SMITH, William.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

Offices Held


This Member had so many namesakes that he cannot be identified. It is not even certain that the same man represented Newport iuxta Launceston and Chippenham, although this was probably the case, since the returns were made to successive Parliaments and no other borough is known to have elected a William Smith during the early Tudor period. Newport, which had been attached to the duchy of Cornwall after the surrender of Launceston priory, was accustomed to be represented by a mixture of local gentry, lawyers and officers of the duchy. Chippenham likewise had fallen under royal influence since the forfeiture of the manor and hundred by the Hungerford family in 1540, although the hundred had been acquired by (Sir) William Sharington in June 1553. Both Chippenham and Newport iuxta Launceston often returned royal officials, but at both places a number of Members had local connexions.1

William Smith is described as a gentleman on the indenture for Newport, as is his fellow-Member John Gayer, a landowner whose estates lay at the farther end of Cornwall and who may have been elected through his connexion with the sheriff. Unlike Gayer, however, Smith was not listed among those Members who ‘stood for the true religion’ in Mary’s first Parliament. He is given no style on the Crown Office list which records his return for Chippenham, where at least one townsman had been elected to Mary’s first Parliament, and it is conceivable that he belonged to a neighbouring family of prosperous clothiers, the Smiths of Corsham. The same might be true of his fellow-Member, Thomas Smith III, but neither man has been identified as such and they are not known to have been related to each other. A William Smith was left 20 marks by the will (made in 1547) of an earlier Chippenham Member, William Button I.2

It therefore seems likely that William Smith was a royal official who rose in favour under Mary and who held no property in either of the boroughs where he was elected. If so, he may have been the William Smith, esquire, whom Mary made a clerk of the Council in July 1553, in return for his services at Framlingham. Smith and Francis Allen, who was similarly rewarded, received annuities of £50, which exceeded the previous wages of their office, and in October 1558 the former was also granted for life ‘the office of clerk of Hell’, otherwise called the clerkship of the treasure-house of the common pleas. Neither will nor inquisition survives for this man, which makes it even more difficult to distinguish his career from those of his many namesakes. In 1565 he obtained a lease of the Dorset manor of Gillingham and on 23 Dec. 1566, the last occasion when he is recorded as a clerk of the Council, he secured a lease of the rectory of St. Austell, his only known link with Cornwall. He was dead by 24 Feb. 1568, when his son William wrote in Latin to Cecil complaining that he had been left destitute and seeking admission as a Queen’s scholar.3

It is uncertain whether the clerk of the Council can be identified with the younger of two William Smiths who were already landowners in Bedfordshire. A William Smith had served as a commissioner for t