The Smith family of Birmingham
From midlands farmers to prosperous industrialists





Other sources

  1. Various correspondence with John C. Bragg
  2. The Family: Facts and Fables, book by Lindy Selley (daughter of Jan Carr), privately printed, 2022
  3. Correspondence from John Simcox, Steve Green, Clare Matheson and others (2007)

Family trees

Smith family tree
Family trees of the Smith, Watton, Carr and Hay families


Other information

67 Wheeleys Road


67 Wheeley's Road, Edgbaston, where Thomas Smith lived in the 1880s

Edgbaston Golf Club


Edgbaston Hall (now Golf Club), where Sir James Smith lived from 1896 to 1932

BSA Royal Visit 1915


The royal visit by to the B.S.A. works
Sir Hallewell Rogers on the R (top photo)

Used by permission of The Rifleman website

Methodist burials

In the 19th century, 'non-conformists' such as Methodists were not allowed to be buried in Church of England burial grounds. Many from the Watton family, probably including Elizabeth (1814-80), who married Thomas Smith, were buried in the Key Hill cemetery in Birmingham, alongside many Swedenborgians from the Johnstone and related families.18 See the page on the New Church for details.

William Carrington Smith 2nd marriage notice
Marriage notice of William 'Carrington' Smith to Celia Barnard, 1899

Brooklyn Life newspaper

Key to Smith family photo, by Jan Green

  1. Annie [née Anne Charlotte Smith] - (m. to Sam Smith)
  2. Randle Lunt - (m. to Dora)
  3. Lily [Lydia] (née Smith) - m. Hallewell Rogers
  4. Sir James Smith (m. to Phoebe)
  5. Queenie? - m. to Will Smith [more likely to be Amelia Piercy Smith, b. 1853]
  6. Bessie (née Smith) m. Willy Sanderson, died
  7. Sam (husband to Annie)
  8. Phyl - daughter of Sam, later m. Sandy [Frederick] Bell-Scott [see note below]
  9. Phoebe, Lady Smith
  10. Rol [Harold], 2nd son of James (m. Olive Lunt eventually), father of Jim
  11. Mary - daughter of Tom (died), later m. Alan Bragg
  12. Lal [Lilian Alice] - daughter of James - m. Oliver Chamberlain
  13. May [Mabel Gertude] - daughter of James, m. Arthur Chamberlain [see note below]
  14. Tom Lowe - no relation, apparently a v. eligible bachelor! [see note below]
  15. Dora (Dorrie), daughter of Tom (died) m. Randle Lunt
  16. Madge [Marjorie] - daughter of Sam, later m. Wyndham Malins
  17. Will Smith, later Carrington Smith
  18. Dollie [Dorothy H.] (daughter of James and Phoebe) m. Mallet Phelps [see note below]
  19. Arthur Chamberlain, married to May [see above]
  20. Jessie - daughter of Tom (died), m. Stanley Johnstone
  21. Geoff - son of Will and ?Queenie [see above]
  22. Carrie [Caroline] - daughter of Bessie, m. George Saint Johnston
  23. Amy - daughter of Bessie, m. Charlie Rowe
  24. Miss Edie - daughter of Tom
  25. Oliver Chamberlain - m. to Lal [see above]
  26. Stanley Dawson Smith - elder son of James
  27. Esmond Rogers - son of Lily [see above], later killed at Ypres
  28. Sir Hallewell Rogers - married Lily


Not present but could have been

Thomas Smith senior

William, Kate and Elsie Sanderson

Granny Mick

Winnie and Chas Green

Hettie and Arthur Knight

Frank C. Carr (né Smith)

Nellie M. Smith (daughter of James)

Sidney E. Smith (daughter of Will)

John M. Smith (son of Will)

Esther L. Rogers (adopted daughter of Lydia)



Victorian brass bedstead made by the Imperial Bedstead Company
Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith (1812-1899)

Photo courtesy of Phil Holcroft

This branch of the extensive Smith family came from the counties north-west of Birmingham, and established themselves in the manufacturing and business web of that city, achieving in some cases considerable wealth and position.


