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Smith, Dr George, of Camborne

Cornish businessman and historian, born at Condurro, Camborne on 31 August 1800. The son of a carpenter, he left school at 11, but embarked on a course of self-improvement while working at a mine and then as a gentleman's servant boy. He joined the WM society in 1821 and became a local preacher in 1823. He set up in business as a builder in 1824 and in 1826 married Elizabeth Burall Bickford, daughter of the inventor of the miner's safety fuse. On William Bickford's death in 1832 he took over the management of the Fuse Factory at Tuckingmill and developed it into a profitable business. He died at Trevu, Camborne on 30 August 1868 and left an estate of c.35,000.

His social work, literary interests and work for Methodism developed alongside his business career. He became Chief County Magistrate, was a pioneer in developing the railway system in Cornwall, was a Fellow of the Society of Arts, a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, the Society of Antiquities and the Royal Society of Literature and received an LLD from the University of New York. His first book was An Attempt to Ascertain the true Chronology of the Book of Genesis (1842). Firmly loyal to WM in the period of the WR movement, he published The Wesleyan Ministers and their Slanderers (1849) and The Doctrine of the Pastorate (1851). His three-volume History of Wesleyan Methodism (1857-61) remains a standard work.

His daughter Eliza (1831-1871) married the Rev. William D. Tyack (e.m. 1847; d. 1871)

His younger son, Sir George Smith (1845-1921) was educated at London University and entered the family firm. During nearly half a century of public service, he served on the magistracy, Camborne local authority and Cornwall County Council. He also held many offices in the WM Church and was involved with the Camborne WM Sunday School and as organist and choirmaster, and later at Truro. He was a director of Truro School from its early days and became the first chairman of the newly formed board of governors in 1904. Smith House was named in his memory in 1921 and his former home Trelisk was bought from the family for use as a junior boarding school (larer the Prep School). At both places he led a large Bible Class. A cricketing enthusiast, he was a notable bowler. He was knighted in 1897, the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and died on 9 October 1921.


  • Methodist Recorder, 13 October 1921
  • The Cornubian, 13 October 1921
  • T.R. Harris, Dr. George Smith, Wesleyan Methodist Layman (Cornish Methodist Historical Association, 1968)
  • Oxford DNB

Entry written by: JCCP and TS
Category: Person


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