SMITH, Thomas (1614-1702)

SMITH, Thomas (1614–1702)

cons. 29 June 1684 bp. of CARLISLE

First sat 19 May 1685; last sat 19 Aug. 1689

b. 21 Dec. 1614, s. John Smith, yeoman farmer of Whitewall, Asby, Westmld. educ. Free sch. Appleby-in-Westmld.;1 Queen’s, Oxf. BA 1635, MA 1639, BD 1660, DD 1660. m. (1) c.1655, Catherine (1606-76), da. of Sir George Dalston, bt. of Dalston, Cumb. and wid. of Sir Henry Fletcher, bt. of Hutton Hall, Cumb. s.p. (2) 1676, Anna (c.1631-98), da. of (name unknown) Baddeley and wid. of Richard Wrench, preb. Durham, d.s.p. d. 12 Apr. 1702; will 27 Sept.-8 Oct. 1700.2

Fell. Queen’s, Oxf. 1639; praelector in Hebrew, Oxf. 1639.3

Chap. to Lady Catherine Fletcher, 1652; preb. Durham 1660-84, Carlisle 1660-1; dean Carlisle 1671.

Chap. to Charles II 1660.

Likenesses: mezzotint by J. Smith, 1701, after T. Stephenson.

Thomas Smith, the son of a yeoman farmer, was first cousin to Thomas Barlow, later bishop of Lincoln, with whom he shared the same school and Oxford college.4 As a fellow of Queen’s, Smith would have known Thomas Cartwright, later bishop of Chester, and John Nicholas, son of Sir Edward Nicholas, as well as the future secretary of state, Joseph Williamson (who described Smith as ‘one of the first instruments’ of his fortune).5 The college connection was probably a significant factor in Smith’s future political network. After the surrender of Oxford in 1646, Smith returned to Cumbria where he became chaplain, and later husband, to the widowed Catherine, Lady Fletcher, at Cockermouth. With the marriage, Smith acquired a stepson in the person of Sir George Fletcher (whom he had tutored at Queens). Three years later his stepdaughter, Barbara, married Sir Daniel Fleming, another of Smith’s pupils at Queens.

Smith’s connections served him well at the Restoration. Granted a royal chaplaincy in 1660, Smith sought Williamson’s assistance for the prebend of Durham, where he shared a high church ethos with John Cosin, the bishop, and canon Guy Carleton, later successively bishop of Bristol and Chichester.6 Smith’s refusal to come south in 1660 to receive his doctorate in person led Anthony Wood to mutter that Smith (despite his scholarly merit) was busying himself with his affairs in the north and had obtained both academic and ecclesiastical promotion ‘clancularly’.7 By October 1660 Smith was deeply enmeshed in the role he would act out for the rest of his life: that of information conduit, intermediary and patron. He interceded with both Nicholas and Williamson on behalf of Sir George Fletcher, and was particularly anxious for success, ‘having pledged his credit at Whitehall thereon’, and for Sir Daniel Fleming, whilst warning Williamson that the Cumbrian gentry did not favour the appointment of Charles Howard, soon to be created earl of Carlisle, as governor of Carlisle.8

With his first wife averse to his being a residentiary, Smith gave up ‘the idea of obtaining any other benefice, sinecure or not’ and settled for the Durham prebend. In April 1661 he reported that the Cumberland election, had been won by his stepson Sir George Fletcher and Sir Patricius Curwen, though whether he had been actively engaged in the contest is unclear.9 Smith, Fletcher and Fleming maintained a solid alliance throughout the decade. Their extensive correspondence attests to the close and friendly relationship between Smith and Fleming, one of whose sons later became Smith’s domestic chaplain.10 The state papers for the 1660s similarly attest to a mutually informative correspondence with Williamson that included intelligence reports and newsletters, as well as details of legislation, government activity, diplomatic and foreign affairs. Williamson used Smith as a political informant on the ground, a linchpin in the government’s struggle against radical political activism in the north.

