England. It is only a few miles away from Stainford, the site of Raby Castle, built by the Neville family in the Fourteenth century. The proximity of the Nevilles castle and the Smyths town of origin seems to imply that the Smyths knew or had some connection with the Nevilles before they moved from Durham to Yorkshire."
Research on another ancestor line pertaining to this site has revealed that in 1440, Richard Neville, the Earl of Salisbury (b.1400 k.1460) whose son was Ralph Neville, Earl of Warwick - named Warwick the King-maker - was in conflict with the senior branch of the Nevilles over estates in Durham and Yorkshire in his mother's jointure. The Court intervened in Salisbury's favour and the Earl of Westmorland was permanently impoverished by this result. At that same time, it may be seen that Robert Neville - a long-serving Prince-Bishop of Durham (1437-1457) held power in Durham. For some 20 years, he possessed an unassailable royal authority, second only to the monarch.
Because of the remoteness of the north and in view of the threat of invasion, William the Conqueror had originally appointed the Bishop of Durham, Bishop Walcher (Bishop 1071-1081) as Earl-Bishop of Northumbria. This appointment concentrated both secular and spiritual power over the whole of the North-East of England in the hands of just one person. After Walcher's murder by an angry mob in 1081, Bishop Carileph (1081-1096) and subsequent bishops were given the rank of Prince-Bishops bestowing upon them a vice-regal power over an area that became known as the Palatinate of Durham. The Palatinate covered much of the modern British counties of Cleveland, Durham and Tyne & Wear together with parts of the county of Northumberland. Above all, however, the power to raise armies, administer law, mint coinage and to engage in autonomous government within the Palatinate accompanied the rank. The Nevilles were therefore powerful and powerfully connected (sufficient to engineer at law the "ruin" of the Earl of Westmorland) and, clearly, the Smyth/e family connection would indicate them as also being a family of some high standing within the Palatinate and, probably, within the realm. It may also explain the Neville family's right to grant the lease of the Yorkshire property at Rosedale to the Smyth(e)s.