It is with great sadness that I announce the death of Robert Smith, former Chair of the Manorial Society of Great Britain.
Robert passed away on Saturday 22 July, peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with illness.
Robert was Chairman of the Society for 40 years, during which it transformed from a mostly-dormant organisation into the large and vibrant Society you know today. Robert studied history at Nottingham University, where he first developed an interest in feudal history and law. After graduating, he initially pursued a career in journalism - first as a cub reporter for local papers, before taking a job with the nationals and ultimately becoming the Personal Finance Editor at the Guardian. He rekindled his interest in feudal history in the late 1970s, when he took over stewardship of the Society. The Society expanded rapidly under his direction. Members enjoyed social events at the House of Lords, and scholarly conferences at Oxford University. The Society also published several collections of historical essays under Robert’s editorial control -; The House of Lords (1994); The House of Commons (1996); The Monarchy (1998); and Blood Royal (2002).
Membership swelled to over 1200 in the 1980s when the sale of manorial titles by numerous aristocratic families enabled many to become Lords of the Manor. By the 1990s the Society had become firmly established as the national authority on manorial matters. Robert’s work was recognised by the late Queen Elizabeth II, who made him a member of the Order of St John.
The Society continues to flourish in the 21st century and interest in manors has not abated. I will continue to manage the Society in the interests of its members, and as memorial to Robert’s life work.
To that end, the Manorial Society is establishing The Robert Smith Memorial Scholarship, which will make an annual award to a student of manorial history. We are in discussions with several universities. If you wish to pay your respects to Robert, then instead of a floral tribute can we ask that you donate to the Scholarship. Cheques or bank drafts to the Manorial Society Great Britain, marked for the Robert Smith Memorial Scholarship fund will be greatly appreciated and will help deserving students continue the study of manorial history.
On a personal note, Robert was a great friend and mentor to me, and I shall miss him terribly.
Stephen Johnson MA Chair, The Manorial Society of Great Britain
The Robert Smith Memorial Scholarship The Manorial Society 113 Bellenden Road London SE15 4QY