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Smith family, of Camborne
1800-1868

Dr. George Smith, Cornish businessman and historian,was 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 Wesleyan 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 Burrall Bickford (1805-1886), daughter of the inventor of the miner's safety fuse. On William Bickford's death in 1834 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 Wesleyanism in the period of the Wesleyan Reform 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.

The eldest of his three sons, William Bickford Smith (1827-1899), was one of the first lay representatives elected by the 1877 Conference to the Conference of he following year. He was Conservative MP 1885-1892. His obituary in the Cornish Telegraph stated that he had been a local preacherr for 50 years and had held'almost every office in Methodism to which a layman can attain'.

His second son, Sir George John 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 one of the Wesleyan delegates to the Oecumeiccal Conference of 1881 and one of the three lay treasurers (along with R.W. Perks and T.H. Bainbridge) of the Twentieth Century Fund. He was knighted in 1897, the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and died on 9 October 1921.

His third son, Henry Arthur Smith (1848-1922) was also an active Wesleyan layman. When his brother William retired 'by rotation' from the Committee of Privileges in 1892, it wa Henry Arthur who was elected to replace him.

Their sister Eliza (1831-1871) married the Rev. William Davis Tyack (1822-1879; e.m. 1847), a native of Camborne who had been a member of George Smith's class in his early years and wrote a biography of William Murrish, 'the Miner of Perranzabuloe' (1866).

Sources

  • 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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