Many of those remembered at the Rest Garden – especially those with the plusher resting places – were not ‘local’. From across the country and around the world they arrived, saw Brighton and died.
Henry Smithers was not one of these. Placed within one of the vaults, with a handsome memorial stone above and a window in the church, Smithers was very much local.
The Smithers antecendents occupy space at St Peters ground on Preston Drove, where an earlier Henry (1796) is accompanied by a Bartholomew Smithers (1791). This patronymic alternation appears to have continued in the family, surfacing again when another Bartholomew Smithers departed this life in 1833, leaving substantial benefit to his son (and our subject) Henry.
This bequest comprised mostly public houses: The Bear Inn and the Crown & Anchor Inn at Preston, The Dolphin on the East Cliff, The Running Horse in Kings Street, The Lord Nelson in Russell Street, The Unicorn in North Street in Brighton The Friar and Oak in Clayton. Also in the bequest was £14,000 to pay off a mortgage held by his son in law Thomas Isaacson (with anything left going to his other son – Bartholomew.)
Smithers set up in partnership with his brother in-law, forming the Smithers and Isaacson Brewery in 1839. Upon the death of Isaacson in 1846, Smithers inherited his share of the business, which then became simply Smithers Brewery. As well as running this business Smithers became a Town Commissioner, served on the Brighton Corporation and was elected the sixth Mayor of Brighton in 1861.
Although records have not been located, it may be assumed that he purchased his final resting place – one of the vaults in St Nicholas Rest Garden some years before his death. On hearing in 1854 that new burials were to be prohibited from this space, and his costly purchase would offer him no benefit in the hereafter, he is reported to have exclaimed “over my dead body that will happen!*” and set about petitioning the Home Secretary for an exemption to this edict.
On 18th November 1884 – the day following his death – a burial license was issued granting his wish. The burial ground had closed as planned, but being placed in his family vault in the Rest Garden with a monument on the path above – ‘over his dead body’ it certainly was, making his probably the most recent burial at St Nicholas Gardens.
HENRY SMITHERS entered into rest November 17, 1884, aged 77 years also MARIA Wife of HENRY SMITHERS fell asleep Oct. 28 1841, aged 29 years, also Edward SMITHERS Son obit May 25 1854 Aveat 18. Give them O Lord eternal rest and let hope perpetual shine upon them.
* Note: This reported comment was almost certainly invented by the author of this work to add interest to an otherwise blemish free and upstanding pillar of the Brighthelmstone community.