- Ian W. Archer
Smith, David (d. 1587), embroiderer and benefactor, is of unknown origins. Having been presumably apprenticed in the Broderers' Company of London, of which he became a prominent member, he joined the Elizabethan wardrobe establishment at Elizabeth's accession, sharing work with William Middleton: whereas Middleton specialized in the embroidery of furniture, Smith worked on the queen's gowns. His work can be followed through the detailed wardrobe warrants and accounts until his death in 1587. As it was labour-intensive work, the cost of workmanship was often not far short of the materials. An example from 1566 illustrates the point:
Item to David Smith our Enbrauderer … for Enbrauderinge of a Traine Gowne of black velvet with great pendaunt slevis havinge a brode border of black velvet cut in an antique worke wrought upon whit Taffata with fyne edginge purled lace the gowne cut alover and set with flowres and purles of gold lined with whit Silver Sarcenet for workmanshipp thereof xvijli. Item for fyve grosse of edginge purlid Lace at xxxs the grosse vijli xs. Item for ij poundes of silke lxiiijs. Item for x ounces of gold purles spent upon the same gowne at vijs. thounce lxxs. Item for Cuttinge alover of the same gowne with a small cut xxs. Item for Canvas thred and other necessaries to set the same in the Frame xs.Arnold, 191
It was a profitable business, and already by 1564 Smith was assessed to the subsidy at £50, placing him in the top 7 per cent of Londoners by wealth. There is little evidence of other business activities apart from the pursuit of his craft, but he did adventure £100 in Adrian Gilbert's quest for the north-west passage. He was a parishioner of St Benet Paul's Wharf, common councillor for Castle Baynard ward from at least 1566, and a governor of Bridewell Hospital in the mid-1580s. He also served as deputy alderman, one of the real workhorses of ward administration in London.
Smith's marriage to Katherine Hawthorne was unusually fruitful; six daughters and two sons survived him, and all the daughters were married by the time of his death. In spite of these heavy family obligations he remained substantially wealthy—when he died his cash bequests amounted to £1800 (a figure that excludes the unknown residue of the estate, which went to his wife). He also owned property in Thames Street, Paul's Wharf Hill, and St Peter's Hill, notably a portion of the now subdivided mansion formerly belonging to Sir Adrian Poynings. From his will drawn up shortly before his death in 1587 the children all received legacies, but they were locked into co-operating with his charitable schemes, for their bequests were conditional upon their making annual payments variously to his poor kin, to Christ's Hospital, and for four sermons a year in St Benet Paul's Wharf. After the death of his wife the hospitals were to receive a house which he rented to the Woodmongers' Company on St Peter's Hill, adjacent to the College of Arms, and six tenements which he had built three years previously for six poor widows. As long as she lived his wife was to choose the widows and pay them 20s. per annum; after her death the vestry of St Benet Paul's Wharf was to present eligible candidates to the governors of Christ's Hospital for confirmation. The recipients of the charity were to be the respectable poor, twenty years resident in the parish and at least fifty years of age,
such as love to serve God above all thinges no swearers nor blasphemours of the name of God nor no drunckardes nor skouldes nor disquieters of other people … I woulde have them to be of good and sounde religion lovers of the Gospell of Jesus Christ.TNA: PRO, PROB 11/71, fol. 129
A plan of the almshouses by the surveyor Ralph Treswell, dated to 1611 and surviving in the Christ's Hospital archives, shows that each widow had a chamber, measuring 12½ feet by 9, with a house of office, and with a garret above. Although Smith's was not the best-endowed almshouse complex in London, his action nevertheless entered the national memory by its being recorded in the 1587 edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, along with the orders that Smith devised in person for the regulation of the almswomen. His attempt to involve his kin in the charity bore some fruit, for the almshouses received an additional endowment of £400 from his daughter, Mary Parradine, in 1631.
- J. Arnold, ed., Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe unlock'd: the inventories of the wardrobe of robes prepared in July 1600 (1988)
- will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/71, fols. 126v–130
TNA: PRO, great wardrobe warrants, LC 5/32–6; great wardrobe accounts, LC 9/52–76
- W. K. Jordan, The charities of London, 1480–1660 (1960)
- M. Benbow, ‘Index of London citizens involved in city government, 1558–1603’, U. Lond.
- J. Schofield, ed., The London surveys of Ralph Treswell (1987)
- Holinshed’s chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, ed. H. Ellis, 6 vols. (1807–8)
- St Benet Paul's Wharf, vestry minutes, GL, MS 877/1
Wealth at Death
£1800 in cash bequests; residue to widow: will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/71, fols. 126v–130