John Smythe

John Smythe (1557 - 1608)

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Sir John Smythe
Born in Londonmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Kentmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Kentmap [uncertain]
Profile last modified | Created 31 Mar 2011
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Categories: All Hallows Lombard Street, City of London | Ashford, Kent.



He was baptised John Smith on 16 Sep 1557 at All Hallows, Lombard Street, London[1].

John was recorded in the visitation of London in 1568[2] as the second son of Thomas Smythe and Alice Judde, age 9 years and 5 months (and hence born perhaps in 1558). However, his brother Thomas, was recorded as being less than 9 months younger suggesting the ages may not be particularly accurate.

John Smythe married Elizabeth Fineux / Fineaux. Their forthcoming marriage was noted in a letter from the London lawyer William Fletewoode to Lord Burghley of 08 Aug 1575[3]. He wrote "I heare that Mr. Customer Smithe maketh a great mariage this nexte weke, between his sone and the daughter and heire of Mr. Fenex of Kent. This mariage shall be in Kent".

John and Elizabeth had 8 children (2 sons and 6 daughters), all but three (Katherine, Elizabeth and Thomas) predeceased their parents (see memorial inscription).

The portrait of John Smythe is believed to be by Cornelius Ketel, painted in 1579[4]. On the painting is written aetatis 23 (meaning age 23 or in the 23rd year), hence year of birth 1556-1557. The portrait is at the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

John was a co-executor of the will of his father, the will made on 22 May 1591 and proved on 29 October 1591[5]. In the will John was bequeathed plate to the value of £100. John erected a fine memorial to his father in the church of St Mary the Virgin in Ashford, Kent.

On the death of his father, John Smythe inherited Westenhanger in Kent and a number of other Manors.

John was a beneficiary of the will of his mother, Alice, the will made on 10 Jul 1592[6]. The will referred to John having four daughters: Alice, Margaret, Katherine and Elizabeth.

John was appointed a co-executor of the will of his brother, Roberte Smithe, gentleman of London, the will made on 01 Dec 1600 and proved on 28 Jan 1600/1601[7]. His brother bequeathed to him his maps and map books.

John Smith of 'Osterhanger' [Westenhanger], Kent, was knighted on 11 May 1603 at the Charterhouse[8].

Sir John Smythe was recorded in the Smythe pedigree taken during the visitation of Kent in 1619 as John Smyth of Ostenhanger, husband of Elizabeth Fineux, daughter of John Fineux Esq of Herne, Kent[9]. The visitation recorded the issue of John and Elizabeth as: Catharine; Elizabeth; and Thomas.

In the will of his brother, Sir Thomas Smythe, made on 30 January 1621/1622 and proved 12 October 1625, Sir John Smythe was noted as being deceased[10].

Sir John Smythe died on 29 Nov 1608[11] and was buried in Ashford, Kent on 12 Jan 1608/1609[12].

Memorial to Sir John Smythe

There is a memorial to Sir John Smyth and his wife in St Mary the Virgin, Ashford, Kent. The inscription reads[13]:

To the Memorye of Sir John Smyth, of Ostenhanger, Knight, and Elizabeth, his wife, daughter and sole heyer of John Fineaux, of Herne, in the County of Kent, Esq., who lived married together about 30 yeares, and had issue two sons and six daughters, whereof three only survived them at the time of their death, whose portraitures are here presented, videlicet, Thomas Smyth, Esq., his sonne and heyer; Katharine, married to Sir Henry Baker, of Sissinghurst, in the county of Kent, Knight; and Elizabeth, marryed to Harry Nevill, the younger, of Billingbere, in the County of Berk. Knight. Erected by Sir John Scott, Sir Rich. Smyth, and Christopher Tolderve, the executors to the said Sir John Smyth.

Summary of the Will of Sir John Smythe

In his will made on 16 Mar 1607/1608, Published and Declared on 27 Nov 1608, and Proved on 25 May 1609, he was recorded as John Smyth of Oastenhanger in the Countie of Kent, knight[14]. His will was to be buried in the Church of Ashford, Kent “or elsewhere as it shall seeme good to my Executors”.

