There are three magnificent memorials to the Smythe family in St Mary's church, Ashford
Thomas Smythe (1522-1591) was from Wiltshire. Son of a substantial Yeoman and Clothier, John Smythe (d.1538).
He was a business man in London, and became Queen Elizabeth's customs officer. He became known as "Customer Smythe" and became very rich. He became Lord of the Manor of Ashford, and the Queen bestowed on him the manor of Westenhanger.
He married Alice Judde in about 1555 and they had 13 children (one son died as infant), including Richard and John, whose monuments are located nearby in the church.
His son Thomas was first governor of the East India Company. Towards the end of his life he fell under Queen Elizabeth's displeasure as he was unable to meet her Majesty's demands for larger and larger payments. Through constant vigilance the Government tried to keep track of Smythe’s activities and hold his profit within reasonable bounds; nevertheless his total profit for the period when he was farmer of the customs has been estimated at £48,000.
His epitaph described him as a patron of literature, and his name occurs in the dedication of Richard Robinson’s translation of John Leland’s book on King Arthur.
Sir John Smythe (1557-1609), heir to Thomas, is shown kneeling with his wife Elizabeth Fineaux (married 1576) they had 8 children, of which only 3 survived, viz. Elizabeth, Thomas and Catherine. He held various posts such as a J.P. for Kent from 1584, and sheriff in 1600.
His heir, who was to become Viscount Strangford, was only nine years old when his father died.
He urged his executors to avoid ‘vain funeral pomp as the world by custom in time of darkness has long used’,
and ironically, to prevent ‘superfluous cost’, they erected a magnificent monument to his memory in the church.
Sir Richard Smythe (1563-1628), 5th son of Thomas, is shown on his own dressed in armour. Like his father he was also a customs officer. He owned and substantially rebuilt Leeds Castle nearby. He married Elizabeth Scott (1564-1584) She was widow of John Knatchbull.
He then married Jane White (d. 1607) in about 1585, she was about 16 at the time. He finally married Mary Boyle.
He had a son and 4 daughters in total, by the 3 wives.