Frederick Smith – 1845-1888


Frederick Smith

Frederick Smith was born in Chester Street Birkenhead in 1845, one of eight children of Thomas and Bathsheba (nee Green) Smith. It is understood that he was forced to leave the family home by his father Thomas when aged 15 because he had chosen to go ice skating in Birkenhead Park with friends on Christmas Day. What is known for certain however is that he did enlist in the Royal Regiment of Artillery when just 16 years of age.

Within a year of enlistment he had been promoted to corporal and was drafted to India, soon gaining further promotion to sergeant and then sergeant major. He was a well educated man of many parts and while in the army he was engaged to teach French to the children of officers of his regiment.

In 1866 at the age of 21 he purchased his discharge from the army due to his father’s poor health and he returned to Birkenhead to work in the family business, Smith and Sons, in Hamilton Square. Shortly afterwards, on 7th April 1869, he married Elizabeth Taylor at Brunswick Wesleyan Methodist Church in Birkenhead. They couple went on to have five children.

He also became chairman of the Town’s Health Committee and did a great deal to popularise Birkenhead Park by the inclusion of public toilets and the creation of the bandstand.

Frederick was also the driving force behind the construction of the public baths at the bottom of Argyle Street South and the addition of two large wards in the Borough Hospital specifically created to manage infectious diseases.

He eventually retired from the family business and commenced a new career joining the middle temple in 1883 and then being formally called to the bar in 1886.

Frederick Smith was an Alderman on Birkenhead Corporation and was elected mayor of the town in 1888; he died at his home ‘Roslyn’, 42 Clifton Park shortly after taking office however. His death had not been totally unexpected as just a week before he died, he had been too unwell to attend his own mother’s funeral.

He was the father of the renowned politician and future Lord Chancellor, F E Smith, who became the first Earl of Birkenhead and who as a member of the British Olympic Committee was played in the film Chariots of Fire by the actor Nigel Davenport.