He requested his Executors to renew his Lease of the Parsonage at Herne in his son’s name, and likewise his lease of the Parsonage at Lyme and his Lease at Ware and Colemans. Regarding his lease at Monckton and Thorndon, he hoped this would not need to be renewed before his son, [Thomas], reached the age of twenty one.

He bequeathed his various horses to his brothers Sir Thomas Smyth and Sir Richard Smyth; his brother in law Sir John Scott; and his godsons Sir Henry Fanshawe, Sir John Davy, Sir Arthur Harris and Sir George Hayward. To his nephew, Auditor Fanshawe, and his brother William he bequeathed to each of them twenty pounds to buy them geldings. He also made bequests of money to: his nephews Thomas Butler esq. and John Hayward esq; and to John Smyth the son of his brother Sir Thomas Smyth; John Smyth the son of his brother Sir Richard Smyth; John Smith the son of his brother Robert Smith deceased; and to Thomas Fanshawe the son of Sir Henry Fanshawe, Thomas Fanshawe the son of Auditor Fanshawe and John Sondes the son of Sir Richard Sondes, being his godsons. To his “brother Henry Smyth deceased his poore children fortie poundes a peece to each of them”.

He bequeathed forty pounds to each of his sisters assuring them “that if I had bene out of debt and my state better conditioned then it is I would have dealt more liberally with you.”

To his cousin Henry Smyth of Bayden [Baydon, Wiltshire], he bequeathed one hundred pounds (his debts being paid), and the same sum was bequeathed to Sir John’s “loving and trusty servant Thomas Tavernor”.

He bequeathed an annuity of ten pounds per annum to his cousin and servant Richard Smyth and further bequests were made to other servants.

He bequeathed to his daughter Elizabeth Smyth, for her portion in marriage, three thousand two hundred pounds and stated “which is the like somme I gave my daughter Baker, and is at this tyme owing to her husband Sir Henry Baker knight who is upon the payment thereof to make my daughter a jointure of Six hundred pound a yeare, which I intreate my Executors hereafter named to see it carefully performed.”

He bequeathed to his grandson and godson, John Baker, one hundred pounds; and to his son in law Sir Henry Baker, two of his “best coach horses and my best coach with their furniture”.

With regard to his Manors, Lordships, Lands, Tenements and hereditaments he stated “I doe in all humilitie humbly intreate the Kinges most excellent maiestie that he wilbe pleased to accept of one third part of my foresayd Landes to descend unto my Sonne for his wardship And the other two partes I doe will give and bequeath all the rents proffitts and commodities arysing growing or comming of the foresayd two partes untill my Sonne shall accomplish the age of One and Twentie yeares unto my Executors hereafter named for the better payment of my debts and performance of this my will and last Testament and for the further advancement of my daughters portions.”

If his son should die without male heirs then the Testator listed the line of inheritance for his Manors of Oastenhanger alias Westenhanger, Postling Otterpoole, Ashford and Esture, and his other lands lying in the parishes of Postling, Saltwood, Lyme, Westenhanger, Stanford, Sellenge and Ashford, as follows:

his brother Sir Thomas Smyth of Bytburrow [Bidborough], Kent;

John Smyth the eldest son of his brother Sir Thomas Smyth;

Thomas Smyth the second son of his brother Sir Thomas Smyth;

His brother Sir Richard Smyth of Bromley, Kent;

John Smyth the son of his brother Sir Richard Smyth;

Thomas Smyth the eldest son of his brother Henry Smyth of Amsberry [Amesbury], Wiltshire, deceased;

Henry Smyth the second son of his brother Henry, deceased;

Edward the third son of his brother Henry, deceased;

John Smyth the son of his brother Robert Smyth of Langpoorte [Longport] near Canterbury, deceased.

[Note – the line of inheritance described above aligns with the known male descendants of Thomas (Customer) Smythe living at the time this will was made, although the sequence is different in one respect, Sir John Smyth listed his brother Sir Richard Smyth and his male heirs ahead of his brother Henry Smyth esq.]

If his son, Thomas, should die without a male heir but leave a daughter then Sir John Smyth willed that the said daughter should (i) have all the land which came to him from his wife, which was formerly the land of John Fineux of Herne, Kent, the father of his late wife Elizabeth, she being his only daughter and heir; and (ii) the Manor and Lordship of Whitstable, the lease of the parsonage of Herne and the lease called Ware and Colemans.

