SMITH, Bernard (by 1522-91), of Totnes, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. by 1522, s. of Walter Smith of Totnes. m. by 1547, at least 1da. suc. fa. 1555.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Totnes 1549-50, ?1565-6; escheator, Devon and Cornw. 1567-8.2


Bernard Smith claimed gentle birth but like his father he was brought up in trade. His seizure of a Spanish vessel and its cargo in 1545 led to the intervention of the Privy Council and an order to restore both to their owner. He partnered the brothers Christopher and Richard Savery in several business ventures but a quarrel resulted in his charging them in the Star Chamber under Elizabeth with assault and theft. His father bought Totnes priory and some of its lands at the Dissolution, and in 1544 conveyed these to trustees for his own and Smith’s use. Smith made further purchases, and by exchanges and litigation, sometimes with the corporation of Totnes, he built up a sizeable estate which made his only surviving child an heiress much sought in marriage. His election to Mary’s last Parliament was presumably as much in recognition of past service as a gesture of conciliation after the lawsuit following his cutting off of the water supply for the castle mills. Nothing is known about his part in the House but during the second session he had an agreement between himself and his brother-in-law John Petre II enrolled in the common pleas. After the accession of Elizabeth he and George Yeo, the son of his fellow-Member, were engaged to receive a deed from George, 10th Lord Zouche, presumably in connexion with the town’s acquisition of the manor from Sir Richard Edgecombe. Smith gradually withdrew from municipal affairs, perhaps because his responsibility in county matters increased. He died in Totnes on 16 July 1591 and was succeeded by his daughter Eleanor, then married to John Wray. If he made a will it has not been found.3

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference, 1543, LP Hen. VIII, xviii. Vis. Devon, ed. Colby, 48; C142/236/59; Pevsner, S. Devon, 297.
  • 2. Western Antiq. ix. 150; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xii. 326.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xviii-xx; APC, ii. 250; J. C. Roberts, ‘Parl. rep. Devon and Dorset, 1559-1601’ (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1958), 218; L. S. Snell, Suppression of Rel. Foundations in Devon and Cornw. 155, 156, 164; Trans. Dev. Assoc. xii. 326; P. Russell, Totnes, 47, 48, 58-59; Devon RO, 1579/25, A1; Totnes deeds; CPR, 1547-8, p. 288; 1558-60, p. 202; C142/236/59.