Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Oliver Smith (1584–1637)

Mayor of Oxford 1619/20, 1624/5, and 1631/2

Oliver Smith or Smyth or Smythe was was baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 21 November 1584. He was the son of Thomas Smith (four times Mayor of Oxford between 1585 and 1600) and his second wife Alice Mayot.

On 21 September 1586, when he was only two years old, Smith was granted his freedom by his father at the end of his first term as Mayor, but he could not be sworn in until he came of age in 1605, by which time his father had already been dead for four years. Oliver immediately came on to the common council.

Oliver Smith followed his father into the brewing trade and took over his house at 1–2 Brewer Street, adding on the west side a separate house. (Its elaborate carved overmantel and stone fireplace were later transferred to Oxford colleges.)

Oliver Smith married Anne Bussey, the daughter of John Bussey, Rector of Shaldeston in Buckinghamshire, and they had the following children:

  • Thomas Smith (baptised on 11 December 1604 at St Aldate’s Church)
  • Oliver Smith (baptised on 3 July 1606 at St Aldate’s Church)
  • John Smith (baptised on 23 February 1608/9 at St Aldate’s Church).

Soon after the birth of her third son his wife Anne Smith died, and she was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 18 April 1609.

Oliver Smith, a widower of 25, soon married his second wife, Christian Lyford.

In September 1605 Smith was granted a Bailiff’s place for £5, and on 19 January 1618 he was chosen one of the Mayor’s Assistants, paying £5.

In September 1619, at the age of 35, Oliver Smith was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1619/20), choosing his eldest son Thomas Smith as his Chamberlain. In January 1620 (during his term of office as Mayor), he was also elected an Alderman for the South-West Ward.

In September 1624 Alderman Smith was elected Mayor a second time (for 1624/5), choosing John Spencer as his Chamberlain and Richard Spicer as his Child. During his mayoral year plague broke out in Oxford, and King Charles I remained ensconced in Christ Church and would not admit the Mayor or Councillors any access.

In December 1629 the council granted Smith the right to rent for 20s. a year the “Sceller at the Northend of the lower hall for a yeare”, the agreement to be renewed yearly, provided that the City could use it whenever they wished.

In September 1630 Alderman Smith was again elected Mayor, but was unwilling to serve, and paid a fine of £10. The following year, however, he did agree to serve a third term (for 1631/2), and he took up office on 29 September 1631 with his sons Thomas Smith and John Smith in the respective positions of Senior and Junior Bailiffs. He nominated Robert Nicholls as his chamberlain, and Richard Shurley of St Clements as his Child.

In November 1633 Alderman Smith resigned his position as key-keeper. In March 1636 he was appointed Coroner by scrutiny of the house. He was also Commissioner for Barges.

On Monday 29 August 1636 it was agreed that sixty citizens should dress up in their finery to ride out from the Guildhall to meet Charles I on his visit to Oxford:

from thence, togeather with Mr Mayor, shall ride two and two to meete the Kinge accordinge to their places, every Alderman and assistant ridinge uppon their foote Cloathes in their Skarlett gownes with Tippetts, and every of them having a footeman handsomely suted All alike by his side, and both the Bailiffes uppon footecloathes having Skarlett gownes and white staves in their hands.

Alderman Smith, together with his two bailiff sons, would have been at the head of this procession behind the Mayor. That evening the King’s Steward and some of his friends were entertained by the Mayor and his brethren at Alderman Smith’s house in Brewer Street. He died the following spring.

† Alderman Oliver Smith died in 1637 at the age of 53, and was buried at St Aldate’s Church on 13 April. 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.

While his father had left numerous properties in St Aldate’s, Oliver had also acquired properties outside the city in Kennington, Deddington, Abingdon, Buckland, Reading, and Kingsclere in Hampshire. In his will dated 26 February 1634, he left the following bequests:

  • To his second wife, Mrs Christian Smith (née Lyford), his home on the north side of the brewhouse, as well as a life interest in Eastwyck Farm (to pass to their son Oliver after her death)
  • To his eldest son Thomas Smith his brewhouse in St Aldate’s (in occupation of his brother-in-law, John Yate) together with the nearby land at Denchworth, and also property in Berkshire
  • To his son Oliver Smith various leases lands rents and annuities, and jointly to Oliver and his wife (also called CHRISTIAN and née Lyford) all his property in Buckland, Berkshire
  • To his son John Smith his land at Kennington in Berkshire
  • To his sister, Mrs Alice Yate £40
  • To every Freeman in Oxford who was an almsman of St Bartholomew ten shillings and a cassock or a gown, and the same garments to each of the Beadsmen of the city.

Oliver Smith’s eldest son Thomas and third son John are dealt with on separate pages, as they both also served as Mayor.

Of his second son, also called Oliver, Anthony Wood records:

1663, March Oliver Smyth, gent., died at his house in the farther end of Grandpoole [= Grandpont] in the south suburbs of Oxon, F., 20 March 1662/3; and was buried by his ancestors in S. Aldate’s church. This Oliver Smyth was one of the yonger sons of Oliver Smyth, sometimes alderman and twice mayor of Oxon. He left issue by his wife Christian, daughter of … Lyford of Reading in Berks, one only daughter named Anne, married (S., Jan 12, 1660/1) to James Herne of Abendon in Berks, gent., who being a sot and not able to do the part of a husband, she voluntarily left him. She returned, after 18 yeares absence, a little before Xtmas day 1684. Christian Smith was buried by her husband anno 1670. [But Wood has just said that her husband died in 1663: should this read 1660?]

Mar. 20, being Friday, Mr Oliver Smith died and was buried in S. Aldate’s parish. His armes were over him, impaling Lyford of Reading co. Berks or therabouts.

Wood states that the family arms were “argent, on a fess dancettée gules between 3 roses gules seeded or and barbed vert a martlet or Smyth; impaling, gules a maunch or”. He says that Mrs Herne, granddaughter of the Mayor Oliver Smith, left the houses and land which came to her from her father to the “gallant” she lived with, who was called Scrooby.

See also:

  • Thomas Smith I, Mayor in 1585/6, 1590/1, 1595/6, 1600/1 (his father)
  • Thomas Smith II, Mayor in 1638 and 1643 (his son)
  • John Smith, Mayor in 1639 (his son)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/174/124 (Will of Oliver Smith, Alderman of Oxford, proved 13 May 1637)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/177/219 (Sentence of Oliver Smith, Alderman of Oxford, 8 June 1638)
  • Wood’s City of Oxford, Vol. III, p. 189, which states that Oliver Smith, son of Alderman Thomas Smith, married the daughter of Robert Boune, Deputy Recorder of Oxford. It is hard to see when he could have fitted this marriage in

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 21 September, 2018

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