If his son, Thomas, should die without a male heir then he bequeathed to his daughter Katherine, the wife of Sir Henry Baker, and his younger daughter Elizabeth, his Manors of Sturrey and Lyd Court near Sandwich and also his marshes and lands in Eyreth Leassues and Plumsted, his lands at Groves ferry, his house and land at Feversham, his leases of Thornden and Monckton, and his lease of the Parsonage of Lyme.

Finally, he made charitable bequests to the poor of Ashford, Herne, Sturrey, Standford, Postling, and St Gabriel Fenchurch in London.

He appointed as his executors his ‘brother’ Sir John Scott, his brother Sir Richard Smyth and his good friend Christopher Toldervie esq.

The Wardship of Thomas Smythe, son of Sir John Smythe

As indicated in the will of Sir John Smythe, and in accordance with the law of the time, Thomas, the son of Sir John Smyth became a Ward of the Crown. “Wardship applied to those landowners who held their estates on a feudal tenure from the Crown. In theory anyone with a wardship was bound to provide military service to the Crown when it was required. However, this had all but died out by the time of James I. When a tenant of the Crown land died and left an underage male heir, the boy became a ward of the Crown. The king/queen was meant to look after the boy until he came of age. However, in practice this responsibility of guardianship was sold off to the highest bidder who used his position to exploit the ward’s land to its greatest extent. The Crown then made more money by requiring the ward to pay for his land once he came of age.” [1]

The wardship of Thomas was acquired by the executors of Sir John Smyth[15].


  1. All Hallows, Lombard Street. Parish Register.
  2. Visitation of London, 1568: With Additional Pedigrees, 1569-90, the Arms of the City Companies, and a London Subsidy Roll, 1589. Publications of the Harleian Society. Vols 109-110. Edited by Stanford H and Rawlins SW. 1963.
  3. Queen Elizabeth and her times. Wright T (Ed). Vol II. 1838.
  4. Hearn K (1995) Dynasties : painting in Tudor and Jacobean England 1530-1630. Tate Publishing.
  5. Will of Thomas Smythe of London. 29 Oct 1591. PROB 11/78/226. National Archives.
  6. Will of Alice Smythe, Widow of London. 11 May 1598. PROB 11/91/377. National Archives.
  7. Will of Robert Smithe, Gentleman of London. 1601. PROB 11/97/37. National Archives.
  8. Shaw W A (1906) The Knights of England. A complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors, incorporating a complete list of knights bachelors dubbed in Ireland. Vols I & II. London. Reprinted 1971.
  9. The Visitation of Kent. Taken in the Years 1619-1621. The Publications of the Harleian Society Vol XLII. Edited by Robert Hovenden 1898.
  10. Will of Sir Thomas Smithe of London (1625). The National Archives. PROB 11/147/84.
  11. Smythe John I (1557-1608), of Westenhanger, Kent. Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981.
  12. Transcript of Burials, Ashford, Kent. Kent Archaeological Society.
  13. Neale J P and Le Keux J (1824) Views of the most interesting collegiate and parochial churches in Great Britain. Vol 1. London.
  14. Will of Sir John Smyth of Ashford Kent. 25 May 1609. PROB 11/113/462. National Archives.
  15. Lease from the King, on the advice of the Court of Wards and Liveries, to Sir John Scott of Nettlestead, Kent, Sir Richard Smyth of Bromley, [Kent], Christopher Tollerbye of the parish of All Hallows, Lombard Street, London, esq, for a period during the minority of Thomas Smyth, the King's ward, son and heir of Sir John Smyth, deceased; concerning lands in Swynfield alias Swinfeld alias Northcourte, Boynton, Berwicke, Stamford, Sellindge, Saltwood, Otterpoole, Postling, Esshetisford alias Ashford, Esture alias Estoure, Bidden, Lidcourte, Estry, Worth and Whitstable, all in Kent; and a survey of the same lands. E 44/3. James 1. National Archives.

Photographed Primary Sources

Smythe Memorials, Ashford church

Secondary Re-Sources

Wikipedia article about John Smith, High Sheriff of Kent

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John Smythe
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