SMYTHE, Sir John I (1557-1608), of Westenhanger, nr. Hythe, Kent
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Family and Education
bap. 16 Sept. 1557, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Thomas Smythe†, Haberdasher, of London and Westenhanger, farmer of customs, 1569-88, and Alice, da. and h. of Sir Andrew Judd, Skinner, of Ashford, Kent, ld. mayor of London 1550-1; bro. of Sir Richard* and Sir Thomas*. educ. G. Inn 1577. m. c.1578, Elizabeth, da. and h. of John Fyneux† of Herne, Kent, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. (4 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1591; kntd. 11 May 1603.1 d. 29 Nov. 1608.
J.p. Kent 1587-d.;2 commr. to inquire aft. Catholic missionaries, Kent 1592, subsidy 1595;3 sheriff, Kent 1600-1;4 commr. sewers, Walland Marsh and Dengemarsh, Kent and Suss. 1604; 5 capt. militia ft. Ashford 1605.6
Dep. gov. Mines Royal 1605-d.7
Smythe’s father, the son of a Wiltshire clothier, sat for Rye and Winchelsea under Queen Mary, and made a fortune in the Elizabethan customs. In 1585 he acquired Westenhanger, three miles from Hythe, and set up his eldest son as a country gentleman, a status with which his interest in the mining of copper was perfectly compatible.8 Smythe regained his seat for the borough of Hythe in 1604 after a lapse of 15 years, together with his father’s old servant, Christopher Toldervey*. During the course of the 1604 session he was named to five committees. He was the last to be appointed to the committee on the bill to reform abuses and deceits in painting (15 June 1604), and five days later the first on the bill to confirm the Elizabethan statute regulating London quays and wharfs. His remaining legislative committees in the opening session were for the removal of obstructions to navigable rivers (23 June), for enabling Sir Christopher Hatton* to sell land (29 June), and for the confirmation of letters patent on compositions made with the Crown (5 July).9 During the recess he was allowed to visit the 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke† alias Cobham) in the Tower, who was bound to him for £3,000. He surrendered the bond in consideration of the remission of £1,600 due from him to the Crown as his father’s executor.10
In the second session Smythe was named to the committees for a naturalization bill (29 Jan. 1606) and an estate bill regarding the Throckmorton family (8 May 1606). He was also among those Members instructed to consider public bills modifying the Cloth Export Act of 1567 (17 Mar. 1606), restricting taxes imposed on merchants (19 Mar. 1606), and encouraging the export of beer (27 Mar. 1606), a trade of special interest to the Cinque Ports. He was the first Member appointed, after the privy councillors, to the revived Hatton estate bill (4 Apr. 1606). This was a matter in which Smythe now had a strong personal interest, because in July 1604 he and Sir John Scott* had entered into a bond which threatened them with the forfeiture of £6,000 if Hatton tried to overthrow the extent on his estate again. In the third session Smythe was named to the committees to confirm Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury in the ownership of Cheshunt vicarage, Hertfordshire (12 Dec. 1606), and to consider another naturalization bill (1 May 1607), on which all the barons of the Cinque Ports were entitled to serve. On 7 May 1607 he was added to the committee on the bill for the punishment of parents of bastard children.11
A devout Calvinist, Smythe drew up his will on 16 Mar. 1608. After declaring that he was ‘most certainly persuaded’ that his sins, ‘which be grievous and heavy’, were forgiven, he announced that his ‘election’ had been ‘sealed up ... before the foundation[s] of the world were laid’. He left horses to his two brothers and to Sir John Scott*, whom he named as co-executors together with his ‘good friend’ Toldervey, and £90 to the poor of Ashford and four other Kentish parishes. Smythe had been in poor health for much of the last five years, and as a consequence he had attended only one of the last eight meetings of the Kent quarter sessions.12 Soon after drafting his will, it seems, he fell ‘into a kind of lethargy’.13 He died on 29 Nov. 1608 and was buried on 12 Jan. 1609 at Ashford, in accordance with his wishes, where a monument was erected to commemorate his 30 years of married life.14 His only surviving son Thomas was created an Irish peer in 1635, becoming Viscount Strangford, and his grandson Philip sat for Hythe in the Restoration Convention.