SMITHSON, Hugh (c.1662-1740), of Tottenham High Cross, Mdx., and Armin, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Feb. - Nov. 1701
1702 - 1705
1710 - 1722

Family and Education

b. c.1662, s. of Anthony Smithson of Tottenham High Cross and Armin by Susanna, da. of Sir Edward Barkham, 1st Bt.†, of South Acre, Norf.  educ. Charterhouse; St. John’s, Camb. 29 Mar. 1680, aged 18; G. Inn 1681, called 1688, bencher 1709.  m. (1) 16 Apr. 1691, Hester (d. 1698), da. of Michael Godfrey of Woodford, Essex, sis. of Peter Godfrey†, 3s. d.v.p. 4da. d.v.p.; (2) 26 Dec. 1717, Constantia (d. 1726), da. of Henry Hare†, 2nd Baron Coleraine [I], and sis. of Hugh Hare*, s.psuc. fa. 1688.

Offices Held

Commr. building 50 new churches 1711–15.1


Smithson was descended from a cadet branch of a Yorkshire family based in the vicinity of Richmond. His father, a younger son of Sir Hugh, 1st Bt., inherited estates at Tottenham and Armin, and forged for himself a successful career as a barrister at Gray’s Inn. The young Smithson followed him into the legal profession, and maintained the family residence at Tottenham High Cross. In 1691 he married into the influential City household of the Godfreys, and three years later subscribed to the first Bank issue. Although investing in this Whig-dominated institution, he was prepared to make an unsuccessful challenge to the Court interest at the Middlesex election of August 1698. He was returned for the county in January 1701, but proved inconspicuous in the House, failing to make any significant contribution to Commons business. Blacklisted for having opposed preparations for war with France, he was unable to maintain his seat at the second contest of the year, only managing fourth position in the Middlesex poll.2

The accession of Queen Anne helped to revive Tory fortunes, and Smithson duly benefited by securing one of the Middlesex seats at the election of July 1702. He again failed to make much of an impact at Westminster. His politics remained consistent, for he was listed as one of the Members who on 13 Feb. 1703 voted against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill to extend the time to take the Abjuration. Moreover, in the third session he was forecast as a probable supporter of the Tack, and on 28 Nov. 1704 voted for the measure. This controversial stance undermined his candidacy for the county election of May 1705, when he finished bottom of the poll. Although no longer in Parliament, he did not neglect his party’s interest, supporting in 1707–8 an unsuccessful campaign to close a Quaker school at Tottenham. In this endeavour he worked closely with Lord Coleraine (Henry Hare†) who praised Smithson as ‘greatly esteemed and of fair reputation’.

Smithson did not contest the general election of 1708 or the Middlesex by-election of March 1709, but the Tory euphoria which followed the trial of Dr Sacheverell encouraged his county allies to put him forward in October 1710. He came second in the poll, and was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the new parliament. In contrast to his earlier inactivity, he was now much more prominent, being first-named in January 1711 to the committee on the Tory-backed petition of St. Olave’s, Southwark for relief from the burden of the poor Palatines. He was later noted as one of the ‘worthy patriots’ who in the first session detected the mismanagements of the previous Whig administration, and was also cited as a ‘Tory patriot’ for opposing the continuation of the war in 1711. Furthermore, he sought to advance the High Church cause by serving as a commissioner for building 50 new churches in the metropolis.3

In the second session Smithson again supported the Tory crusade against corruption. Moreover, in the course of the session he was identified as a member of the October Club. He proved a keen sponsor of local legislation, being chosen for the drafting committees for two Middlesex highway bills. His professional abilities may also have recommended his appointment to the committee examining bankruptcy laws. In the final session he reverted to inactivity, but there can be little doubt that he maintained the party line, since he stood alongside the Tory Hon. James Bertie* at the general election of 1713, and secured an unopposed return.

In the new Parliament Smithson appeared principally concerned with trading issues, being appointed to the drafting committees for bills to curb wool smuggling, and to encourage the tobacco trade. He was again selected to draft a local highway bill, and his legal expertise may have helped in the preparation of a bill to prevent the theft and killing of cattle. He found the Hanoverian succession no bar to continued parliamentary success, achieving a comfortable victory at the Middlesex election of January 1715. Three parliamentary lists identified him as a Tory, and he subsequently proved a stubborn opponent of the ministry. He did not contest his seat in 1722, perhaps due to the death of his last surviving son only four days before the poll, and retired from active politics. However, he remained an important local figure, promoting the establishment of a charity school for girls at Tottenham. He outlived all his children, so that on his death on 4 Sept. 1740 his ‘large estate’, valued by one observer at ‘very near, if not quite £3,000 a year’, passed to his kinsman Sir Hugh Smithson, 4th Bt., who by that time had already become a Member for Middlesex.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Perry Gauci


  • 1. Whitaker, Richmondshire, i. 214.
  • 2. H. G. Oldfield and R. R. Dyson, Hist. Tottenham High Cross, 96; DZA, Bonet despatch, 6/16 July 1694.
  • 3. J. Besse, Life and Posthumous Works of Richard Claridge, 198–226; Oldfield and Dyson, app. 34; Whitaker, Richmondshire, i. 214; London Rec. Soc. xxiii. 184.
  • 4. PCC 259 Browne; Gent. Mag. 1740, p. 469; The Commons 1715–54, ii. 429.