Thomas Smythe (customer)

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Thomas Smythe
Thomas 'Customer' Smythe
Died7 June 1591
BuriedAshford, Kent
Spouse(s)Alice Judde
  • Andrew Smythe
  • John Smythe
  • Sir Thomas Smythe
  • Henry Smythe
  • Richard Smythe
  • Robert Smythe
  • Symon Smythe
  • Elizabeth Smythe
  • Mary Smythe
  • Joan Smythe
  • Katherine Smythe
  • Alice Smythe
  • Ursula Smythe
FatherJohn Smythe
MotherJoan Brouncker
Arms of Smythe of the City of London: Azure, a chevron between three lions passant guardant or. As seen on mural monument to his daughter Katherine Smythe in St Mary's Church, Nettlestead, Kent

Thomas Smythe or Smith of London, Ashford and Westenhanger, Kent[1] (1522–7 June 1591)[2] was the collector of customs duties (also known as a "customer") in London during the Tudor period, and a member of parliament for five English constituencies. His son and namesake, Sir Thomas Smythe (died 1625), was the first governor of the East India Company, treasurer of the Virginia Company, and an active supporter of the Virginia colony.


Thomas Smythe, born in 1522, was the second son[3] of John Smythe (d. 1538) and Joan Brouncker, the daughter of Robert Brouncker of Melksham, Wiltshire.[2] John, a substantial yeoman and clothier of Corsham, Wiltshire, left Smythe a farm in the Hundred of Amesbury, Wiltshire, that provided an annual income of £20. After his father's death, Smythe moved to London to seek his fortune; Smythe was approximately 16 at the time.[3]


Smythe joined his father's merchant guild, the Haberdashers, and then the Worshipful Company of Skinners. In 1550, Smythe developed a close connection with Sir Andrew Judde, Lord Mayor of London. About four years later, Smythe married Judde's daughter, Alice Judde.[3][4]

During the reign of Mary I of England, Smythe purchased the Office of the Customs from one Mr. Cocker for £2,500. He was confirmed in his appointment at the Customs on the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, and he continued in the office for 11 years. In 1567, he appears to have incurred her Majesty's severe displeasure, having been accused of issuing privy warrants leading to a £6,000 loss; his friend William Cecil, Lord Burghley, intervened and helped Smythe escape imprisonment. Cecil persuaded the Queen to be lenient, arguing that if Smythe was allowed more time he would repay this loss.[5]

Elizabeth began to require larger and larger fines to renew Smythe's leases in order to replenish her exchequer. Over time, Smythe became unable to meet these demands and again fell under her Majesty's severe displeasure. His October 1589 counteroffer of a more modest payment was rejected. Due to his increasing infirmities and perhaps the stress of trying to meet the Queen's demands, Smythe died 18 months later, on 7 June 1591, leaving his widow, then 60 years old, 6 sons and 6 daughters.[6]

Smythe was a member of parliament (MP) for Tavistock October 1553, for Aylesbury April 1554, Rye November 1554, Winchelsea 1555, and Portsmouth 1563.[7]

Marriage and issue[edit]

Alice Judde, c. 1579 or 1580
Mural monument to Katherine Smythe in Nettlestead Church, Kent, daughter of Thomas Smythe and wife of Sir John Scott of Nettlestead

Thomas Smythe had 13 children with his wife, Alice Judde. They are as follows:


  1. ^ "SMITH, Thomas II (1522-91), of London, Ashford and Westenhanger, Kent. – History of Parliament Online".
  2. ^ a b Dietz 2004.
  3. ^ a b c Wadmore 1887, p. 193.
  4. ^ Hearn, p. 108–110
  5. ^ Wadmore 1887, p. 194.
  6. ^ Wadmore 1887, pp. 200–1.
  7. ^ Members Constituencies Parliaments Surveys (8 October 2012). "SMITH, Thomas II (1522-91), of London, Ashford and Westenhanger, Kent". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b Wadmore 1887, pp. 193, 202.
  9. ^ "SMYTHE, Sir John I (1557-1608), of Westenhanger, nr. Hythe, Kent". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wadmore 1887, p. 202.
  11. ^ Morgan 2004.
  12. ^ Wadmore 1887, pp. 197, 202.
  13. ^ "Sir William Harris, of Creeksea, Kt". 12 September 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017.


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