The Smith And Crew Documents

The Bednall Archive 

Last updated 26/03/2011


Two documents recently acquired for the Bednall Collection (BC2-1497 "Smith's List" & BC2-1500 "Crew's Tax Account") differ significantly from all other documents in the collection  in that both relate to national affairs rather than local or family history.  A further difference is that both are lists on long, narrow strips of vellum.  One dates from the early 19th century and is dated, the other is approximately 180 years older and undated. 



"Smith's List"

BC2/1497  is a document signed by Henry Stoner Smith, Deputy Chief Usher of the Court of Exchequer and dated 21 March 1837 and also 9th March 1838.  It lists, under separate headings: archbishops, bishops, deans and chapters, dean and canons, chapter, warden and fellows, in England and Wales. Alongside the names under these headings (see below), in pencil, are given the dates "Returned to" and against some either "No powers" or "excempt".

The purpose of the list is uncertain but one of the Chief Usher's duties performed by Smith, was to produce a list and totals of all the King's processes i.e. summons, warrants etc, issued by the Court of Exchequer, each Term and thus this may have been the list's purpose. If correct, then the list suggests that  55 processes were issued in the Hilary Term of 1837.  However, there are other possibilities that have yet to be explored.

Who was Henry Stoner Smith? 

Henry Stone Smith was a long serving public servant who, if for nothing else, will be remembered  for his action during  the great fire which devastated most of the Palace of Westminster on 16 October 1834.  Then a House of Lords clerk, Smith saved many bundles of Lords papers by throwing out  from the main building into Old Palace Yard, saving them from the fate that befell the House of Commons papers.  His monument in the church of St. John Evangelist, Westminster, records that he was born in 1795,  the " only son of Capt. John Langdale Smith, R.N., and Sarah, his wife" and lived in the parish (in White Square) all his life.   Altogether  he spent 63 years in the Public Service, starting his career as a clerk in the office of the "House of Peers" in or about 1814 [2]. He was subsequently  appointed Assistant Clerk to the Clerk of Private Committees and in 1833 and Clerk of Enrolment. In 1840 he told a committee he was Principal Assistant Committee Clerk of the House of Lords but by 1836 he was Deputy Chief Usher of the Court of Exchequer.  In or about 1843 he was appointed Chief Clerk of the Parliament Office, a post he was to hold for 34 years.  He died in 1881 having, according to his  monument "lived in honour and died in peace". [3][4]

 What did the Deputy Chief Usher of the Exchequer do?

The position of Chief Usher of the Court of Exchequer ( full title "The office of Usher of the Court of the Exchequer, and of the offices of Marshalls, Ushers, and Proclamators [or Criers] of the Common Pleas and of the Marshalls and Ushers and Proclamators and Barriers before the King's Justices in Eyre"[5]) was an hereditary  one until 1852 when it was abolished. The Chief Usher did not perform any duties but delegated them to a deputy, one of whom was Henry Stone Smith (1836-1842).  The Chief Usher was the custodian of the Court of Exchequer chamber and was responsible for keeping all the Exchequer records safely and attending upon the Lord Treasurer & Chancellor when they come there.  Until 1815, he was also responsible for supplying the court & officers with paper, ink, statute books and all other “necessaries”. It was also his duty to deliver to the respective sheriffs, the Writs of Summonses which issued out of the Exchequer for the King's debts. He had considerable rights of patronage and could appoint four ushers, six messengers and a court keeper.

The ushers’ duties included "attending the Barons & Officers of the Court”, calling juries, witnesses etc,  attending other courts and making proclamations calling sheriffs etc.[6]  The role of messenger was to deliver all summons, warrants, convictions, etc. to all parts of England and Wales. This included delivering the King’s process etc. to sheriffs and others and taking, in receipt, bills subscribed by the sheriffs or their under-sheriffs.   The Chief Usher checked the receipt of these when the messengers returned against the book in which he recorded all the writs & processes issued, noting with the sheriff and office that issued them.  


John Crew's Tax Account

The other document (BC2/1500) bears the signature of John Crew but there is no indication of either the document's purpose or  its date. It appears to be some sort of taxation list as it lists bishoprics and counties in England & Wales with an amount against each and a reference mark against some that appears to mean "received".  The signature is thought to be that of John Crew, the first Baron Crew, whose dates are 1597/8-1679. He was an MP from 1624 and sat in the Long Parliament. He was briefly committed to the Tower in 1640 for refusing to surrender papers in his possession as chairman of the committee on religion. Thus expert assessment suggests it is likely that this document "is a tax assessment and was probably taken before 1660 when Crew was made a lord". It is possible that "it may date to the 1650s when raising money was a priority and Crew sat on the Committee for Both Kingdoms and was also responsible for raising funds for the Piedmontese Protestants." See "Lay Taxes in England & Wales 1188-1688 , J Jurkowski, C L Smith & D Crook, PRO 1998.[NB the above is based on comments by the National Archives]



[2] History, Directory & Gazeteer of the County of York,  Vol. II East & North Ridings  by  Edward Baines  1823

[3] The Edinburgh Almanack, or Universal Scots and Imperial Register, p.162.  1833

[4] Henry Stone Smith's mother, Sarah, was very artistic and some of her work can be seen in the Australian Museum's "Sarah Stone Collection".

[5] The National Archives :

[6] Camden Miscellany, xxvi (1975), pp. 126-7

©AWBednall, Macclesfield UK 2010