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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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The basis for this article is a newspaper article published 7 June 1884:

"In 1878, the Right Honourable William Henry Smith MP purchased the manor of Rewe which included part of Silverton and which had  been previously owned by Lord Ilchester.

"Since that time, Mr Smith has bought other property in the neighbourhood and his Devonshire estate now comprises about 1200 acres. Upon acquiring possession of the property, the Right Honorable gentleman set to work to improve it in the most comprehensive manner until it is now one of the best of its kind in the country"


So who was this William Henry Smith?

Caricature of William Henry Smith


In 1792  HENRY WALTON SMITH   and his wife   ANNA opened a small newspaper vending business in London. He died shortly after starting this business. Anna took a partner and continued until her death in 1816.

They had two sons  HENRY EDWARD SMITH and  WILLIAM HENRY SMITH who inherited the business at this point. William was the better businessman and by 1828 it was in his name.

In 1846, the name of the firm changed to W H Smith & Son when  William gave  his son, also named William Henry, a share in the business on his 21st birthday.  This son is the William Henry Smith who became an MP.

In 1848, father and son opened their first bookstall in a railway station. This was followed by the setting up of a their pioneering newspaper distribution network also involving the new railways. 

In 1857, the father retired leaving the son to make developments of his own - the first being the addition of a Lending Library to many of their branches

This is a rather cruel caricature of William Smith which was published in Vanity Fair in March, 1874. The caption says "Newspapers", no doubt meant as a dig at Smith's very ordinary background in trade - something his fellow MPs never let him forget, although Queen Victoria, as we shall see later,  saw him in quite a different light
W H Smith's store in Teignmouth

W. H. Smith at Teignmouth - still open

Built c.1815

©Richard J. Brine






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