SMITH, William I (d.1591), of Wells, Som.
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Family and Education
Freeman, Wells 1555, master of guild of merchants 1567, 1576.
There were two contemporary William Smiths at Wells: one, a capper, became a freeman in 1555 and the other, a tailor, in 1558.3 The former, who is the 1586 MP, was one of the pledges when the latter became a freeman. Smith twice held an office equivalent to that of mayor at a time when Wells was struggling to free itself from the domination of Bishop Berkeley, and in 1576 the dissension between the bishop and the borough came to the notice of the Privy Council, who held an inquiry. The bishop thereupon required Smith
to lay down and not use and carry abroad before him his maces within the said borough until the matter in question was tried in law or otherwise determined
but Smith refused. It was eventually agreed that the bishop, for a price, would waive his claims and the city be granted a new charter. When the bishop tried to resile from his agreement, the Privy Council ordered him to perform it, ‘in consideration that many disorders are grown by means of that controversy within the town of Wells’.4
Smith died in 1591. His will5 contains bequests to the poor of Wells as well as to his children, his nephew and ‘Thomas Smith of Lichfield my brother’. He asked to be buried in St. Cuthbert’s church beside his late wife, and affirmed his hope of forgiveness through the blood of God, which would bring him to rest with the elect saints for ever.