The Appleby by-election of 1668 brought Smith firmly into electoral politics when he campaigned on behalf of Williamson. Smith used ‘all endeavours’ to counter the interest of Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke (on behalf of her grandson Thomas Tufton, the future 6th earl of Thanet). Smith, Fleming and Fletcher sat up into the small hours writing letters of support for Williamson, including an address from the gentry to Lady Pembroke. Smith confirmed that he would be at the hustings if it came to an electoral fight, but predicted (accurately) that Williamson’s attempt was ‘desperate’, since Lady Pembroke ‘has the power of life and death in the matter’.11 Smith’s efforts were, nevertheless, acknowledged when the king directed that he should swap his existing prebend at Durham for a better.12 Smith was fast becoming an important part of the northern establishment. In August 1671 he hosted the commission to view the bishop’s palace (Rose Castle) in a dilapidations suit; its members included the earl of Carlisle and Sir George Fletcher.13 He was perfectly placed for the vacant deanery of Carlisle, where he was installed on 3 Dec. 1671 to the accompaniment of a boys’ choir at Fleming’s expense.14 Although Carlisle’s electoral politics had been dominated by the Howards of Naworth and the Musgraves of Edenhall, the cathedral influence was a significant factor. Smith’s appointment as dean strengthened the Fletcher electoral interest in Carlisle at the expense of the Musgraves, and his appointment coincided with a period in which Carlisle’s factional feuding intensified.15

The June 1675 by-election in Cockermouth placed Smith in an awkward position given his family relationship with Sir George Fletcher. The Percys of Northumberland, Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton, Fletcher, and Fletcher’s own stepson Sir Richard Grahme (later Viscount Preston [S]) were all interest-holders.16 Fletcher backed Grahme’s candidacy; Williamson sought Smith’s assistance for the Percy client, Orlando Gee. It is unclear how far Smith obliged Williamson: in the same month Williamson’s sister-in-law paid to Smith monies due from the Bridekirk quarry (in the vicinity of Smith’s Cockermouth residence), though this may have been coincidental.17 Gee was not elected on that occasion, losing to Grahme.18 In September 1676 Sir Christopher Musgrave (Fletcher’s political adversary) told Williamson that Smith was about to remarry. Smith’s first wife had died only five months earlier, in April. His prospective bride had been a widow since the death of her husband, Richard Wrench, in October 1675.19

Smith’s absence from court for more than seven years was now causing concern; as Williamson informed Fleming in September 1676, ‘I cannot but think it is not well in him, for his own sake, for his friends’ sake, and for the Church’. In November 1677 Fleming wrote to Williamson in an attempt to secure a promotion for Smith either as a bishop or as dean of Durham as part of the ecclesiastical reshuffle that was bound to follow the recent death of Gilbert Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury. Smith, he pointed out, had the advantage of ‘so kind and real a friend’ as Williamson at court but, nevertheless, ‘so many of his juniors have outgone him in preferment’. 20 In response Williamson wrote that:

I am far from forgetting Mr Dean of Carlisle. I have too great obligations to his ancient kindness and favour, to forget him; and I am extremely troubled that he has pleased to separate himself so wholly and so long from all his friends and servants who had otherwise made themselves sure of expressing long ere this their value and service for him.21

Fleming had claimed to be expressing ‘my own private wishes’ so whether Smith himself was seeking further preferment is unclear. In July 1680, however, possibly in response to Williamson’s anxieties, Smith left the north to visit Oxford.22

On 9 Apr. 1684 Smith was nominated to the bishopric of Carlisle.23 His elevation was clearly intended to strengthen the forces of Tory reaction in the north and to augment the activities of Fleming and Fletcher, who were both active in quo warranto proceedings against charters in the north west of England.24 The appointment was not universally welcome. On 16 Apr. John Dolben, archbishop of York, claimed that he had ‘both kindness and esteem’ for the new bishop but did not want to see him promoted since, he suspected, Smith had been put under family pressure ‘to suffer that advancement which will indeed be a suffering to him’. Following his consecration by Dolben, John Lake, then bishop of Bristol, and Nathaniel Crew, bishop of Durham, Smith embarked on a costly refurbishment of Rose Castle.25

As bishop of Carlisle, Smith continued to enjoy the same breadth of political friendships as before, but he now had to overcome increasing physical frailty and a prickly relationship with his zealous archdeacon William Nicolson, later bishop of Carlisle. Almost immediately after becoming bishop, Smith left for Westminster, breaking his journey to visit his cousin, Barlow.26 En route he attempted to intervene in the dispute between Thomas Wood, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury.27 Smith was back at Rose Castle by December 1684, hosting a large gathering of local dignitaries, including the governor and mayor of Carlisle.28 With the death of Charles II in February 1685, Smith rightly anticipated that Sir Christopher Musgrave would stand for Carlisle in the elections for a new Parliament.29 Preston’s brother, James Grahme, was elected, together with Musgrave. It is not clear whether Smith became involved in the contest. In contrast, Smith showed a personal interest in the Cockermouth election on 27 Mar. when Sir Daniel Fleming beat William Wharton into third place by only eight votes. On 22 Apr. Smith informed Fleming that Lord Wharton was investigating the franchise, suspecting that Wharton might dispute the return.30

