Smith, Erasmus (DNB00)

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SMITH, ERASMUS (1611–1691), educational benefactor, son of Sir Roger Smith, alias Heriz or Harris (d. 1655, aged 84), of Husbands Bosworth and Edmondthorpe, Leicester, by his second wife, Anna (d. 1652, aged 66), daughter of Thomas Goodman of London, was born in 1611 (baptised 8 April) at Husbands Bosworth (Reg.). Henry Smith—‘silver-tongued’ Smith [q. v.]—was his uncle. Erasmus was a Turkey merchant, and a member of the Grocers' Company of London. A petition in the state papers, without date, calendared ‘1662 May?’ sets forth that the petitioner, Erasmus Smith, had been for twenty-two years ‘a servant in ordinarie’ to the king's ‘royal father,’ had ‘also served His Majesty's Royal Father in the warres, for which there were great arrears due to him,’ and asks for the place of carver in ordinary to the queen. His service was probably of a purely business character. In 1650 he appears in the state papers as an army contractor, supplying large quantities of oatmeal, wheat, and cheese for the troops in Ireland and in Scotland. Under the confiscating acts of 1642 he was an adventurer of 300l. towards prosecuting the war against the Irish insurgents of 1641; for this, at the Cromwellian settlement of 1652, he received 666 acres of land in co. Tipperary. He subsequently largely increased his holdings, till they reached in 1684 a total of 46,449 acres in nine counties. He early projected a scheme for the education of children on his estates ‘in the fear of God, and good literature, and to speak the English tongue.’ His petition of 22 June 1655 contemplates the establishment of five free schools. On 28 April 1657 he was elected alderman of Billingsgate ward, and sworn on 5 May; but on 26 May he obtained his discharge on paying a fine of 420l. By indenture of 1 Dec. 1657 he founded five grammar schools, having bursaries at Trinity College, Dublin, and five elementary schools. Of eighteen trustees, the first in order was Henry Jones, D.D. [q. v.], followed by five nonconformist divines, officiating in Dublin as independents, and including Thomas Harrison (fl. 1658) [q. v.] and Samuel Mather [q. v.]; the children were to be taught the assembly's catechism. The trustees, reduced to seven, still headed by Jones, now bishop of Meath, obtained royal letters patent (3 Nov. 1667) directing them to pay 100l. a year to Christ's Hospital, London, adding an apprenticeship scheme, reducing the grammar schools to three, and dropping the assembly's catechism. On Smith's petition a royal charter (26 March 1669) incorporated a body of thirty-two governors, including as official governors the two primates, the lord chancellor of Ireland, the two chief justices, the chief baron of the exchequer, and the provost of Trinity College. Further powers were given by an act of the Irish parliament (1723) and by a royal charter of 27 July 1833. In 1794 the Fagel library was purchased by the governors for 8,000l., and presented to Trinity College. The estates now administered by the governors contain over 12,400 acres, yielding a rental (1892) of over 9,100l., with funded property amounting to 14,679l. Besides the payment to Christ's Hospital, payments are made in aid of lectureships, fellowships, and exhibitions at Trinity College; grammar schools are maintained at Drogheda, Galway, and Tipperary, a high school and a commercial school at Dublin, where also twenty boys are maintained at the Blue Coat Hospital; and thirty-eight elementary schools for boys, with four for girls, are kept up. The scheme of a new constitution was prepared in 1892 by the educational endowments (Ireland) commission, but has not advanced beyond the draft stage.

Smith's London residence was at Clerkenwell Green. He bought from Sir William Scroggs (1652?–1695) [see under Scroggs, Sir William] Weald Hall in the parish of South Weald, Essex. He died between 25 Aug. and 9 Oct. 1691. His will directs his burial beside his wife, at Hamerton, Huntingdonshire (the burial register is defective). He married Mary, daughter of Hugh Hare, first Lord Coleraine [q. v.], and had six sons and three daughters. His fourth son, Hugh Smith (1672–1745), of Weald Hall, married Dorothy, daughter of Dacre-Barret Lennard of Belhouse, and had issue two daughters; Lucy, the younger (d. 5 Feb. 1759), married (17 March 1747) James Stanley lord Strange (1717–1771), who took (1749) the name of Smith-Stanley, which is retained by the earls of Derby, his descendants [see under Stanley, Edward Smith, thirteenth earl].

His portrait is at Christ's Hospital and has been engraved by George White, who engraved also the portrait of his wife, ‘Madam Smith,’ from a painting by Kneller, 1680.

[Webb's Compendium of Irish Biog., 1878, pp. 484 sq.; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of Eng., 1779, iii. 404 sq., iv. 183; Burke's Extinct Baronetcies, 1841, p. 492; Debrett's Peerage, 1829, i. 98 sq.; Burke's Peerage, 1895, p. 413; Morant's Essex, 1768, i. 119; London Direct. of 1677 (1878 repr.); Endowed Schools (Ireland) Rep., 1858; Social Science Congress Rep., 1861; Educational Endowments (Ireland) Comm., Erasmus Smith Endowments, Draft Scheme, No. 144 (14 May 1892); Cal. of State Papers (Dom.), 1650, 1662, 1665; Smith's will at Somerset House; priv. inf.]

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