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Meet The Smiths

Find out more about the family who owned Hall's Croft for over 100 years.

The Smith family owned Hall’s Croft for 100 years, the longest period of residency amongst all of its occupants. They physically shaped Hall’s Croft, linking the detached service blocks to the main house, adding two extensions, and building the grand staircase.

Little is known about Richard, the first Smith to own the property. After Richard, Anthony Smith acquired the house, though it is uncertain as to how he obtained it. There are a number of theories about Richard’s relationship to Anthony. In 1610, one Richard Smith leased the Manor House of Alscot in Preston-on-Stour, where Anthony was then living. There was also a Richard Smith of Stratford-upon-Avon, who in 1620 sold land in Wood Street. Perhaps the most likely candidate was Richard Smith of Wilmcote, who was leased part of the Little Wilmcote tithes in 1622, while another part was leased to Anthony. Richard last paid his rental in 1632, after which both rents were paid by Anthony. Anthony is first recorded as paying chief rent in 1637, and on the same document Richard is described as the former owner. Anthony may have inherited Hall's Croft on Richard's death, but ‘Smith’ is a common surname, so a family link is uncertain.

Anthony (born 1583) was living in Preston-on-Stour from about 1603, where five of his children were baptised. He came to Stratford in c.1615, and acquired Hall’s Croft in the early 1630s. He initially lived on Henley Street and established himself as a leading townsman. Evidence of Anthony’s wealth and status appear in the 1620s when he is described as a yeoman, and in 1624 when he is listed as a townsman wealthy enough to be assessed for taxation, lending the Corporation a substantial £220. He served as a churchwarden and chamberlain, was elected to membership of the Corporation, became an alderman, and was High Bailiff in Stratford. He often acted in partnership with lawyer Edmund Rawlins, making it possible that Anthony also worked in the law. By 1629 he was considered a gentleman, a more fitting title given his status. He moved to Hall’s Croft in 1634 with his growing family (records show that five more of his children had been baptised) and added a new kitchen and stable block.

Anthony died without leaving a will in 1646, so the family property passed to his eldest son Henry (born 1611). Anthony’s wife Frances presumably remained at Hall's Croft. Between 1650 and his death in 1687, Henry acted as a trustee for the local gentry, which included the Shakespeares. In 1675 Henry acted as their trustee and sold the Shakespeare estate to Edward Walker.

Henry’s 1684 will clarifies his ownership of Hall's Croft, seven cottages in Chapel Lane and the sum of £1,000. There is no record of Henry marrying or having children, and so his bequests went mainly to nephews. His brother Richard was granted a life interest in Hall's Croft; Richard's elder son (also Richard) received £200 and the cottages; and the younger (Henry) £200 and a tenancy of land. Henry’s other nephew William received £200, the lease of the tithes of Little Wilmcote and Hall's Croft on his uncle’s death. The poor of Stratford received £10 and those of Preston-on-Stour £5. There was a curious bequest to one Edward Harrison of a diamond ring and 'the room over my orchard gate' at Hall’s Croft. Harrison was a gentleman and is found with Henry witnessing and acting for local figures. Whether he shared Henry’s house is uncertain, but this is evidence of a sub-division of Hall's Croft before 1712.

Henry’s younger brothers, Robert and Richard, were born in 1615 and 1610, respectively. They sought out trades and were apprenticed to London grocer William Warde. They too became grocers in London, where Robert had four children (William, Isaac, Anthony and a daughter). Robert died before Henry wrote his will, so Richard inherited the life tenancy of Hall's Croft. There is no evidence that Richard ever lived there, but he may have let out parts of the house, while another part remained occupied by Harrison. Richard died c.1691 and was succeeded by his son (Richard) who took over the grocery business.

William (eldest son of Robert, born 1649) retired to Stratford to take up residence in Hall's Croft after his uncle’s death in c.1691. He married Jane Hurdis, and eventually his sister-in-law, Susanna Hurdis. Susanna remained at Hall’s Croft after William’s death in 1708.

Hall's Croft was passed to William’s brother Isaac (born 1656). Four years later Isaac sold it to Thomas Woolmer for £380, bringing the Smith's ownership of Hall’s Croft to an end. 

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