SMITH, Richard I (by 1453-1516), of London and Reading, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. by 1453. m. by 1509, Agnes, wid. of Henry Justice; 1s. illegit.2
Member of guild, Reading 1474, guardian of the old ward 1476, tax assessor, London ward 1481, cofferer 1487; yeoman of the robes by 1486-d.; bailiff, manor of Caversham, Berks. 1493, jt. (with Richard Justice) 1510-15; bailiff, Swallowfield, Berks. 1509-d.; steward, lordship of Caversham 1509-d.; customer, Calais 25 June 1509, jt. customer 1513-d.3
It is not known whether Richard Smith was born at Reading but he was an active member of the merchants’ guild there before he rose in the King’s service and he played some part in municipal affairs until his death. Five out of the nine Reading Members between 1478 and 1504 had been royal servants, although not necessarily strangers to the town, but under Henry VIII, apart from Smith himself, only Nicholas Hyde and Smith’s stepson Richard Justice were to continue this tradition.4
Richard Smith of Reading and London, gentleman or clothier, was pardoned with his wife Agnes on the accession of Henry VIII and was soon confirmed in his offices. In May 1509 he was named keeper and paler of the park and bailiff or collector of the Queen’s lordship of Swallowfield for life, and steward of the lordship of Caversham, in place of Edmund Dudley. He also appeared as a groom at Henry VII’s funeral and a yeoman at the coronation before being appointed in June 1509 customer of Calais. Four years later he was regranted this office jointly with a fellow-yeoman, John Sharpe, while receiving with him two corrodies in Abingdon abbey previously held by Sharpe alone.5
There is no sign in the corporation diary that Smith held office in Reading after 1487, although he has been described as mayor in 1504-5. His duties elsewhere can have left him little time for his home town but in 1510 he is twice listed as a townsman, first as one who paid 40s. towards a renewal of its charters—this being twice as much as anyone else, even the wealthy William Justice—and then as a ‘generosus’. He sat in the Parliament of 1512 as junior Member with another gentleman, William Gifford, but is not on the list of townsmen who in the following year contributed to the cost of the French war. It was as a yeoman of the robes that he was paid in March 1514 for going to Tournai. As Swallowfield is only six miles from Reading, and Caversham, across the river, still nearer, his royal service may sometimes have taken him home. He is marked ‘mortuus’ on a corporation list of 1514 but this must have been a later entry, as it was in the case of John Pownsar, for he was still active as a wardrobe official in May 1516.6
In his will dated 18 July 1515 and proved on 15 Aug. 1516 Smith’s many pious bequests included sums for the repair of all three parish churches in Reading, as well as those at Caversham and Swallow-field. He asked to be buried in St. Lawrence’s, Reading, and left to the mass of Jesus there three houses which he owned in the town: in 1505 he had helped Richard Cleche and the corporation to secure royal approval for the endowment of this chantry and he now stipulated that the wardens should spend 20s. a year on his dirge and mass, on pain of forfeiting the property to the abbot of Abingdon. A fourth Reading house was left to Richard Justice, who was to pay £10 to the mass of Jesus, while another in London went to Richard Weston. A bastard son Richard received £10 and some goods, while various unnamed godchildren and many friends or colleagues were remembered, including John Pownsar. Smith’s wife, who was the principal legatee, and Thomas Justice, vicar of St. Lawrence’s, her son by her previous marriage, were appointed executors, and the overseers included Thomas Englefield, the Speaker’s son, and John Heron, treasurer of the chamber.