Three weeks previously Smith had received a command to attend the coronation of James II but protested that his age and ‘great inconvenience’ made the journey difficult at such short notice; he was, nevertheless, in London by the end of April 1685.31 He took his seat on 19 May, the first day of James II’s Parliament. He attended the session for some 57 per cent of sittings (a period in which Fleming was extremely active in the Commons) and was named to two committees.32 While in London, he continued to keep close contact with Daniel Fleming, offering him a lift in his coach to Parliament.33 The session ended on 20 Nov. and by December Smith was back at Rose Castle attending to his social obligations.34

Smith dismissed the rumour that a parliamentary session would be held in April 1686, not least because Sir John Lowther, later Viscount Lonsdale, had paid him a welcome visit and insisted that Parliament would shortly be dissolved. Smith continued to sustain amicable relations with all parties in his diocese, and on 16 Sept. 1686 entertained Fleming, Sir George Fletcher and Sir Christopher Musgrave to defuse yet another factional dispute.35 He was unsurprisingly listed as an opponent of James II’s catholicizing policies. He read over and approved Fleming’s answer to the three questions ‘as both honest and prudent’, adding that he thought ‘most the gentlemen will agree upon one and the same answer’. Yet he was, nevertheless, ‘most anxious that no one should know that I have seen the proposed answer’.36 When he learned of the death of Samuel Parker, bishop of Oxford, in March 1688 he remarked that ‘great pity it is he died not a little sooner’.37 Smith and Fleming exchanged news of the political purges that were taking place locally, including the change of lord lieutenant and alterations to commissions of the peace for Lancashire and Durham.38 In June 1688 when the second Declaration of Indulgence was issued, Smith made it clear that he allied himself with the Seven Bishops: ‘I am resolved to concur with my brethren above in the matter of their late petition, and so – it is believed – will all the rest of the bishops except very few’.39

At the Revolution, the region was secured for William of Orange by Sir John Lowther. Smith was noted as sick at a call of the House on 25 Jan. 1689. He missed the abdication debates of January and February, not attending the Convention and taking the oaths to William and Mary until 27 March. He attended 45 per cent of sittings and was named to 15 committees. On 31 May he opposed the reversal of the two judgments of perjury against Titus Oates, and on 30 July voted for the Lords’ amendments to the bill. On 2 July he also registered his dissent against the impeachment of Sir Adam Blair and others, for conspiracy. Although he had been absent from the House on 11 Mar. when the comprehension bill was introduced into the Lords, he was nevertheless named to the ecclesiastical commission to review the liturgy with a view to comprehension.40 He did not, however, attend when the commission opened on 10 Oct. in the Jerusalem Chamber.41 Whether his failure to attend meant that he was unwilling to be involved in discussions about broadening the Church, or was simply too old to make the effort to attend (he was now in his mid 70s, and had avoided travel to London for most of his life) remains unclear. Smith’s attendance at the House on 19 Aug. proved to be his last. He registered his proxy in favour of Humphrey Humphreys, bishop of Hereford, on 9 Nov. 1689. Thereafter, Smith was consistently noted at calls of the House as being excused and aged. Evidence of his involvement in post-Revolution elections in his diocese is uneven. The Cockermouth elections were still fiercely contested with the Percy interest having been adopted by Charles Seymour, sixth duke of Somerset. It is perhaps an indication of Smith’s own political preference that in March 1690 Sir George Fletcher supported the court supporter Sir Wilfred Lawson on the gentry interest, while the Whig, Goodwin Wharton, was defeated.42 Smith became directly involved in the Carlisle election of 1695 when the Tory Christopher Musgrave secured Smith’s support and that of his clergy and allegedly, ‘all the Jacobite interest’.43 Despite the weight of clerical support, Musgrave lost to the combined Whig alliance of the Howards and Lowthers.

