Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Though there were numerous Smith families in West Sussex in the sixteenth century, no pedigrees have survived and none is known to have been armigerous. Nor do any of the families of this name from other counties who attained some importance in national affairs contain a James Smith at the right date. The description of the 1597 Member for Midhurst as ‘James Smyth, Esq.’ on the original return suggests he was of some social standing, but no suitable person has been found. It is on the whole unlikely that the same man was returned for both constituencies as the returns are dated three weeks apart. The Member for Midhurst probably had some connexion, direct or indirect, with Lord Montagu, owner of the borough, and the choice at Arundel may have been due to Lord Buckhurst, though local men also were returned there at the end of the reign.

In the absence of positive identification some possibilities can be suggested. In 1568 a James Smith married Ann, daughter of Richard Pellatt of Steyning, Sussex. The Pellatt, family was of some standing there, supplying MPs in 1555 and 1572. James Smith, whose name appears in the wills of at least two Pellatts, had possible connexions through them with both Arundel and Midhurst. Smith’s brother-in-law, Christopher (Pellatt), is called ‘of Arundel’ in his will, and another member of the Pellatt family married into the Lewknors, who had some influence in Midhurst parliamentary elections, Lewis Lewknor being the other Member in 1597. But this James Smith would have been too old to be returned for the first time in 1597 if, as is likely, he was the man whose will was proved in the consistory court of Chichester in 1600. Another James Smith, but of low social standing, can be found in the wills of the Lintott family of Horsham.1

The most important Smith family in West Sussex, probably, was that which owned the manor of Binderton, near Chichester, for most of the sixteenth century, but no James has been found. The family operated ironworks not far from Midhurst, and William Smith was described as an ‘old servant’ in 1609 in the will of Lord Lumley, one of Montagu’s close friends. There may have been a James Smith in this family in the service of either Lumley or Montagu.2

One final possibility, outside the county, suggests itself. James Smith, citizen and grocer of London, left money in 1617 to the poor of Horsham and to several people in Sussex, but he came originally from Lincolnshire, and no connexion with Midhurst, Arundel or their patrons has been found.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. Suss. Arch. Colls. xxxviii. 99 seq.; xxxix. 90; Probate Reg. at Chichester, vol. 15, f. 84; J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies Horsham Centre, 206.
  • 2. VCH Suss. iv. 89; Suss. N. and Q. xiii. 235-6; PCC 34 Dorset.
  • 3. PCC 102 Weldon.