John Corfield

Thomas Smith first came to my notice in 1979 whilst I was researching the Poor Law Union work of Cockett and Nash, a small firm of 19th century architects and surveyors of Royston, Herts. I had been endeavouring to find out whether Cockett and Nash were the architects for Royston’s Italianate style Court House built in 1849. It was suggested to me that the person most likely to have been responsible was Thomas Smith, the County Surveyor for Hertfordshire at the time.

It seemed rather strange that a County Surveyor should have been so architecturally proficient and it came as a surprise to find Thomas Smith was an architect with an interesting entry in H.M.Colvin’s “A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects: 1600-1840”.

Material connected with Smith is scattered over a very large area. For example his original drawings for Christ Church, Naples are still in that city while all Smith’s submission drawings, for the improvements at Bedford Gaol in 1848, are at the County Record Office, Bedford.

An excellent source of contemporary information was the local “Hertfordshire Mercury”, which revealed a great deal about Smith and his work both at home and abroad and often reprinted items of interest concerning him which had been initially reported in the “Bedford Times”. Reports of the laying of foundation stones and consecration services were mines of information for they invariably included not only a detailed account of Smith’s design for the building, but also a list of the dignitaries who were present and sometimes a verbatim report even of the sermon preached and the hymns sung! These detailed reports were most useful where a building no longer exists, such as in the case of Christ Church, Port Vale, Hertford, demolished in 1970.

All research has its dreaded moments of sheer frustration and none more so than when two “Thomas Smiths” of Hertford appeared in documents in the early stages of my research. One being an architect and the other a stonemason and both resident in the Parish of St Andrew raised the question as to whether they were the same person. Happily the problem resolved itself as research into “Thomas Smith architect” progressed.

The aim of my research has been to draw attention to the contribution Thomas Smith made to Hertford as an architect and surveyor, councillor and Mayor and to Hertfordshire as its Surveyor and to Victorian architecture both in this country and abroad.

This page was added on 17/06/2022.

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