The Reverend William Smyth of Great Linford
William Smyth was born in 1761, the son of the Reverend Edmund Smyth (who had previously occupied the living of Great Linford) and Dorothea Shan, the sister of Lawson Shan, the Rector of Great Linford between 1762-1770.
William matriculated to Christ Church, Oxford University on March 15th, 1780, at the age of 19, and received a B.A on November 11th, 1783 and his M.A on July 8th, 1786. He was appointed on July 18th, 1786, to the living of Great Linford by Sir Roger Newdigate and William Bagot, the Trustees of the widowed Francis Uthwatt of the Manor House.
William married circa 1790 a Susannah Ray of Tannington, Suffolk; we know at least three children were born at the Rectory to the couple. The eldest son, William, born 1791, married a Mary Ray of Tannington, so surely a cousin. Mary rather oddly, and as reported in several newspapers at the time, died in Sorrento, Italy, in 1839. What she was doing there must for now remain a mystery. William appears to have been for a time Curate of Little Linford and rector of Broughton, but in 1854 was appointed Vicar of Elkington in Lincolnshire. A second son, Edmund, born circa 1793 also found a religious calling, and in 1851, we find him as the Vicar of South Elkington. William and Susannah’s only known daughter, also Susannah, born 1797, married a cousin, Henry Locock in 1825, but was widowed in 1843 and passed away at Elkington in 1855.
We can follow William’s activities over and beyond the routine ecclesiastical duties of marriages, baptisms and funerals through various newspaper accounts. In 1802, a report in the March 6th edition of the Northampton Mercury names him as a subscriber to the intriguingly entitled, “Newport Pagnell Association for the prosecution of Felons and Robbers.” In 1819, William is reported to have chaired a meeting of the Newport Pagnell “Bank for savings”, which going by the list of savers, including 23 male servants, 30 female servants, 15 lacemakers and 171 minors, would appear to have been an enterprise designed to help the poorer elements of society save a few pennies. William was treasurer of the Newport Pagnell district committee of the “Society for the promotion of Christian Knowledge, and in February of 1826 was able to report that £106, 17 Shillings and 5p had been spent on a variety of items for the “poorer inhabitants of the three hundreds of Newport Pagnell”, including 88 bibles, 179 testaments and 197 prayer books. 1828 theft of billhook, for which the felon was imprisoned for one month.
In 1832 he chaired a meeting of the National School at Newport Pagnell, and on a more personal note, in 1836, we find him adding his name to a list of landowners objecting to the proposed route of the South Midland Railway, so clearly at the time he had retained interests in land outside of Buckinghamshire.
We do not know a great deal more about William, though intriguingly, a newspaper notice in 1790 stating that the living of Broughton in Buckinghamshire has been granted to him, alongside with Great Linford, makes reference to the fact that he was Chaplin to his Royal Highness, the Duke of York, second son of King George III. Essentially then, this made him the personal chaplain of the Duke, attending to the religious needs of the family in private, and thus relieving them of the need to attend services in public.
In 1836, and perhaps because William was advancing in age, a Christopher Smyth was appointed as Curate at Great Linford. We know that Christopher was born 1812, so not a son, but certainly he was a close relative of William. Christopher was only Curate for a few years, moving on to assume the living of Little Houghton.
William’s wife Susannah died March 4th, 1835, with William following himself a few years later on December 9th, 1837, having served as Rector for a rather impressive 51 years. He seems to have been a keen reader, as his extensive collection of books is carefully bequeathed in his will, as follows. “I give and bequeath to my said son William Smyth all the books in my library at Great Linford aforesaid I give and bequeath unto my said son Edmund Smyth all the books in my dining parlour at Great Linford aforesaid I give and bequeath unto my daughter Susannah the wife of the said Henry Locock my copy of my Bible and all the books in my study at Great Linford aforesaid.” All this gives us a rather intriguing picture of the interior of the rectory as simply bursting at the seams with books.