SMITH, Sir Culling Eardley, 3rd bt. (1805-1863), of Bedwell Park, Herts. and Hadley, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 21 Apr. 1805, o.s. of Sir Culling Smith, 2nd bt. (d. 1829), of Bedwell Park and Hadley and Hon. Charlotte Elizabeth Eardley, da. and coh. of Sampson Eardley†, 1st Bar. Eardley [I], of Belvedere, Kent and Spalding, Lincs. educ. Eton 1820; Oriel, Oxf. 1823. m. 9 Feb. 1832, Isabella, da. of Thomas William Carr of Eshott, Northumb., 1s. 2da. suc. fa. as 3rd bt. 30 June 1829; took name of Eardley by royal lic. 14 May 1847. d. 21 May 1863.
Smith’s maternal great-grandfather was Sampson Gideon, a wealthy Sephardi Jew and London stockbroker. In an early indication of the strength of his own Protestant convictions, although he obtained a second class degree in classics at Oxford he never graduated because he objected to ‘some portions of the oaths’ involved.1 In 1829 he succeeded to his father’s baronetcy, the Bedwell and other landed estates and the residue of personalty which was sworn under £30,000.2 The following spring he expressed an interest in contesting Hertford at the next general election, but Lord Salisbury ‘decidedly’ objected to this, remarking that ‘he is a man of considerable fortune, young, and does not appear to have any wish to attach himself to my party or to come in under my auspices’.3 At the dissolution that summer his cousin reported that ‘our new conservator’ was canvassing the open borough of Pontefract, where he appears to have been the popular candidate. On the hustings he declared that in view of ‘the influence which the government of this country exercised abroad’, the ‘extensive colonies which submitted to an English king’ and ‘the numerous interests, commercial, agricultural and manufacturing, which the unbiased statesman had equally to uphold and protect’, he was resolved to ‘be guided by what should seem to him to tend most to the welfare of the nation’; it was ‘not for him to enter into the details of these subjects’. He adverted to the precarious state of France, where he hoped Britain would ‘abstain from all interference’, and delivered a eulogy on the prime minister the duke of Wellington, a distant relative (his great-uncle had married the duke’s sister), describing him as ‘fearless in war’ but ‘not alarmed in peace’. He was returned at the head of the poll.4
The ministry regarded him as one of their ‘friends’, and he voted with them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented an anti-slavery petition from Pontefract Wesleyans, 5 Nov. 1830, and one from the inhabitants for the declaration of a day of general fasting, 15 Feb. 1831. When Lord John Russell introduced the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 1 Mar., Smith, in his only known speech, was the second Member to respond, professing his anxiety to ‘support the true interests of his country’. After much consideration he had concluded that, given the changing circumstances of the country, there now existed ‘a necessity for some reform’. He was convinced that ‘the influence of the aristocracy is entirely too great in the House’ and that ‘in curtailing it to a considerable extent we deprive them of no right’. He approved ‘in principle’ of the proposed measure, but had reservations about ‘some of the details’, believing that ‘the plan proceeds too much on the principle of population and too little on that of property’; ministers would have ‘done better’ to ‘base it more on the wealth of many towns and districts’. There was also ‘one striking deficiency’ in that the bill made ‘no provision for the more effectual prevention of bribery and corruption’. Having served on an election committee he was granted a month’s leave to attend to private business, 7 Mar., and was therefore absent from the division on the second reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar. However, he voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. He quietly retired at the ensuing dissolution. He attended the Hertfordshire county meeting on reform, 5 May 1831, when he reportedly made a ‘milk and water speech’.5
Smith subsequently emerged as a prominent Evangelical campaigner and religious philanthropist. He offered again for Pontefract in 1837 as a Liberal, standing on ‘purity’ principles, but was defeated. He unsuccessfully contested Edinburgh in 1846 as an anti-Maynooth candidate, and again failed to win a seat when he stood for the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1848. He founded the Evangelical Alliance in 1846 and was involved in the work of the London Missionary Society; he was particularly interested in improving the condition of the Jews abroad. He harboured a wish to see the Church of England disestablished and its liturgy reformed along more strictly Protestant lines, and expounded his views in several published letters. In 1847, following the death of his cousin, the 9th Lord Saye and Sele, he succeeded to the Belvedere estate of his maternal grandfather Lord Eardley, to which he had been nominated as heir in 1812.6 As the last representative of the Eardley family he assumed that name in lieu of Smith. He died in May 1863 after a three-week illness caused by a revaccination against smallpox.7 His title and the Belvedere estate passed to his only son Eardley Gideon Culling Eardley (1838-75). He left Bedwell Park and the Kettlethorpe estate in Lincolnshire to his daughters Frances and Isabella respectively, and the Heugh estate in Northumberland to his nephew Hugh Culling Eardley Childers, a future Liberal cabinet minister. His gift to the nation was Flight into Egypt by the Spanish artist Bartolme Esteban Murillo.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Martin Casey
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1863), ii. 110.
- 2. PROB 11/1759/452; IR26/1209/295.
- 3. Hatfield House mss 2M/Nicholson, Nicholson to Salisbury, 25 Apr., reply, 28 Apr. 1830.
- 4. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. J. W. Childers to Milton, 18 July; Leeds Mercury, 24 July; Leeds Intelligencer, 5 Aug. 1830.
- 5. Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen. Sutton to Salisbury, 6 May 1831.
- 6. PROB 11/1695/65; 1759/452.
- 7. The Times, 22 May 1863.