Great Grandfathers Family

3. The Smith family

The Smith family has been traced,with difficulty, back to about 1666, which marked the birth of William Smith. Nothing is known of his parents except they lived in Walsall, Staffordshire and he was christened at St Mathews Church, Walsall. He appears to have no other siblings. The first definite information relates to his marriage on 16/2/1698 to Ann Bacon at Ettingham, Warwickshire.


Records have been found of only one son but more may exist:


James               b1698 


James was born in Walsall and christened at St Mathews Church. No other records relating to his life have been found save that he married one Margaret Blencoe (b1698 in Walsall) on 26/5/1716 in Walsall. They had two children:


William b1720 Walsall

James               b1723 Walsall


James married Mary Smith (b 1727 in Walsall), surnamed Smith (but this may be misleading as a maiden name) in Walsall in 1765.They had 5 children, all recorded as having been christened in Walsall, although no church is named and no specific dates can be found.


George             b1771

Francis             b1773

Thomas            b1775

Mary                b1777

James               b1779


Thomas married Ann Maria Hunt in Croxdon, Staffs. On 19/3/1791.They had only one discovered son


Frederick Bentley                     b 1/9/1799 Walsall c 1/9/1799 St Mathews Walsall


Frederick married Jane Howes (b1806) on 4/12/1827 at St Marys Church, Handsworth Birmingham. He was recorded in Whites Directory of Staffordshire (1845) as being a cordwainer (shoemaker). They had 10 (discovered) children:


Joseph Howes              b1829

Ann                              b1831

Frederick*                   b1832              c 30/1/1832

Thomas                        b1833              c 6/8/1833

John**                         b1835              c 2/8/1935

Jane Howes                  b1838              c 14/1/1838    

Samuel Bentley b1840              c 5/8/1840

Bentley             b1841

William***                   b1842

Henry                           b1846              c 28/9/1846


All were christened at St Mathews Church, Walsall.


Frederick Bentley had died in December 1868 and, at the time of the 1881 Census, his widow Jane was living at 5, St Pauls Terrace, Walsall together with children Thomas (b1833) unmarried and a clerks factor, Jane Howes (b1838) unmarried, no occupation, and Henry (b1846) a brown saddler. She is recorded as an annuitant (a pre-pension provision made by her husband) and employed one live in servant. None of the other children, except where noted, have yet been traced.


Mona Hildick-Smiths letter records the following:


Great-Grandfather Smith (Frederick Bentley b 1799), I didn’t know anything very much except he was a leather merchant and had a huge warehouse, where the leather was hung on racks ready to be made into goods-Great-Grandfather didn’t make the goods only sold the leather.”


And with reference to her Great Grandmother Jane:


She was the dearest old lady and we used to go and see her every week (She died in 1908 aged 102). She was the mother of 12 childre, 8 boys and 4 girls”


(My research shows she died in March 1908, her given age being 101.)


I have records of only 10 children as above, 8 boys and 2 girls so this is a bit of a mystery. It is further confused by another extract from Monas letter:


Again I don’t know what they (the 12 children) did or anything about them except Edwin, he was supposed to be not much good and was sent to Australia- if he didn’t do anything in England, he did in Australia- he designed the city of Melbourne- for which he was knighted and I believe somewhere in Melborne there is a statue in his memory”


This again causes a bit of a problem as I have discovered only one Edwin Thomas Smith and seemingly not related. He was indeed born in Walsall in 1830 and emigrated to Adelaide, not Melborne, and was  knighted after a lifetime of political service there. His father and mother were Edwin Smith and Ann Gould and I can find no link between these two and the children of  Frederick and Jane. Mona seems so clear on this and much of the rest of the letter is so accurate I find it strange that this part does not tie in. 

However, I have recently had contact with Lindsay Brown, whose father, Herbert Smith OBE, JP was Mayor of Walsall in 1964/65. He was the grandson of Edwin Smith 1804-1887. He was the son of Thomas Smith who I suspect is the same Thomas who was father to Frederick Bentley. I had previuosly only identified one son (Frederick Bentley). Lindsay says she always thought Thomass wife was called Ann Bates so maybe Thomas was twice married. In any case Edwin had many children, his eldest being (later) Sir Edwin Thomas Smith. She has a photo album with pictures of all the family including Joseph Howes Smith and I hope to obtain coies of these.

Other members of the family in from 1881 census records include:


Frederick* became vicar of Aston Brook and in 1881 was living with his wife Juliette and 6 children at St Marys Vicarage, Aston. They employed 3 live in servants, a cook, housemaid and nurse. I think this is the same church where his parents were married in 1827. He also officiated at the wedding of his niece Mary Jane Howard Smith who in 1883 married John Hildick, Sarah Hildicks brother, who was later to inherit Gospel Oak, Lapworth.


John** is recorded as married to Ann and living at 22, Winter Street, West Derby, Lancashire. They had 7 children (in 1881) and he was employed in his own right as a marine store dealer.


William*** is recorded as married to Sarah (Lyon), has 4 children and is living at 39, Lyesway, Walsall. He is employed as a currier, probably by his brother Joseph.


Joseph Howes was married to Mary Jane Attwood on 18/8/1853 at The Parish Church, Handsworth, Stafford.. She was the daughter of  Charles (described as “Gentleman” on the wedding certificate) and Sarah Attwood of Handsworth, Birmingham.


Joseph and Mary had 3 children.


Mary Jane Howard*     b1855

Frederick Charles         b21/5/1858      Place of birth given as 95, Lichfield Road, Walsall

**Lizzie Attwood         b1865              d 1891


Joseph Howes is recorded as living at Brookfield”, Walsall Foreign, Staffs in the census of 1881. The family had obviusly moved from Lichfield Road sometime after Fredericks birth in 1858. He employed 27 men and 3 boys and is recorded as being a master currier (a tanner, curer and dealer in animal hides).

Records held at the leather Museum in Walsall records Joseph Howes Smith having a tannery and leather curriers works at 2, Warewell Street, Walsall in 1861. He was a man of influence in Walsall, became involved in local government and was elected Mayor of Walsall once, in 1884.

In view of the fact that John Hildick was also a Mayor (in 1867 and 1868), both the Smiths and the Hildicks were obviously prominent business families of Walsall and probably aquainted. This may be how Sarah Hildick and Frederick Charles Smith met and eventually married. Mary Jane also married Sarah Hildicks brother John Hildick.


Joseph died in 1888 and Mary in 1902.


*Mary Jane Howard Smith was a witness  to the marriage of her brother Frederick to Sarah Hildick in 1883 and she later married Sarahs brother John.


**Lizzie Attwood was also a witness to Mary Janes wedding.


 Monas letter records what happened to Lizzie:


I must tell you about Aunt Lizzie-she died of a broken heart- she was very much in love with a man who owned a chemists shop in Walsall and her Mother (Mary) wouldn’t let her marry him and so she just died”


Frederick Charles met Sarah Hildick and on 12/9/1883 they married in Lapworth Parish Church and the Hildick-Smiths were about to be born.