Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Blackmore: Thomas Smyth (died 1592)

In the south east corner of the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore, is the tomb of Thomas Smyth and his wife, Margaret (later Powle). It is in a poor condition, having been described by Muilman (c. 1769) as “very old” and “decayed”, the possible result of neglect or vandalism. It was repaired with brick in the nineteenth century (possibly 1877); and substantially repaired in the early 1960s, at a cost of £600, by a grant from the Pilgrim’s Trust with the balance met by descendents of the Smyth family. Unfortunately, over time some of the kneeling figures and decoration, which surround the tomb, have been lost but nevertheless is still of interest. The picture was taken prior to its repair.

The earliest document we have of the Smyth tomb is from the pen of William Holman, an Essex historian and dissenting minister from Halstead. This may be seen at the Essex Record Office {ERO T/P 195/9]. He wrote extensive notes on Essex parishes and we know that Revd. Phillip Morant drew on these manuscripts when compiling the first definitive survey of the county in 1768 entitled ‘The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex.’

Holman records:

“At the east end of this Chancell is a burial place for the family of Smith which is separated by a wall into which you enter by a dore within the rails of the comunion table. Against the east wall of this is a monument of stone on wch is a man and woman of Alabaster in full proportion, and at their feet a black marble Table with the following Inscription in Gold letters

Heere under lyeth the bodye of Thomas Smith
Esquier extracted owt of the lys of right worth
and worthie Ancestors together ye meoriall
of his wifes and chilren whoe was first married to
Blanch daughter of Nicholas Colsill I ye Coutie
of Midd. Esquier by whom he had 2 sones and 2
daughters & secindlie married to Margarete
daughter & heire to John Turner in ye Countie
of Essex Esquier by whome he had 6 sonnes & 4
daughters which Margaret being after married
to Stephen Powle Knight in performance to him
and his above due sacred rites & in testimonie
to the Worlde and her love & sorrow did dedicate
to present and succeeding ages this sad & lasting
monument. He lived in the feare of God 70
yeares and Dyed in his favour ye 10th of May 1594”

Clearly the inscription has disappeared between 1719 and 1769.

Unfortunately Blackmore’s Burial registers do not survive prior to 1602 but the date of death appears to be incorrectly recorded, either on the original memorial or be the pen of Holman.

There are two documents which help conclude that Thomas Smyth died, in fact, in 1592.

The first is an entry in Thomas Powle’s records dated late 1592, courtesy of Virginia Stern’s biography. In late 1592 he wrote: “I learn of Mistress Smith, widow, whom I hope to marry”. By November 1593 he had married Margaret Turner Smyth, Thomas’ widow.

Secondly, there is an entry in the Essex Archdeaconry Records. On 30 October 1592 we find recorded at High Ongar (Ongar Alto) Church: “Thomas Smith gent dec. intestate. Margaret Smith widow adnix: present by Rich. Stane” [ERO D/AZ/2/5]. It is said that Thomas Smyth wrote a will, borne out by Stern’s work in which he dates the will as 15 February 1590/1591, but the Court records that he died intestate. This may explain the battle over the inheritance which Stern refers to between Margaret and the brother and son of Thomas’ first wife, Blanche.

A review of the Smyth papers is necessary but the evidence here seems persuasive that Thomas Smyth died in 1592 not 1594.

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