Open main menu

Richard Smith (1707–1776)[1] was an English merchant in the West Indies trade, and director of the East India Company.



Smith was born in Whitehaven, then in Cumberland, or Appleby, Westmorland.[2] He was a merchant and slave owner in the West Indies. When he moved back from Barbados, where he was a plantation owner, to London, he brought five enslaved people with him.[3][4]

Smith's business assets included a warehouse in Cheapside, and Lys Farm near Bramdean in Hampshire, once used for cattle-breeding.[5] Having bought the farm in 1769, he began to transform it into a gentlemanly estate, Brockwood Park, building a country house; a wing was added to the house in 1774, and at the end of his life it was a family home.[6] It is now the site of the Krishnamurti Centre, as Brockwood Park.[7]

Brockwood Park today

Smith died on 13 October 1776.[1]


Smith's will left a number of enslaved persons, by name, to his grandchildren.[8] The drafting of the will was intended to keep a substantial estate in trust for Smith's grandchildren; but the effect was otherwise.[5] It was the subject of Chancery proceedings until 1813, when the estate was much diminished.[9] This case has been suggested as one of the inspirations for Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Charles Dickens's Bleak House. [10][11]

Benjamin Smith, the younger son, bought sugar plantations in 1781, to provide income from the trust arising from the will.[12] Covered by the will was the advowson for St Mary's Church, Islington, which Richard Smith had purchased in 1771.[13]


With his first wife Elizabeth Crow, widow of Nathaniel Crow or Crowe of Barbados, Smith had three children:[1]

  • Richard II (1739–1772), who was Rector of Islington, and married Elizabeth Mary Mapp of Barbados — they had two children;
  • Benjamin (1742–1806), who married Charlotte Turner in 1765 — they had 12 children;
  • Mary (1740–1775) who married twice, having three children with her first husband William Berney of Barbados, and five with her second, Thomas Dyer.

Smith had a step-daughter Mary, from Elizabeth Crow's first marriage: she married John Robinson (1727–1802).[1] After Elizabeth's death Smith married again in 1767, his wife being Lucy Towers, sister of Charlotte Turner's mother Anna.[4]

Slave Compensation Act 1837Edit

The descendants of Richard II Smith (Rev. Richard Smith the elder), and the Berney branch of the family, retained connections with slave plantations in the West Indies, and feature in the compensation records made as a consequence of the Slave Compensation Act 1837. The following grandchildren are documented in this way:

  • Mary Gibbes Allen (née Smith, 4 December 1764 – 10 January 1787), married to Captain Robert Allen;[14][1]
  • Richard III Smith (Rev. Richard Smith, 2 November 1766 – 23 October 1848), married to Mary Evatt Acklom;[15][1]
  • Dorothy Elizabeth Boehm (née Berney, 1766–1842), married to Edmund Boehm (1741–1822) in 1781.[16][1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Judith Phillips Stanton (2 October 2003). The Collected Letters of Charlotte Smith. Indiana University Press. p. xlvii. ISBN 978-0-253-11059-6.
  2. ^ John Debrett (1840). The Baronetage of England. revised, corrected and continued by G. W. Collen. p. 506.
  3. ^ James Holt McGavran (10 May 2012). Time of Beauty, Time of Fear: The Romantic Legacy in the Literature of Childhood. University of Iowa Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-60938-100-4.
  4. ^ a b Zimmerman, Sarah M. "Smith, Charlotte". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/25790.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ a b Charlotte Smith (12 August 2003). Emmeline. Broadview Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-55111-359-3.
  6. ^ ", Brockwood Park". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  7. ^ "The Buildings and Grounds of the Krishnamurti Centre and Brockwood Park Hampshire". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Summary of Individual, Richard Smith of Islington ???? – 1776, Legacies of British Slave-ownership". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  9. ^ Melissa Sodeman (12 November 2014). Sentimental Memorials: Women and the Novel in Literary History. Stanford University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-8047-9279-0.
  10. ^ Jacqueline M. Labbe, ed. The Old Manor House by Charlotte Turner Smith, Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2002 ISBN 978-1-55111-213-8, Introduction p. 17, note 3.
  11. ^ Katz, Leslie, Bleak House in Australian Reasons for Judgment (July 21, 2017). Available at SSRN: or
  12. ^ Judith Phillips Stanton (2 October 2003). The Collected Letters of Charlotte Smith. Indiana University Press. p. xxviii. ISBN 978-0-253-11059-6.
  13. ^ Samuel Lewis (1842). The History and Topography of the Parish of Saint Mary, Islington, in the County of Middlesex. author. pp. 104–5.
  14. ^ "Summary of Individual Mary Gibbes Allen (née Smith), Legacies of British Slave-ownership". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Summary of Individual Rev. Richard Smith, 1766 – 23rd Oct 1848, Legacies of British Slave-ownership". Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Summary of Individual Dorothy Elizabeth Boehm (née Berney) 1766–1842, Legacies of British Slave-ownership". Retrieved 19 November 2016.