Smythson Family History

Benjamin Christian Smythson

Male 1784 - 1841  (57 years)


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  • Name Benjamin Christian Smythson 
    Born 1784  [1, 2
    Christened 21 Jun 1784  St Michael, Stamford, Lincoln Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Gender Male 
    Died 13 Sep 1841  11 Little Catherine St, Long Acre, Middx, London Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Buried 17 Sep 1841  St Martin in the Fields at Camden Town burial ground Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Person ID I166  Smythson Tree
    Last Modified 12 Feb 2017 

    Father William Smith,   b. Abt 1750,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Mother Elizabeth Isabella Bird,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 21 Oct 1770  St Michael, Stamford, Lincoln Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F582  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Elizabeth French Pybus,   b. 1788,   d. 31 Dec 1838, 11 Catherine St, Strand, Longacre Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 50 years) 
    Married 14 0ct 1811  St Margaret, Westminster Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Ferdinand Weston Smith,   b. 5 Aug 1809, Buxton, Derbyshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
     2. George John Horatio Smythson,   b. Mar 1814, Devonport, Devonshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Nov 1883, Cornet Street, Guernsey Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 69 years)
     3. Marcus Alfred Smythson,   b. 1818, Dublin, Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Dec 1896, 1 Harpur St Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 78 years)
     4. Helen Eliza Smith,   b. 1819, Buxton, Derbyshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Mar 1886, 69 Hornsey Park Road, Hornsey, Middlesex Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years)
     5. Montague Porcius Smythson,   b. 21 Jan 1823, Rochdale, Lancashire Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Nov 1891, Cheshire County Lunatic Asylum, Parkside, Macclesfield. Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 68 years)
     6. Elizabeth Isabella Smythson,   b. 24 Oct 1827,   d. Yes, date unknown
     7. William Frederick Deering Smythson,   b. 7 Jul 1829,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 27 Oct 2016 
    Family ID F53  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • IGI baptism:
      only one Benjamin Christian Smith/Smyth/Smythson in the IGI,
      Benjamin Christian Smith 21 Jun 1784 at St Michaels, Stamford, Lincs to William & Isabella Smith.

      FreeREG:
      Confirms above but added father's occupation 'Taylor'.

      Confirmed by the Elizabeth Isabella Hurst inheritance:
      A small mention in The Era in Sep 1856 of the possibility of the Messers Smythson, well known in theatrical circles of coming into considerable property following the death of Mrs Hurst, late of Stamford, the widow of Rev Thomas Toller Hurst, vicar of Carlby & Braceborough, Lincolnshire. It said the father of the Smythsons was known in theatrical circles of the metropolis as "Turk Smith", Smith being the real name, and Smythson the theatrical name. No other info was given, no name for Mrs Hurst, no explanation of any link and no names for the Smythsons mentioned.
      However further research revealed that the Rev Thomas Toller Hurst died in 1844 leaving everything to his wife, having no children. Their marriage record shows that her maiden name was Elizabeth Isabella Smith, and the Cambridge University alumni listing gives her details as 'the daughter of William Smith, draper of Stamford'.
      Elizabeth died Tuesday 16th September 1856 and obtaining her will, showed she divided her estate between her nephews and neices, and her great nephew & neice. These were named as Mrs Helen Eliza Daniell, Mrs Elizabeth Warne & Thomas Smith (the children of her brother Thomas Smith, deceased), George John Horatio Smith, Alfred Marcus Smith, Montague Portius Smith & Frederick William Smith (the sons of her brother Benjamin Christian Smith, deceased), & Thomas Toller Hurst Daniell & Isabella Hurst Daniell (children of her neice Helen Eliza Daniell). Interestingly one of her named executors was a William French, solicitor & gentleman; however I assume he made a very bad executor as "Thomas Smith & others" took him to court over the distribution of the estate in 1858 (it should all have been distributed within 12 months of Elizabeth's death according to the terms of the will).
      Proof of Benjamin Christian being originally a Smith and his father was William Smith, draper of Stamford & his mother an Isabella. Copies of all paperwork on file, under Benjamin Christian Smythson.

      Marriage (OPR):
      14 October 1811, St Margarets, Westminster
      Benjamin Christian Smythson of this Parish bachelor and Elizabeth French Pybus of this parish spinster were married in this church by Banns this 14th day of October in the year one thousand eight hundred and eleven by me William Groves curate.
      Both sign their names.
      Witnesses; Joseph Ashmore & John Eaton.