On 6 Feb. 1696 Fleming remarked that Smith had grown ‘very old and infirm’.44 On 26 Feb. 1696 Smith was excused from attending the House to sign the Association. He was summoned to attend the proceedings against Sir John Fenwick, but on 5 Dec. 1696, after reading a letter in which Smith requested leave of absence, the House was satisfied of his inability to attend. Such was his state of health that Evelyn assumed that Carlisle would need a new bishop in the near future.45 The death of Smith’s second wife on 6 Oct. 1698 revealed the continuing strength of Smith’s position. Her burial and funeral banquet were attended by most of the Cumbrian gentry and her body was carried by Charles Howard, 3rd earl of Carlisle, Sir Daniel Fleming, Sir Christopher Musgrave, Sir George Fletcher, Sir Wilfred Lawson and Sir Richard Musgrave.46 Smith’s increasing frailty meant that it was his archdeacon and eventual successor, William Nicolson, who was effectively running the diocese.47

Smith died on 12 Apr. 1702 at the age of 88 at Rose Castle and was buried on 17 Apr. in Carlisle Cathedral next to his second wife. In 1689 Smith had assessed his personal estate as worth £500.48 By the time of his death he had acquired sufficient wealth to leave more than £3000 in legacies and to spend over £5000 on benefactions and public projects in the diocese of Carlisle.49 His largest personal bequests went to his brothers-in-law Richard and Phineas Baddeley, and to his residuary legatee (and executor) his ‘faithful secretary’, John Nicolson, probably the brother of his archdeacon.


  • 1 Flemings in Oxford, ii. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxii), p. xvi.
  • 2 Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. iv. 6-9.
  • 3 Flemings in Oxford, ii. p. xviii.
  • 4 Flemings in Oxford, iii. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxix), 480, 537.
  • 5 Ibid. iii. 329.
  • 6 CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 253, 358, 415; HMC Le Fleming, 27.
  • 7 Wood, Life, i. 346.
  • 8 CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 303, 314, 319, 364, 401.
  • 9 HP Commons 1660-90, i. 182-3.
  • 10 HMC Le Fleming, passim; Bodl. Tanner 22, ff. 190-1.
  • 11 CSP Dom. 1667-8, pp. 171-3, 176, 190, 191, 195, 196, 209, 212-13, 222.
  • 12 Ibid. p. 202.
  • 13 HMC Le Fleming, 82.
  • 14 Ibid. 382.
  • 15 HP Commons 1660-90, ii. 333-4.
  • 16 Ibid. i. 185-6.
  • 17 CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 115, 171.
  • 18 HP Commons 1660-90, i. 185-6.
  • 19 Letters of George Davenport 1651-77 ed. B.M Pask and M. Harvey (Surtees Soc. ccxv), 25.
  • 20 Flemings in Oxford, i. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xliv), 212.
  • 21 Ibid. i. 237.
  • 22 Ibid. i. 318.
  • 23 CSP Dom. 1683-4, pp. 374, 381.
  • 24 HP Commons 1660-90, i. 184-5; ii. 332-3.
  • 25 Wood, Life, iii. 97; Bodl. Add. C302, f. 259.
  • 26 CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 88.
  • 27 Tanner 131, f. 118.
  • 28 Flemings in Oxford, iii. 407-8.
  • 29 HMC Le Fleming, 197.
  • 30 HP Commons 1660-90, i. 185-6; ii. 332-3.
  • 31 Tanner 31, ff. 27, 51.
  • 32 HP Commons 1660-90, ii. 332-3.
  • 33 HMC Le Fleming, 197.
  • 34 Flemings in Oxford, ii. 144-6; HMC Le Fleming, 199.
  • 35 Flemings in Oxford, ii. 188, 372.
  • 36 HMC Le Fleming, 209.
  • 37 Flemings in Oxford, ii. 209.
  • 38 HMC Le Fleming, 209-10.
  • 39 Ibid. 210; Flemings in Oxford, ii. xxii.
  • 40 Lathbury, Hist. Convocation, 321.
  • 41 Carpenter, Tenison, 101.
  • 42 HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 122.
  • 43 Ibid. 113.
  • 44 Flemings in Oxford, iii. 261.
  • 45 Evelyn Diary, v. 257.
  • 46 Flemings in Oxford, iii. 380-2.
  • 47 Nicolson, London Diaries, 4.
  • 48 Chatsworth, Halifax Collection B.77.
  • 49 S. Jefferson, Hist. and Antiq. of Carlisle, 231-2.