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More about George Smith by guest blogger Martin Gorman

More about Sir George Smith

I’m used to telling people I take round the Library on occasional Wednesdays that Sir George Smith the younger “fell on hard times” after coming out of prison in 1793. He had to mortgage property to Jonas Bettison of Holme Pierrepont in 1802 and died in 1808. Bromley House was occupied by a cousin, Thomas Smith, and rented out until the ignominious occupation by the militia and eventual sale to the Library. However, from some of the documents in the Smith-Bromley papers in Nottingham University, it seems that things weren’t as bad as I thought.

Sir George’s will of 1807 lists his property, which he bequeathed to his son, Robert Howe Bromley and, in the event of his dying without issue, to an Elizabeth Lester, known as Mrs Edwards. This includes all his “manors, lands and real estates in Huntingdonshire, Hereford, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and the towns of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby”.

Elizabeth Lester had the use until her death of Preston Court, Gloucestershire, whereupon it reverted to the third son of his cousin, Thomas. This son, Robert Smith, at that time resided at Worcester College, Oxford. He would have to change his name to Pauncefote in order to benefit, which he did on 20 January 1809; an interesting parallel to the circumstances surrounding Sir George’s assumption of the name of Bromley. From 1803 he had added Pauncefote to his name, after his maternal grandmother, through whom he inherited Preston Court.


George Smith

One of the Smith-Bromley papers is a handwritten note by Lady Esther Bromley of the state of her affairs in 1800. It shows that the income from Sir George’s estate was £3150 gross, or over £230,000 in today’s money. She was entitled under the terms of their separation to keep three sevenths of the net value as an annuity (£970, now £71,000 a year) once debts had been paid. It also shows that she had to pay three sevenths of Sir George’s debts in 1794, which were paid off in three installments by 1797. Her investments amounted to £14,560, or just over a million today.

After Sir George’s death his London house was sold at auction. The sale particulars indicate that this was a desirable property, “fit for the immediate reception of a family of the first respectability”. Number 51 Russell Square, unfortunately no longer standing, had 5 bedrooms, a front drawing room with French windows and balcony, a back drawing room, an eating room and library, with rooms in the basement for a butler, housekeeper, wine cellar, kitchen, wash house and a cistern at the side with force pump. The effects included furniture, pictures, miniatures, books, cabinets, plate, china, wine and carriage.

The papers do not state how much was obtained for all this but, as the unexpired ground lease of the property was for only 19 years, it may not have been enormous. Nevertheless, despite his debts in the 1790’s, Sir George was clearly not left destitute after his enforced separation from his wife and departure from Nottingham. He almost comes across as a decent sort, bequeathing not only extensive property to family but even leaving Jonas Bettison, his mortgagor in 1802, and the Rev. Ralph Heathcote of Hockerton, legacies of 20 guineas (£1500 today) as tokens of friendship.



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Filed under Library History


One of the Library’s acquisitions in 2014, Alison Light’s “Common People: the History of an English Family” (Ca 13767), makes an interesting, if unconscious, connection with a distinguished former member of the Library.
In exploring her family background, Alison Light illuminates many aspects of our social history along the way. She discovered that her grandfather’s mother, Sarah Hill, entered the recently-completed Netherne Asylum, in Surrey, in 1911. This prompted her to look at the role of asylums and workhouses in the lives of working people over the last two centuries.
She found a picture of Netherne Asylum, below, and notes (on page 283) that it was designed in a “simplified Queen Anne style” by G T Hine, consulting architect to His Majesty’s Commissioners in Lunacy.


George Thomas Hine (1841-1916) was the son of Nottingham’s most famous architect, Thomas Chambers Hine, who was a member of Bromley House Library for 55 years. George himself was a subscriber between 1884 and 1890. He was a partner in T C Hine’s practice until he started his own, in London, after his father’s retirement in 1890.
One of his specialisms was the design of hospitals and asylums, begun by his winning first prize for the design of Mapperley asylum in 1875. Ken Brand’s Nottingham Civic Society pamphlet on T C Hine (Cc 02643) notes that he went on to win other open competitions to design asylums at Woodford, Essex in 1887, Charminster, Dorset in 1890 and Ryhope, Sunderland in 1891. After winning 5 competitions he was appointed consulting architect to the Commissioners in 1897. He designed or extended 20 asylums in all and lived in Mayfair, London.
The Commissioners in Lunacy were created in 1845. Known as “Masters in Lunacy” and appointed by the Lord Chancellor, their first Chairman was the distinguished reformer Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury. They became the Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency in 1913 and were absorbed by the Ministry of Health in 1919, continuing as inspectors of asylums until 1939.

A short biography of G T Hine can be found in Jennifer S. Alexander’s article about Mapperley Hospital in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society for 2008, Vol. 112 (Cc 02078). It can be read online at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/arthistory/staff/ja/alexander-copy.pdf .

Martin Gorman


Filed under Library History, Local History