Thomas Smith of New Norfolk Street

1745 - 1824


Great-uncle of Spencer Smith (q.v.). It is not yet clear how much of his substantial wealth at death flowed from his slave-ownership in Jamaica and how much from other sources. He was identified as 'of Fonthill Jamaica and Bersted, Bognor' in connection with the Sir William Beechey portrait of his wife Susan Mackworth Praed, sold at Christie's in 1901. He appears to have owned Fonthill from c. 1775, when he entered into a deed to secure money he borrowed from John Morse (q.v.) to fund the purchase of Fonthill.

  1. Thomas Smith, 'apparently a Jamaican plantation owner' (although Fonthill is not identified there), left £180,000 in 1824. He was married to Susan Mackworth Praed. His original will (dated 13/09/1824) which gives him as of New Norfolk Street and of Bersted Lodge in Bognor and which was proved 30/12/1824, is silent on any property in Jamaica (although it does include a legacy of £200 to John Hart, a 'mulatto' son of Smith's late friend James Hart) but in a codicil (also bearing the date 13/09/1824) Thomas Smith left his estates in Jamaica in trust to partners in the Gosling banking firm, in the first case to raise a sum of £2800 currency for Mary Scott, 'a free black woman' residing at or near Hartshall near what Smith called his estate Hampstead, and £500 for John Hart, the 'mulatto' son of 'my late friend' James Hart, then residing at Gloucester. The residuary legatee for the Jamaican property after a period of six years in which the income was to flow into his residuary estate in Britain was to be one son of his niece Augusta Smith, to be selected by her. John Hart is very likely to be the man of the same name for whom Robert Raikes wrote a reference for an application to the position of schoolmaster at Bisley Blue Coat School in Gloucestershire: 'Unfortunately he is a Mulatto, a native of the West Indies…'

  2. In the original will dealing with property in Britain, Thomas Smith refers to unspecified debts owed to him by the Earl of Mayo and £3000 owed to him by the Earl of Arran; he also left to his niece the Marchioness of Northampton £8000 owed to him by her husband the Marquis of Northampton. As well as monetary legacies - generally either £1000 or £50 - to nieces and other family members, he left £60,700 in consolidated annuities in trust for the benefit of his wife during her life and then for the benefit of Mrs Augusta Smith his niece and her children, and the children of Earl Compton, in proportions left to his wife's discretion, and a further £33,333 in trust for the children of Augusta Smith directly. He left £2000 each to the Bible Society and the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, and £4000 to the School or Institution for the Indigent Blind in St George's Fields, among several other smaller philanthropic bequests. The Bersted estate was left to one child of Augusta Smith to the exclusion of the others, the child to be chosen by his wife. The will also identifies Spencer, Earl Compton as his great-nephew: Spencer Earl Compton was the son of Charles Compton and Maria Smith [d. 1843], daughter of Joshua Smith of Erle Stoke Park - Joshua Smith was Thomas' brother. Sir John Smith-Burges 1st bart. (1734-1803) was also a brother of Thomas Smith, and is shown elsewhere as the son of John Smith a London merchant, as is Thomas Smith by Rubinstein.

  3. Thomas Smith died 'universally regretted' at Bognor in 1824 aged 79. He had been one of the prime movers behind the building of St John's Chapel in Bognor in 1822.

  4. Thomas Smith's brother-in-law John Bourke, 4th Earl of Mayo and his wife Arabella nee Mackworth-Praed also lived in New Norfolk Street and the two families were close. As a consequence William Duke of Clarence (later William IV) took an interest - Smith and his wife feature regularly in the correspondence between Mayo and William. It is clear that William identified Smith with West Indian causes: in August 1824, he had written to Mayo telling him that he was 'broken hearted' about the West Indies, and 'so must Tom Smith be if he has any common sense left'. On Smith's death William inquired of the will, presumably anticipating there might be a legacy for the Mayos. When the will was read, he was pleased Mrs Smith was rewarded for her long attendance on her suffering husband, but annoyed by other legacies: 'The more I hear of the particulars of the will the more I am pleased except in the Charities. Smith had too many relations to think of publick Charities.'


W. Roberts, Sir William Beechey R.A. (Duckworth: London and New York, 1907) p. 211; the will of John Morse of City of London proved 18/04/1781 (PROB 11/1077/146) shows the debt still outstanding at the time Morse drew up his will. This connection was traced through the transcription of the will by Anne Powers, 'Will of John Morse 1781', A Parcel Of Ribbons, [accessed December 29, 2014].

  1. W.D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? Vol. I, 1824/32; PROB 11/1693/398. The John Hart is likely the John Hart aged 65 born Jamaica schoolmaster living with Mary Hart aged 28 and 3 infant Harts at St Mary de Crypt Gloucester in the 1841 census; [accessed 10/07/2020] sourced to Gloucestershire Archives, D149 R38.

  2. ibid.

  3. London Magazine New Series Vol. I (Jan-April 1825) p. 155; ]accessed 30/12/2014].

  4. Email from Arthur Burns, 22/03/2019 sourced to Georgian Papers Online, see GEO/ADD/4/74, William, Duke of Clarence to John Bourke, 4th Earl of Mayo, 10 August 1824; GEO/ADD/4/75, Clarence to Mayo, 8 December 1824; GEO/ADD/4/76, Clarence to Mayo, 15 December 1824.

We are grateful to Marie Lyndon and Arthur Burns for their assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Susan Mackworth Praed
Wealth at death

Associated Estates (5)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1793 [EA] - 1824 [LA] → Owner
1826 [EA] - 1829 [LA] → Previous owner
1804 [EA] - 1827 [LA] → Owner
1793 [EA] - 1801 [LA] → Owner
1775 [EA] - → Mortgage Holder

Legacies Summary

Cultural (1)

Portrait of Susan Mackworth Praed by Sir William Beechey. 'A portrait, sold at Christie's in July 1901, of Miss Susan Mackworth-Praed, twin-sister of the Countess Mayo and wife of Thomas Smith, of... 

Physical (2)

St John's Chapel, Bognor [Built] 
description →
Chapel of Ease built with the support among other of Thomas...
Country house
Bersted Lodge [Purchased] 
description →
House with park in Bognor, now known as Hotham Park, purchased by Thomas Smith in the early 1800s and occupied by his widow until c....

Relationships (5)

Other relatives
Notes →
Thomas Smith married Susan Mackworth Praed c. 1800, a cousin of William Praed...
Testator → Legatee
Business associates
Notes →
John Morse advanced money to Thomas Smith for the purchase by Smith of the Fonthill estate c. 1775. Part of the debt was outstanding at the time Morse made his will, proved in 1781. An indenture of...
Testator → Legatee

Addresses (2)

Bersted Lodge, Bognor, Sussex, South-east England, England
New Norfolk Street, London, Middlesex, London, England