Page images

Corporation Books.

The Corporation Books and Records begin with the year 1631.

Corporation Mace.

This is a very large silver mace having on it the date 1758, and having on the top under the bows of the crown, the Royal Arms, as they were before the union with Ireland.

Diary of Thomas Smith, Esq.,



TH the kind permission of Peter Audley Lovell, Esq., of Cole Park, Malmesbury, the Editors of the Wiltshire Magazine have much pleasure in presenting to their members, extracts from the Diary of Thomas Smith, Esq., of Shaw House, Melksham, extending over the space of nearly two years.

It commences February 28th, 1721, and concludes with the end of the year 1722. The writer died 21st July, 1723.

Where the entries are merely records of his daily occupations about home, or a repetition of the notes of the day preceding, it has not been deemed necessary to repeat such very ordinary circumstances, but whenever and as often as the name of a person or place occurs, the Editors believing that some degree of interest may be felt, even in apparent trifles, have then scrupulously printed the exact words of the original document. After the lapse of nearly a century and a half, there can be no objection to the publication itself, as setting forth the incidents of a private country gentleman's every day life in association with the ancestors of some whose names are still found in the immediate locality. Whether it be curiosity, or a praiseworthy inclination to learn the state of society once existing in one's own immediate neighbourhood, certain it is, that these autobiographic notes, not written for the purpose of publication, must ever be regarded as faithful records; and consequently the history collected from them valuable, as well as inter

esting. Some few illustrative remarks have been appended, but had they been extended to a verification of the pedigrees involved, or an explanation of matters slightly touched upon, the labor of such investigations would have far exceeded any satisfaction obtained; and indeed, on many points, would have been labor altogether fruitless; from the years which have elapsed; the obliterations of monumental inscriptions; the transfers of property; and the difficulty of tracing descents where not only the same Christian names in one family are perpetually recurring, but distinct families of the same surname, and that surname Smith, are found at the same date, in the same places, as is the case with the ancestors of the diary writer.

Every endeavour has been made, but without that success which would justify any degree of confidence, to prove the descent of Thomas Smith from Robert Smith of Corsham, to whose pedigree in the Visitation of 1623 this entry is appended, as explaining why no arms are assigned to the family under the herald's hand. "The coat produced, is an old seal, as it is said, 200 years old." In the third descent from that Robert Smith, we find in 1623 an elder son Robert, then married to Hester, daughter of .... Gastrell, of East Garston, co. Berks, but no issue named. He may have been the Robert Smith, clothier, who bought Norwood Park, Glastonbury, in 1654, a property which is named in the diary as belonging to the writer, and which we know passed through him in his descendants to the Neale family, Sir Harry Burrard Neale (husband of Grace Elizabeth Neale, heiress of the Smiths and Neales) having sold Norwood Park to Lord Ashburton in 1836. When the Smith family first settled at Melksham is uncertain; Robert Smith, clothier, the purchaser of Norwood Park, had a son Thomas of Frome Selwood, presumed to have been the diarist's father. In Melksham Church is a blue slab, with cyphers T. S. 1698, T. S. 1699, over them the arms of Smith; on the same stone A. S. 1714, with the arms of Smith on a lozenge, and in 1685 we find in the Register, Isaac Selfe married to Ann Smith. No doubt this is the "Brother Selfe" mentioned so often in the diary. Thomas Smith himself was born 1673; married at Melksham June 4th, 1694,

Elizabeth, only child of Daniel Webb of Melksham and Margaret his wife, daughter of Jacob Selfe by his first wife Ruth, sole heiress of John Romin of Hilmerton, Wilts. (See inscription on the back of one of the portraits still at Shaw House.)

His monumental inscription which follows, notices the death of children in his lifetime; and at his death in 1723, there appear to have been living, John the eldest son, Walter then about 17; the "Peggy" of the diary, afterwards the first wife of William Hunt of West Lavington, died 1731, and Elizabeth, mentioned frequently by her father, who married Robert Neale (baptized 1706 at Corsham). Elizabeth Neale died 1771; her husband 1776. John the eldest son probably died s. p. There is a stone in Melksham Church, south aisle, where the only words legible are "John Smith Shaw Augt." Above are the arms of Smith, impaling perhaps a chevron between three leopard's heads, but the upper portions of the shield are under the pew floor; this shews that he was married, but does not give further information; the inscription was a long one. A burial entry in 1732 gives Elizabeth, wife, and John, son of John Smith; but nothing which proves that John Smith of Shaw was the person referred to.

The monument in Melksham Church, which Thomas Smith mentions in his diary, has the following inscription :

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"To the memory of Elizabeth Smith who lies buried near this place, in the same grave with her father Daniel Webb of this Parish, Gent. She was wife of Thomas Smith of Shaw, Esq., and died January 12th, 1719, in the 42nd year of her age."

"Also near the same place lie buried two sons and a daughter of the abovenamed Thomas and Elizabeth Smith. Thomas their eldest son, who died July 3rd, 1698, being but 10 weeks and 3 days old. Thomas their next born, who died March 14, 1699, at the age of 16 weeks 4 days. Ann who died Dec. 24, 1714, aged 9 years, 6 months and 24 days."