      Theatre in Dublin 1745-1820, A Calendar of Performances, vol 6.:
      Preview pages online (via Google) for this book give lists of all the performances put on in Dublin between 1814 and 1822, as a preview many pages are not available but those that are, have "Smythson" & "Mrs Smythson" appearing frequently:
      The 1815/16 season for the Theatre Royal in Crow Street opened 5 Nov 1815 and ended 3 Sep 1816, under the managment of William Farren.
      21 Nov 1815, Belles Stratagem, cast...Smithson (from Haymarket, first appearance here) as Flutter..."
      22 Nov 1815 reviews Smithson's debut unfavourably & critises other cast members.
      6 Dec 1815 spelt Smythson and Mrs Smythson is also in the cast of 22 Dec 1815.
      The great J. P. Kemble joins the cast on 24 Jan, but delays his debut for a week after being hurt on his travels from Holyhead. He takes the lead roles in Shakespear through February 1815, the Smythson's both appear with him.
      12 Feb 1816 Smythson plays Lennox to Kemble's Macbeth.
      19 Feb 1816 Mrs Smythson plays Goneril to Kemble's King Lear.
      20 Feb 1816 Mrs Smythson is Queen Eleanor & Smythson is Pembroke to Kemble's King John.
      24 Feb 1816 Mrs Smythson plays Goneril again.
      They both continued in performances for the rest of the 1815/1816 season.
      The 1816/1817 season started on 15 Oct 1816 and ended 9 August 1817 and they are listed in the Crow Street Company as "Smythson (Smithson)...Mrs Smythson..", also listed for that season are Edmund Kean, William Charles Macready and other popular actors Braham, Hodson, Crooke, Yates, Shaw, Miss Byrne, Miss L Kelly & Mrs Burgess.
      There are some huge gaps in pages for 1817 but both Smythson & Mrs Smythson appear in the cast until into the 1817/18 season, both are listed for 12 Dec 1817.
      The pages then jump to July 1820 for a couple of pages and then no more can be viewed, no Mr & Mrs Smythson but there is a Miss Smythson on 22 July 1820 playing opposite Macready.

      nb. Their son Marcus Alfred was born 1818 in Dublin, so at least we now know what they were doing there!.

      Liverpool Mercury Fri 25 Oct 1822 (findmypast):
      Reports a near miss drowning on Morcambe Bay sands by the visiting Theatre company of Mr Howard of the Theatre Royal Lancaster, announced on stage at Stockport by Mr Smythson.

      Land Tax returns, Farringdon Within, City of London 1825;
      Benjamin C Smyhtson rent 40 Butcherhall Lane, Land Tax £3-16-8.

      1825-beyond 1828; ran a tavern in Catherine St., with lodgings for theatrical persons with his wife Elizabeth. The Old Bailey proceedings indicate he was a theatrical agent in 1828.
      Catalogue of the Sun Fire Office (insurers) 1710-1891 indicate a policy registered 4 Feb 1829 for 'The Spies' (also known as 'The Two Spies') Tavern at 10 Catherine Street, Strand, to a Mr Smith, victualler. This may be Ben Smith/Smythson. Other taverns mentioned on Catherine Street, in these insurance refs and in some city licensing refs. with no reference to Smith etc, were 'The Fountain' 1822, 'The White Hart' 1800-1878 and 'the Sir John Falstaff' 1865-1890 and, again, 'The Two Spies'1791-1885. (Source; online catalogue of the LMA)

      Jan 1828 at son Montague Portius and daughter Elizabeth Isabella's joint christening he uses the surname Smith and gives address as White Hart Yard, occupation victualler. So it looks like his tavern may have been the White Hart on Catherine Street.

      Perry's Bankrupt Gazette (findmypast):
      Thursday 17th July 1828, Insolvency Debtors in London Prisons applying to be discharged;
      Thursday 31st July, Smythson, Ben Christian, White Hart, White Hart Yard, Drury Lane (Theatrical Agent & Licenced Victualler). Copy on file & saved to Richard pdfs..

      Marshalsea Prison Commitment & Discharge Books, Ancestry (copies on file):
      A list of Prisoners brought into Custody & discharged on Tuesday 5th June 1828
      Benjamin Smythson to Saty(satisfy?) George Bigbie, damages Not Awd, Sums Sworn £11. 10s. 6d.

      A list of Prisoners brought into Custody & discharged on Wednesday 6th August 1828.
      Benjamin Smythson at the suit of George Bigbie discharged by Insolvency Act, prison fees of 10/10 (assume 10s 10d, rather than £10 10s).

      Aug 1828 London Gazette (Issue 184492 p1489 1 Aug 1828) has him an Insolvent Debtor of Butcher Hall Lane, last of White Hart Yard, Drury Lane, Victualler. Advertising the sale of his assetts and sale of the lease of his Public House on Mon 18th Aug 1828 at the solicitors office in 40 Haydon Square, Minories.

      Feb 1830 at son William Frederick Deering's christening was living at Charles Street, Covent Garden and occupation given as Stationer, also using the surname Smith for the christening.

      Early 1830's he occupied/managed the Sans Souci Theatre and shop at Leicester Place. Play bill from 1831 show a Master Smythson acting there (in theatrical terms often the men, not just youths, were called Master rather than Mr) which could have been Benjamin or one of his sons..
      It was an amateur theatre where actors paid to work there and gain experience, in return for coaching, direction and the plays being arranged for them.

      July 1834 advert in Morning Post (on findmypast) for several desirable theatres to be let in fashionable watering places & resorts, for arrangements contact Smythson, General Dramatic Agent, Sans Souci Theatre, Leicester Square.

