Richard Bowden Smith was baptised on 16 November 1800 at Brockenhurst, one of ten children born to Robert Smith and his wife Anne (nee Bowden). Robert and Anne had moved to 8 Carlton Crescent in Southampton by 1834. It is probable that Richard moved to Southampton at about the same time. He is recorded at the first gala day of the Royal Victoria Southampton and New Forest Archers in August 1834 (Hampshire Advertiser, 16 August 1834). Robert, Anne, Richard and an elder brother David (1796-1848) are listed at 8 Carlton Crescent in the 1841 census.
Robert was buried at All Saints Church on 5 April 1849, aged 79 years. Richard married Georgina Eleanor Long at Corhampton church on 9 August 1849. She was the sixth daughter of Walter Long (JP, Deputy Lieutenant and, in 1824, High Sheriff of Hampshire) of Preshaw House and his wife Lady Mary Long, eldest daughter of William, 7th Earl of Northesk. Richard and Georgina later moved to 4 Rockstone Place (recorded there in directories of 1853 and 1855), leaving one of Richard’s unmarried sisters – Martha Bowden Smith, born 1805 – at 8 Carlton Crescent. She died on 14 July 1880, then of Moira Place, assessed for probate at “under £14,000” (Hampshire Archives and Local Studies 5M62/19 p 405: will).
Richard and Georgina moved from Southampton to the New Forest (Burley Cottage) and in 1856 rented Vernalls, a 17th-century country house in Lyndhurst, from Admiral Robert Aitchison. They purchased the property (over 22 acres) in 1860 (Mrs R Bowden Smith, Of what I remember of Lyndhurst and the neighbourhood nearly fifty years ago, 1901: typescript copy in Hampshire Archives and Local Studies TOP 207/1/8). Richard died at Vernalls on 10 August 1881. His widow died in 1902. They had one son: Walter Baird Bowden Smith, born at Crickhowell in Brecon on 24 May 1850. A nephew, Frederick Harrmann Bowden Smith - born 1842, fifth son of Nathaniel Bowden Smith (1797-1886) of Careys in Brockenhurst - entered the church and was vicar of St Luke’s, Newtown between July 1875 and October 1881.
Richard Bowden Smith played cricket for a number of local sides. He was a forcing batsman for the South Hants Cricket Club between 1839 and September 1851 at least. Known as ‘Cricket Smith’, he played alongside Thomas Chamberlayne of Cranbury Park, Sir John Barker Mill of Mottisfont and Sir Frederick Harvey Bathurst of Clarendon Park in Wiltshire as well as the professionals Daniel Day and Richard Bodle. (H G Green [H Woodley], Reminiscences of the South Hants Cricket Club between 1842 and 1859, published 1905). He was elected secretary in May 1839, with Peter Dickson as club treasurer. Smith also played for the Gentlemen of Hants (opening his innings against the Players in 1843 with five consecutive fours) and the Hampshire XI. He was appointed a member of a committee to establish ‘The Hampshire Cricket Club’ at a meeting held at the Woolston Hotel on 3 April 1849 (Hampshire Advertiser, 7 April 1849). He later belonged to the New Forest Cricket Club. Smith made one appearance for the Marylebone Cricket Club, in a return match against the South Hants Cricket Club at the Antelope Ground on 28-30 August 1843. The MCC won by an innings and 6 runs. Smith was bowled by Bathurst for a duck, one of the fast bowler’s six victims. The match had a bizarre sequel. Sir Frederick Bathurst, R B Smith, Captain John George Weir (of The Elms, Polygon) and Captain Thomas Frederick Onslow (of Alresford) – all cricketers, the first three having played in the MCC match and Bathurst later President of the MCC - were involved in a drunken affray with Police Sergeant Terry in the early morning of 31 August near the Bargate following a dinner at the Royal Victoria Assembly Rooms attended by the county elite. Bathurst, Onslow and Weir were arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct and for assaulting Sergeant Terry in the course of his duty. They appeared before the Police Court later that day. Smith, who had tried to intervene to keep the peace, was arrested by Terry shortly before the trial, a blatant attempt to prevent him giving evidence which would in all probability have led to an acquittal. The court fined Bathurst, Onslow and Weir £1 each, with costs, but acquitted Smith. An enquiry into Terry’s conduct was demanded by Smith and Captain Weir, both long-standing members of the South Hants Club. The Watch Committee subsequently dismissed Sergeant Terry. The politically-sympathetic Hampshire Advertiser all but suppressed the case. It is due to the Hampshire Independent, supporting Smith as part of its campaign to improve the quality of the town’s police, that details of the affair became public (Hampshire Independent, 2 and 9 September, 4 November, 9 and 16 December 1843).
Sport was in Smith’s blood. We have already seen his connection with the Southampton and New Forest Archers. He was a member of the Hambledon Hunt (appearing at a hunt fancy dress ball at the Royal Victoria Assembly Rooms in January 1836) and the New Forest Hunt. It is probable too that he was a fly-fisherman. This is based on the attribution to Smith of Fly-fishing in salt and fresh water, published anonymously by John Van Voorst of London in 1851. Formerly attributed to either Richard Hely Hutchinson or Horace Gordon Hutchinson, it was re-attributed in 1998 (Paul Morgan, Saltwater flyfishing, pp 239-40) on the strength of a note in a copy belonging to Walter Baird Bowden Smith that his father was the author and that the six hand-coloured plates of artificial flies were drawn by his mother. According to the preface, “The author has fished on three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, excepting, of course, on Sundays; and he has taken fish, of one sort or another, during that period, in good season, and in the highest condition for the table”. It is a pioneer work on sea fly-fishing, describing the catching of whiting, pollock, mackerel, bass and silver mullet. Much of it is set in Ireland.
Little is known of Smith’s life outside his sporting interests. He was a candidate in October 1839 for the new position of Chief Constable of the Hampshire Rural Police (Hampshire Advertiser, 5 October 1839). One of nineteen candidates, he did not make the final shortlist of three. Following his move to Lyndhurst, he was elected one of the parish’s Overseers of the poor in April 1862. He also attended the parish vestry and meetings of the New Forest Commoners.
There is no evidence that Smith was involved in politics, yet he did play a supplementary role in one of the great political scandals of the day. An article in the Hampshire Independent, 14 May 1842 charged the high Tory John Sadleir Moody, a county magistrate, with perjury before the House of Commons committee investigating corruption during the 1841 general election in Southampton. Moody demanded that the paper’s proprietor – Thomas Leader Harman – withdraw the allegation. On his refusal, R B Smith was dispatched to the Independent office to challenge Harman to a duel on Moody’s behalf. Harman refused. Retribution came however in Harman’s dismissal from both the Tory-dominated and socially exclusive Southampton Club and, two months later, from the South Hants Cricket Club, of which Smith was still honorary secretary. A fuller account is in ‘Thomas Leader Harman: a gentleman of fortune in mid-nineteenth century Southampton’ in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, no16, Winter 2010, p3-27.
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