"Also the body of the above-named Thomas Smith, Esq., by whose death the Church of England has lost a son, truly exemplary and conformable; the State, a member always ready to appear for her support: his neighbours and friends a gentleman of strict justice and fidelity: his family a pattern of true goodness joined with a sound judgment and discretion. As long then as a harty zeale (sic) for the best religion and form of Government, an unblemished uprightness and integrity—a pious and prudent economy, shall continue to be esteemed and admired, so long must remain precious the memory of Mr. Smith. Ob. 21 July, 1723, æt. 50."

The shield above the inscription is, Smith; gules, on a chevron between 3 cinquefoils argent, three lion's heads erased, sable; (the usual charge on the chevron is 3 leopard's faces sable ;) probably the lion's heads were used, on the authority of the old seal, before mentioned, but it is certain that other branches of this family, used the more correct coat, viz., three leopard's faces on the chevron. With Smith is impaled for Webb, argent, a cross gules, between 4 falcons close, proper.

The above particulars, will it is hoped, make the diary more intelligible, as far as Thomas Smith's immediate family is enquired after. It would be no difficult task, were it necessary, to connect families still living, with the names mentioned by him day after day. But how large a number of his associates are forgotten; in some cases, their dwellings are swept away; in most the fact of their residence in particular houses is hardly accepted as a tradition; and the places where they exercised hospitality, and dispensed justice, and kept up the distinctions, then more systematically conjoined with wealth and landed estate, than in our day of progress, shall know them no more. Their memorials have, not unusually, perished with them: at Shaw House however, about a dozen family portraits remain in the Hall and stair-case, connected with the Arnold, Neale, Ireland, and Smith families. The water-spouts of the house bear the cyphers TE; and on the vane of the stable, the date 1738 without initials.



We conclude therefore, that the newest portion of the mansion, was built by Thomas Smith after his marriage with Elizabeth Webb; whether he were settled there by such marriage is a question not yet investigated.

In a narrative such as this, we seem to see before us the "fine old country gentlemen of the olden time;" we picture their dress; their equipages; their pastimes; their habits of life; and their bonds of association, religious and political; we are naturally struck with the improvements which have arisen, in various particulars, as time has passed on. We cannot read Mr. Smith's graphic description of things as they were in his day, without exclaiming, what changes! For the most part we shall admit, that they have

been changes for the better; and shall accept the advice of the wisest of men as peculiarly applicable to our times; "Say not thou what is the cause that the former days were better than these, for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this."


Wednesday, 28th Feb. 1721 :-We again visitted Mr. Brooke and drunk Tea in the Morning, and from thence went to see several Colleges, Gardens, &c : worthy indeed to be noted as to their Neatness, Magnificence, and the Pleasure I think they must necessarily afford to the Scholars. Mr. Harvey din'd with us and was at our Quarters till near ten.

Thursday, March 1st. As yesterday was spent so likewise this Morning, and in providing Necessarys for our new Housekeeper, but much of that was saved to us by the good fortune we had to get one of the Chambers belonging to a Fellow at a certain Rent ready furnished. The Provost of the House invited Mr. Selfe, Mr. Brooke, and one Hodges who is a Partner with him in Tutorship; and Audley Harvey with myself and son to dine with him and leaving the old Gent: soon after dinner, we finished our views of what was remarkable and likewise all our Business and spent the Evening at Mr. Hodges's Chamber. One Bowles who is Librarian to the University and an Antiquarian being with us, the Time past very pleasantly and we tarri'd till Eleven or after.

Friday, 2nd. Mr. Brooke came to take his Leave this Morning, and one Tindal a Gent: Comoner and his Pupil, who is the Son of Mr. Tindal of Batheford, being with him, they both drank Tea with us, and we presently took horse for Purton; only tarry'd an Hour or more at Faringdon where Mr. Selfe's Horse was left and came to our journey's End between 6 and 7.

Saturday 3rd. We spent all the Morning and took a dinner wth our friend Mr. Goddard; so 'twas two before we set forwards on our journey Homewards, and by the badness of the roads and going somew1. out of the Way, darknes had overtaken us before we came to Bromham; Yet after giving Mr. Selfe + my best thanks as they are justly due for his Company in this long journey I came homewards in the dark, and at Eight or a little after found my two Girles in

The writer of the Journal was Thomas Smith, Esq., of Shaw House, near Melksham, (son of Thomas Smith, of Frome Selwood). His sister Ann, had been first wife of Issac Selfe of Beanacre, who is called Brother Selfe, throughout. Mr. T. Smith's own wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Daniel Webb of Melksham, died, 1719, 12th July. The Journal begins 28th February, 1721. Mr. S. is at Oxford, entering his eldest son John at Oriel College. Dr. Carter was Provost, and Mr. Walter Hodges, the Tutor, was afterwards Provost. [Note by Canon Jackson.]

"Bowles," Rev. Joseph Bowles, Fellow of Oriel, Bodleian Librarian, from 1719-1729. He was a native of Shaftesbury, a man of parts and learning. In the latter part of his time he became addicted to drink, grew careless, lost his character, ruined his health, and died at Shaftesbury in an obscure manner. Hutchins' Dorset, ii., 29.

+ Rev. Thomas Selfe, Rector of Bromham, had gone up with Mr. Smith to Oxon. Mr. Selfe had been presented to the Rectory of Bromham by Henry Smith, of Melksham, Gent. the Patron for that turn. Mr. Selfe married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Smith for his first wife. He was Rector of Bromham from 1717 to 1741.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »