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Blackmore Area Local History

Thomas Smyth (1524? - 1592)

Thomas Smyth succeeded his father, John, as Lord of the Manor of Blackmore. 
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Includes an extract from ‘Blackmore. A Short History’.

Thomas Smyth (1524? – 1592)

Thomas Smyth succeeded his father John Smyth as Lord of the Manor.  He did not appear to be a great supporter of the local church. The Visitation Return for 1572 records “that the parishe is pore and the tabell not as it ought to be, and the parish not able to buy a newe” [ERO. D/AZ/1/11].

Thomas’ relationship with the parishioners was not a harmonious one. In 1577, he appeared before the Archdeaconry of Essex Court accused, “with others openly in service time in the church made a brawl to the disquieting of the parson and the people gathered together” [Emmison. Elizabethan Life. Morals and the Church Courts (1973) p115].  He confessed that there were “high words”. Four years later he caused a rift when he removed the right of the parishioners to use the chancel, but the parishioners, who used the Church, claimed that both the Church and Chancel was theirs as an ancient right of use. 

The Essex Record Office has the original document of the case: “Parishioners de Blackmore v. Smith”, made before the Archdeacon of Essex, in 1583. Four parishioners gave evidence, one of whom was John Symond. 

JOHN SYMOND, of Blackmore, husbandman, [there about lxxv annos (75 years)] a native of Brentwood, aged 80, deposed to living in this parish the best part of his life and well remembered the religious house which sometime stode adjoining the church … pulled down by Sir Thomas Tuke… and left the part standing which lately was used for the chancell that Mr. Smith in controversies between him and the parishns did shut it up …  which was no pte of Blackmore Church, but pcel of the Priory.

The Courts upheld the parishioners’ claim but there is evidence to suggest that Thomas Smyth did not willingly relent.    
Thomas Smyth died in 1592.  His memorial is in the south east corner of the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore.  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.  Originally it had an epitaph, which according to William Holman (1719) read:

"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”

The tomb 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 shows the tomb before repair. 

Recent evidence suggests that Thomas Smyth died in 1592, not 1594.  For more, see the page devoted to Stephen Powle who became the husband of Margaret Smyth in 1593.
Last updated: 9 January 2010