SMITH, Thomas II (1522-91), of London, Ashford and Westenhanger, Kent.

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

Constituency

Dates

Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1522, 2nd s. of John Smith of Corsham, Wilts. by Joan, da. of Robert Brouncker of Melksham, Wilts. m. c.1554, Alice, da. of Sir Andrew Judd of London and Tonbridge, Kent, 7s. inc. John, Richard and Thomas 6da.1

Offices Held

Collector, tonnage and poundage, London 1558-69; j.p.q. Kent 1577-d.; treasurer for repair of Dover haven 1580; master, Haberdashers’ Co. 1583.2

Biography

Thomas Smith, later known as Customer Smith, came from a yeoman family of Wiltshire. His father was a clothier and small landowner, most of whose property descended in 1538 to his eldest son John. The second son Thomas received only one farm in Amesbury hundred worth £20 a year and had his own way to make in life, probably after experience in the cloth trade at the family mill near Corsham. The dates of his settling in London and his admission to the livery of the Haberdashers’ Company are not known. As a haberdasher he secured the favour of Sir Andrew Judd, a wealthy London merchant, whose daughter he married. In 1552 he contracted to deliver lead to Sir Thomas Gresham in the Netherlands, and three years later he was named among the Merchant Adventurers in their grant of privileges.3

With so common a surname the account of Smith’s parliamentary career can only be tentative. He may well have been the man returned for the 1st Earl of Bedford’s borough of Tavistock to Mary’s first Parliament with Richard Wilbraham, a household officer equally strange to Tavistock. Both names appear to have been inserted by a different hand on the indenture. In the following spring Smith may more readily be identified as the gentleman returned for Aylesbury, a newly enfranchised borough in the patronage of Sir Thomas Pakington, son-in-law of Sir Thomas Kitson, who belonged to the merchant community of London and was likely to be well acquainted with Smith. The name Thomas Smith was originally omitted on the return for Rye in the autumn of 1554 and interlineated in a different hand. The first Member, John Holmes I, received parliamentary wages and the fact that the second was unpaid bears out the supposition that one nomination was made by Sir Thomas Cheyne, lord warden of the Cinque Ports: Smith with a domicile at Westenhanger was presumably known to Cheyne who was keeper of the manor there belonging to the crown. The same influence probably accounted for Smith’s election for Winchelsea to the Parliament of 1555, in which, in company with his fellow-Member John Peyton, he is likely to have voted against one of the government’s bills, although the presence of his namesake the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme leaves some doubt in the matter. It is also uncertain whether he was the Thomas Smith who sat for Wigan in 1558, but this is taken to have been Thomas Smith IV.4

Smith’s official career began when he succeeded Philip Cockram as collector of the petty custom in the port of London in July 1558, an office for which he is said to have paid a fine of £2,500. He pursued wide commercial interests, which included mineral works and a monopoly of the sale of alum in England, and was an original member of the Russia and Levant Companies. Although not all Smith’s ventures were successful, he became a very rich man: his landed property alone consisted of 12 manors in Kent (partly of his wife’s inheritance), London and Wiltshire.5

Smith died on 7 June 1591 and was buried in Ashford church. His grandson and namesake was created Viscount Strangford in 1628.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale

Notes

  • 1. This biography rests on L. L. S. Lowe, ‘Mr. Customer Smythe’ (Oxf. Univ. B. Litt. thesis, 1950.) Arch. Cant. xvii. 193; xx. 76; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 113-14.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 671.
  • 3. E. Veale, Eng. Fur Trade in Later Middle Ages, 188; Recs. Sk