Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Thomas Smith I (c.1529–1601)

Mayor of Oxford 1585/6, 1590/1, 1595/6, and 1600/1

Thomas Smith I (or Smyth or Smythe) was (according to Anthony Wood) the fourth son of Richard Smith of Cuerdley (near Warrington) in Lancashire. His grandfather, Robert Smith, a gentleman of Cuerdley, was the eldest son of Robert Smith of Polehouse in Lancashire. (The younger brother of that Robert Smith, who was Thomas Smith’s great-uncle, was William Smith, Bishop of Lincoln and founder of Brasenose College, Oxford.)

Thomas Smith was an Oxford brewer, and the head of a dynasty that became one of the most important families in Oxford by the end of the sixteenth century.

Smith was admitted free as a hanaster in the mayoral year 1550–1.

On 24 May 1553 at St Aldate’s Church, Thomas Smith married Rose Buckner, the daughter of William Buckner of Botley and Dorothy Huckvale (who in turn was the daughter of Robert Huckvale of St Mary Magdalen parish). Anthony Wood stated: “From Thomas and Rose are descended all the Smiths of St Aldate’s parish”, and their children included:

  • Agnes Smith
  • Alice Smith
  • Thomas Smith (possibly the child baptised on 6 July 1566 at St Aldate's Church, but described as eldest son)
  • William Smith
  • Peter Smith (baptised on 24 December 1560 at St Aldate's Church)
  • John Smith (baptised on 16 April 1562 at St Aldate's Church).

In October 1556 Thomas Smith acted as auditor for St Thomas’s parish. He first came on to the council in September 1565, and was made a Chamberlain in September 1566.

In April 1568 he paid twenty shillings for the Lottery in the South-West Ward, by far the highest contribution in Oxford. In September that year he was elected a Bailiff.

on 25 December 1561 Thomas Smith took on Richard Smith of Cuerdley, Lancashire as an apprentice brewer: he was the son of Richard Smith and thus was probably his younger brother. Seven years later on 25 December 1568 he took on another apprentice, again from Cuerdley, called Thomas Fletcher of Cuerdley.

In 1571 Thomas Smith became Master of the Guild of Brewers. In November 1571 he took on the responsibility of supplying two load horses to work at the Castle Mills, and in September 1572 was granted for 21 years the reversion of William Richardson’s lease of a tenement in the South-East Ward on Denchworth Bow (the arch by which the road crossed the Shire-lake between 34 and 35 St Aldate’s). In August 1578 he was granted the lease of the game of swans.

In 1577 his son, Peter Smith, died at the age of 17 and was buried in St Aldate’s Church on 4 August, and on 8 June 1579 his eldest daughter Agnes Smith married Ralph Flexney (who was himself to be Mayor in 1612) in that church.

In the mayoral year 1579–80 his eldest surviving son John Smith was admitted free.

In 1581 the Vice-Chancellor of the University tried to impose a rota on brewing, but Smith refused to accept it and was imprisoned.

His first wife, Rose Smith, was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 7 September 1582. He soon married again: his new young wife was Alice Mayot, daughter of Richard Mayot of Abingdon. They had two sonsaaaa:

  • Oliver Smith (baptised on 21 November 1584 at St Aldate's Church)
  • Ralph Smith (baptised on 7 September 1592 at St Aldate's Church).

In 1583 Thomas Smith was elected on to the Mayor’s Inner Council, and is henceforth described as a “gentleman”. In October 1585 he was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1585/6), and immediately nominated his son John, to come straight on to the Common Council as a Chamberlain. The following September he paid a gilt penny to obtain the freedom of his second son, Oliver, who was to be sworn in when he reached the age of 21. Anthony Wood says of Smith:

This mayor, with William Noble and other burgesses, shut the Gild hall dore against the Vice-chancellor, when he came to keep court there.

On 14 September 1590 Smith was elected Mayor a second time (for 1590/1). On 20 October 1590 his son, William, was admitted on to the council for 9s. 6d.

On 25 March 1593 he took on another apprentice brewer, Thomas Phelp of Warborough.

On 16 June 1595 Smith was elected an Alderman, and is believed soon afterwards to have built 1 and 2 Brewer Street for himself.

Arms of the Smith family



The arms of the Smith family of Cuerdley (described by Anthony Wood as being “parted per pale or and gules, 3 fleurs-de-luces counterchanged”) can be seen in a window of the Lord Mayor’s Parlour (right), overlooking St Aldate’s Street.


In September 1600 Thomas Smith was elected Mayor a third time (for 1600/1), but died in office

† Thomas Smith died in 1601 and was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 19 July.

His young second wife Alice Smith was buried there twenty years later on 2 June 1621.

Anthony Wood states that the graves of the Smiths were at the upper end of the body of St Aldate's Church, under the north wall.

See also:

  • Oliver Smith, Mayor of Oxford 1619/20, 1624/5, and 1631/2 (his son)
  • Thomas Smith II, Mayor of Oxford 1638/9 and 1643/4 (his grandson, Oliver’s son)
  • John Smith, Mayor of Oxford 1639 (his grandson, Oliver’s son)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/98/102 (Will of Thomas Smith or Smythe, Brewer and Alderman of Oxford, proved 6 July 1601)
  • PCC PROB 11/99/139 (Sentence of Thomas Smith of Oxford, 19 February 1602)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 September, 2018

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