The early Smiths and their relatives were farmer-landowners in rural Staffordshire and Derbyshire. James Smith (1777-1853) was from Tamworth, as was his son Thomas, the father of the main family described here. The family of Thomas's wife Elizabeth, the Wattons, were traders from Tamworth, and were linked to three farming families - the Bowmans, the Sadlers and the Walkers - from the valley of the river Dove (the border between Staffordshire and Derbyshire). In a way similar to the residents of  'the Colony', three of Elizabeth's brothers married their Bowman cousins - see Family Tree below.

Not much is known about these early ancestors: Elizabeth Watton's father Samuel (1775-1845) was a joiner, and one brother Alfred served as steward (effectively butler) to Sir Robert Peel at Drayton Manor near Tamworth, along with 15 other servants;i other brothers worked in various trades - painter, builder etc.. Thomas's brother William Piercy Smith worked as innkeeper at the King's Head in Digbeth in Birmingham, a job later taken over by his widow Sarah.

Interestingly, all the Wattons, Sadlers and Walkers were baptised as Wesleyan Methodists, a religious conviction they had in common with many of the Hay family and James Byron Carr. The Smiths however (and the Bowmans) were Anglicans. Tom Smith therefore, an Anglican, had a Methodist mother and later Methodist parents-in-law. Many of these 'non-conformists' are buried in the Key Hill cemetery in Birmingham - see side note.

Thomas and Elizabeth had three daughters and four sons. Although the parents themselves were about in the middle of the socio-economic scale, various of the children rose rapidly to the top, through hard work, brains and advantageous marriages. James became Lord Mayor of Birmingham, as did Lydia's husband; Will became a jeweller to the Crown, and Sam a wealthy industrialist. Thomas Henry ('Tom'), who took over his father's business, stayed in the middle of the scale - but as he had the good fortune to marry Granny Mick, he is more to be envied than pitied. In contrast to the Handsworth set centered around 'the Colony', the Smith family resided in leafy Edgbaston with its Regency villas, and Moseley (both in the district of Kings Norton). Most of the locations mentioned here are shown on the map of Birmingham.

Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith (1812-1899)

Cameo in possession of the Johnstone family


Thomas Smith senior ran a stationery and bookbinding business at the corner of Cannon Street and Cherry Street in the centre of the city. He and Elizabeth and their family lived in the St Thomas area south-west of the centre (in Exeter Row and Bath Row), and later moved to Wheeley's Road in Edgbaston (see photo below left), where in 1891 Thomas (who lost an arm in a railway accident) was still in business, employing 'nine men, two boys and one woman'. He died at age 87, just before the close of the century. Unfortunately he is absent from the fine photograph (see below) of his large family on holiday in the Scottish Borders.



Eldest daughter Elizabeth married William Sanderson, a grocer, who sadly died soon after the birth of their fifth child. Bessie then set up as a ladies' outfitter and milliner, living in Edgbaston (Gough Road then Yew Tree Road), near the rest of her family. Of their five children, William became a stationer (possibly in the family business?), Amy became a dressmaker, Elsie a schoolteacher.


As expected of the eldest son, Thomas Henry went into his father's bookbinding and stationery business in Cherry Street. There he met Jeanie Copley Carr, whose father Rev. James Byron Carr was the minister at the Cherry Street Methodist church from 1865 to 1868. They married in 1868 in Grimsby, James's next posting. Tom was the only one of his brothers not to become wealthy, but Jeanie, whose background was also modest, refused to be overawed by her comfortably-situated in-laws. She and her family cultivated a certain 'outsider' status, for which the rumour of 'Gypsy Blood' was the ideal explanation.ii See page on Granny Mick and family for details.

