SMITH, Roger (by 1522-62), of Morville, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. by 1522, s. of Richard Smith of Morville by Mary Gery of Clive. m. Frances, da. of Richard Cresset of Upton Cressett, 3s. at least 2da.1
Sewer of the chamber by 1543; porter and keeper of prisoners, council in the marches of Wales Apr. 1543; bailiff, Bridgnorth 1545-6, 1548-9, 1551-2, coroner 1549-50; escheator, Salop. 1560-1.2
Morville is only three miles from Bridgnorth, but Roger Smith was the first of his family to make any mark in the borough records, and the Smith pedigree recorded at the visitation of 1623 goes back only to his father, of whom nothing more than his name is known. Roger Smith himself created the fortunes of his family. It is not clear whose patronage brought him office in the Household and, nearer home, in the council in the marches: the second office, combined with the steady acquisition of new lands in the neighbourhood, gave him an important position in Bridgnorth, where the council sometimes met and which its officials sometimes represented in Parliament.3
At the time of Smith’s appointment the Porter’s Lodge at Ludlow was said to be ‘such a strait place of punishment as the common people termed it a hell’, but it soon became ‘no terror of punishment of the body but a gulf through fees to suck up a mean man’. Smith’s own upward progress was certainly marked. In 1545 he was granted by John Dudley, Viscount Lisle the reversion of the cell or grange of Morville, once the property of Shrewsbury abbey and till 1558 occupied by the last abbot in lieu of a pension. In the same year he had the unusual experience of being chosen bailiff of Bridgnorth just after being admitted a freeman there: he was to hold the office twice more during the next reign. The standing thus acquired, and doubtless the support of the council, of which Dudley was for a time president and Sir Robert Townshend, father-in-law of Ambrose Gilberd, Smith’s fellow-Member in 1553, vice-president, resulted in his election to the Parliaments of 1547 and March 1553. His return on the second occasion, and his disappearance from the parliamentary ranks thereafter, alike imply his dependence on Dudley, then Duke of Northumberland, as does his appointment in August 1553, after the duke’s overthrow, to a commission to deal with the misappropriation of some of the fallen magnate’s forfeited goods.4
Smith’s continued acquisition of church property in Bridgnorth alarmed the corporation. In 1550 he obtained a prebend in the royal free chapel of St. Mary Magdalen, in 1557 (Sir) John Perrot granted him some lands of the hospital of St. James, and about the same time he bought the remainder of a lease of chantry lands in the town. In the third year of Elizabeth’s reign it was alleged in the borough court that he ‘prevented the town of the chantry of St. Leonard’s’, had ‘gotten into his hands the hospital of St. James’, and had occupied and forcibly held land belonging to the town: he was sentenced to ‘have no benefit of his burgess-ship’. Despite further sanctions Smith kept the hospital, and the inquisition post mortem of his son George at the beginning of the next century shows property stretching right round the southern edge of the town and across the Severn to the hospital’s important site on the east bank.5
Smith died on as June 1562. The wardship of George Smith, then aged 16, was granted to (Sir) Henry Sidney, president of the council in the marches. A will dated the day of Smith’s death and witnessed amongst others by William Acton, his kinsman by marriage, provided that £80 should go to each of his two younger sons on their apprenticeship, and the house at Morville and one third of the lands to his wife Frances. She took three more husbands and the last, William Clench of another officer of the council in the marches, claimed the Morville property. The council supported Clench, but George Smith secured the protection of the Privy Council by proving the will a forgery, and there is a note to this effect, dated July 1584, in the margin of the probate register.6
Whether or not he began it, Morville Hall, an Elizabethan house, is a monument to Smith’s success; it was built by the same craftsmen who worked upon the house of his wife’s family at nearby Upton Cressett.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Alan Harding
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 439; PCC 7 Chayre.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, xviii; Bridgnorth ms 9(2), ff. 395, 557, 560-1, 565.
- 3. J.F.A.Mason, Bridgnorth, 17.
- 4. P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 169; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. li. 7-9; APC, iv. 316.
- 5. CPR, 1548-9, p. 386; 1569-72, p. 471; VCH Salop, ii. 100n, 126; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), viii. 56-57; li. 7-9; Bridgnorth ms 9(2), f. 437.
- 6. C142/135/10; CPR, 1560-3, p. 613 where 1563 is incorrectly given as Smith’s date of death; PCC 7 Chayre; Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 115; APC, xiv. 49-50.
- 7. Pevsner, Salop, 206.