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Abel Smith (14 March 1717 – 12 July 1788) was a British Member of Parliament and one of the leading bankers of his time.[1]

Abel Smith
Born(1717-03-14)14 March 1717
Died12 July 1788(1788-07-12) (aged 71)
Spouse(s)Mary Bird
ChildrenLucy Smith
Thomas Smith
Abel Smith
Robert Smith
Samuel Smith
William Smith
George Smith
John Smith
Elizabeth Smith
RelativesThomas Smith (paternal grandfather)


Early lifeEdit

Abel Smith was baptised on 14 March 1717 at Nottingham, a son of Abel Smith (1686–1756) and Jane Beaumont (1689–1743).[2] He was a grandson of Thomas Smith, the founder of the Nottingham Smith's Bank and the outstanding figure in its history.


He was apprenticed at the age of fifteen to the Hull merchant adventurer William Wilberforce (the campaigner's grandfather), becoming a partner in Wilberforce and Smith and eventually running it, while at the same time continuing an involvement with the Nottingham Bank. On the death of his father, Abel senior, he succeeded to the Nottingham partnership with his brother George before assuming sole control the following year. In 1758, he founded a bank in London, Smith & Payne, and two other provincial banks—at Lincoln in 1775 and Hull in 1784, both separately constituted.[1]

He entered Parliament as member for Aldborough in 1774, and later also represented St Ives and St Germans. These were all pocket boroughs, and Smith may well have had to pay considerable sums to the proprietors to secure his seats; later a proportion of the family wealth was devoted to buying the Smiths a couple of pocket boroughs of their own, and by the early 19th century his son, Lord Carrington, could nominate the MPs at both Midhurst and Wendover.

He seems to have become an MP as much with the business advantages in mind as with any high political ambitions. Brooke quotes him as writing, shortly before he was first elected in 1774, "I see many solid advantages accruing to my family from a seat in Parliament, the best of which, the article of franking [the right to free postage, valuable in those days of heavy postal rates], will save a very considerable expense in so extensive a business as that I am engaged in." Although he supported the government, his first two speeches in the House of Commons were both attacks on the government for the way in which they had allotted subscriptions for government loans, in each case referring to occasions when his own firm had been excluded.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1745 he married Mary Bird (1724–1780), the daughter of Thomas Bird (died 1746) and Elizabeth Martyn (1699–1758), of Coventry.[2] Thomas Bird was the son of William Bird (died 1731) and Elizabeth Martyn was the daughter of Francis Martyn (1637–1713) and Elizabeth Doughty (1665–1748).

Mary's younger sister, Elizabeth Bird, was the mother of William Wilberforce.

They had nine children, five of his sons following their father into Parliament:

  • Thomas Smith (1746–1769)
  • Abel Smith (1748–1779), MP for Nottingham
  • Robert Smith, 1st Baron Carrington (1752–1838), MP for Nottingham, raised to the peerage in 1796
  • Samuel Smith (1754–1834) of Woodhall Park, MP for Leicester, Malmesbury, Midhurst, St Germans and Wendover
  • William Smith (born 1756)
  • George Smith (1765–1836), MP for Lostwithiel, Midhurst and Wendover, an ancestor of queen Elizabeth II.
  • John Smith (1767–1842) of Blendon Hall, MP for Nottingham, Wendover, Midhurst and Buckinghamshire.
  • Lucy Smith (died 1835)
  • Elizabeth Smith (died 1789), married William Manning


He died on 12 July 1788 at Wilford House, the family home in Nottinghamshire, aged seventy-one, and was buried in St. Peter's Church, Nottingham.


  1. ^ a b J. Leighton Boyce, Smith's the Bankers 1658–1958 (1958).
  2. ^ a b Edward J. Davies, "Some Connections of the Birds of Warwickshire", The Genealogist, 26 (2012):58–76.
  • John Brooke, The House of Commons 1754–1790: Introductory Survey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968, reprinted from Volume I of Namier & Brooke, The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754–1790, London: HMSO, 1964).
  • Lewis Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (2nd edition – London: St Martin's Press, 1961).
  • Abel Smith Last Will and Testament, 12 November 1785. Public Record Office catalogue Reference: Prob 11/1168.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Hon. Aubrey Beauclerk
The Earl of Lincoln
Member of Parliament for Aldborough
With: Charles Wilkinson 1774–1777
William Baker 1777–1778
Succeeded by
William Baker
Hon. William Hanger
Preceded by
Adam Drummond
Philip Dehany
Member of Parliament for St Ives
With: William Praed
Succeeded by
Richard Barwell
William Praed
Preceded by
Edward James Eliot
Dudley Long
Member of Parliament for St Germans
With: John James Hamilton
Succeeded by
John James Hamilton
Samuel Smith