Sir James Smith


Sir James Smith, 1897, by James Jebusa Shannon

Photo used by kind permission of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery


Second son James was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham.2 He may for a time have been a lawyer,iii but after his marriage to Phoebe Heath in 1869, went into the business of brassware, in particular brass bedsteads (see below). Phoebe was the daughter of brassware manufacturer Samuel Heath, who founded the company still trading under that name.3,4 This advantageous marriage set James on the path to higher things: he was Mayor of Birmingham from 1895 to 1896 and the first Lord Mayor of Birmingham from 1896 to 1897.5 He was knighted in 18972 and lived at Edgbaston Hall6 (now Edgbaston Golf Club) from 1896 till his death.7,8,i James and Phoebe had six children: first son Stanley went into the family bedstead business, and Harold (known as 'Rol') married Olive Lunt and became a silversmith. Eldest daughter Nellie married Sydney Padmore, a silver refiner, and youngest daughter Dollie an army officer. The other two daughters Mabel and Lillian married Chamberlains: Arthur and Oliver were sons of John Henry Chamberlain, architect of many Birmingham buildings in the Victorian Gothic style (unrelated to the Birmingham mayor Joseph Chamberlain).


Third son William went into the jewellery business, joining the firm of Carringtons in Regent Street (the London branch of Birmingham silversmith John Bodman Carrington), where he became a partner in 1880 and sole owner from 1906 to 1922, after which the business was taken over by Collingwood. Carringtons made luxury silver tableware and was jeweller to various royal families across Europe, with a string of royal warrants.9,10 At some stage Will adopted the name Carrington as a middle name. He married Amy Wright Melson in 1873 and they had three children. Amy died in 1890 soon after Geoffrey was born, and in 1899 Will married an American lady, Celia Barnard, known as 'Teddy', some thirty years his junior (see newspaper cutting below left). In the key to the family photo (below), one lady (no. 5) is labelled as 'Queenie?, married to Will': this is more likely to be Amelia; Will's second wife Celia is probably not in the photo.


Samuel Watton Smith was, like his brother James and James's father-in-law Samuel Heath, in the brass bedstead manufacturing business (see below). He married Anne Charlotte Smith (probably no relation) in 1882 and they lived at Priorsfield, a grand house in Edgbaston, now part of the university, and had two daughters.


Amelia Piercy, who did not marry, lived with her parents and brother Sam at various stages. The census from 1911 has her living in Charlotte Road, Edgbaston, running a boarding house. (She is probably no. 5 in the family photo below.)


Youngest daughter Lydia married Hallewell ('Hal') Rogers,14 who became the fifth Lord Mayor of Birmingham (1902-4).6 Hallewell was involved in the scheme to dam the river Elan to supply water to Birmingham, for which he was knighted in 1904.15 He was chairman of the gunsmiths and motorcycle manufacturers B.S.A. from 1906-1928 (see photos left), and was elected MP for Birmingham Moseley in 1918.14,16 Hal and Lily lived at Greville Lodge (no longer there) at the top of Wellington Road in Edgbaston. Their son Esmond, a fine golfer and cricketer, and an early member of Handsworth Golf Club, was killed on the Somme in 1916 aged 24; their adopted daughter Esther lived for a while in France.iii Lydia died in 1908 aged 53, and Hallewell later remarried, to Phyllis Reeve.

Family photo

Sir James Smith and his extended family took summer holidays in large country houses, for example Netherbyres House in Berwickshire, where the group photo below was taken in about 1898. This wonderful document shows almost the whole of Thomas's family, with a few notable absences (see below). The group even included an 'eligible bachelor', Tom Lowe, as marriage material for the various single Smith daughters.ii Tom Smith's daughter Dorrie obviously had fond memories of Netherbyres, as she and her husband Randle Lunt named their house in Moseley after it. Thanks to Richard Johnstone for providing the excellent copy shown here.

Smith Family Photo
Smith family photo, Netherbyres House, circa 1898

Photo courtesy of Richard Johnstone

Key to Smith family photo
Key to Smith family photo (see names, left)

Prepared by Jan Green, née Carr, courtesy of Peter Johnstone

The key above was drawn by Jan Carr (later Green), granddaughter of Tom Smith. As might be expected, there were a few discrepancies in putting names to faces, and other family members (e.g. Tom Johnstone) had different recollections of the line-up (see side note). Jan uses the word 'Queenie' a couple of times in her key (nos. 5 and 21). This is probably not meant as a name but rather as the 'family jargon' for a lady, as in "who's that queenie?".

Bedstead men

In Victorian times, fine bed-frames were made of brass, hand made and often richly decorated - see photo left. At least five men of the Smith and Carr family were involved in this industry, in various companies.