      1841 census aged 55 (rounded) Dramatic Preceptor of Catherine Street, with sons Montague, aged 15 same profession, and Frederick aged 12.

      He died 13 Sep 1841. Benjamin's death certificate shows him as a theatrical agent. The informant was William Sheldon of 10 Wild Street, present at death.
      He was buried at the St Martins Camden Town burial ground on 17 Sep 1841, confirmed by the parish record (Ancestry). His wife was buried there too.
      This is off Pratt Street, Camden, now a park with some headstones around the edges. Memorial inscriptions were copied in 1888 and are held by Westminster Council.

      Benjamin's obituary appeared in the Morning Advertiser on 16 Sep 1841:
      The well-known private theatrical Monarch and theatrical agent, Benjamin Smythson, of the Pantheon theatre, in Catherine Street, Strand died on Monday night, at his residence in the theatre. Smythson was a man of considerable talent and a great humourist in his profession, to which he united a large share of benevolence. Some of the most distinguished artists in the theatrical world have been indebted to him for their introduction to the profession and support, while climbing the thorny hill of fame in search of dramatic honours and the poor disciple of momus, on his return from an unsuccessful country tour, often found a hearty meal at the table of eccentric Ben. Douglas Jerrold, in his admirable novel of "Men of character", has under another name introduced the subject of this brief notice, and paid a highly merited tribute to his kindly disposition. Smythson held a considerable rank in his profession in the early part of his life in the Dublin, Liverpool and Manchester theatres as a light comedian; but of late years he has devoted his time and experience to rear and provide sucking honours for the "sock and buskin", at the temple of Thalia, in Catherine Street, for the various theatrical managers in the provinces. He has left four sons, who inherit a considerable share of talent in the theatrical and musical department. His age was 57 years. Peace to his memory. "A merrier man within the limits of becoming mirth, I never spent an hours talk withal".


      He played with John Philip Kemble who was at his peak 1790-1820s esp Shakespeare.

      The Theatre(magazine) February 1, 1881
      MARCUS ALFRED SMYTHSON is well known in connection with the
      musical drama, having filled the responsible position of chorus-
      master at the Royal Italian Opera for many years, and more recently at
      Her Majesty's Theatre; he was also with the Pyne and Harrison English
      Opera Company, and latterly with Mr. Carl Rosa. This gentleman has,
      indeed, been identified with every operatic enterprise of importance in the
      metropolis during recent years, having been solely responsible for the
      choral portions in the production of all the great works of the most
      eminent composers, from the '' Benvenuto Cellini" of Berlioz, to the
      "Mefistofele" of Boito. Mr. Smythson was a pupil of the celebrated
      "William Michael Rooke, one of the most successful composers of his day.
      Mr. Smythson is one of the sons of the late Benjamin Christian,
      Smythson, whose name is doubtless a household word to many of our
      Readers having been proprietor of the Sang Sans Theatre in Leicester
      Square, and the Royal Pantheon in Catherine Street, where many of our
      best-known actors made their debuts. "
      Who that has once acted on the boards of the "little Catherine
      Street playhouse, when Benjamin Smythson was the proprietor, can
      possibly forget him?-the indescribable costume with which he encased
      his portly figure, his expansive forehead, his frank and somewhat hand-
      some open countenance, his expressive laughing eye, his good-humoured
      smiling mouth, his vivacious ready reply, and, above all, the round, full,
      sonorous tone, and the dignity of manner with which he rang out the
      simplest instruction. He was, however, no empiric professor of the art,
      having been a provincial actor of some repute for many years, and well
      recognised as a competent exponent of the leading characters in the old
      standard comedies. He had also, as a youth, played with John Kemble in
      his starring engagements, and would frequently relate amusing anecdotes
      of that marvellous tragedian, Edmund Kean, with whom he had on many
      occasions acted in the provinces some years later in life.
      "Too frequently 'out at elbows,' I now applied," says Mr. Edward
      Stirling in his Memoirs recently published, " to Ben Smythson. Kind-hearted
      considerate Ben ! a real Samaritan, ever ready with food and kindly words to
      cheer and encourage the poor stroller. Every poor player that arrived foot
      - sore and hungered he styled according to his role-Kemble, Kean, Munden,
      or Biddons, knowing full well how pleasantly a little flattery tickles the
      palate. There was always a bed, supper, and breakfast, for them in this
      Mecca for wanderers."*
      His wife (Mr. M. A. Smythson's mother) was both an accomplished actress
      (having undertaken, with much success, many of the leading characters
      in both tragedy and comedy) and a gifted writer.
      I may add that Mr. M. A. Smythson, during his long professional
      career, has gained the respect and esteem of his colleagues, and the regard
      -we should perhaps rather say the affection-of all those who have been
      under his direction.

  • Sources 
    1. [S15] Death Certificate, Died Age 57 (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S12] 1841 census, aged 55 (rounded0 born outside of Middlesex, dramatic preceptor (Reliability: 3).

    3. [S14] IGI, Benjamin Christen Smith to William Smith and Isabella (Reliability: 3).

    4. [S15] Death Certificate.

    5. [S5] Parish Record.