Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, Charles Roach

SMITH, CHARLES ROACH (1807–1890), antiquary, born at Landguard Manorhouse, near Shanklin, Isle of Wight, on 20 Aug. 1807, was the youngest child of ten children of John Smith, a farmer, who married Ann, daughter of Henry Roach of Arreton Manor in the same island. The father died when the child was very young, and his maternal grandfather's house at Arreton became his second home. The mother died about 1824. The lad went to the school of a Mr. Crouch at Swathling, and when the master migrated to St. Cross, near Winchester, Charles followed him. About 1820 he went to the larger establishment of Mr. Withers at Lymington.

In 1821 Smith was placed in the office of Francis Worsley, a solicitor at Newport, Isle of Wight, but soon tired of this occupation. The army was then suggested for him, but in February 1822 he was apprenticed to a Mr. Follett, a chemist at Chichester. After remaining there for about six years he went to the firm of Wilson, Ashmore, & Co., chemists at Snow Hill, London, and then set up for himself at the corner of Founders' Court, Lothbury. His premises were taken over by the city at a great loss to him, and he removed to 5 Liverpool Street, Finsbury Circus, where he dwelt from 1840 to 1855. The business had now dwindled, and he purchased, as a place of retirement, the small property of Temple Place, Strood, near Rochester. In 1864 he was involved in an action at law with the dean and chapter of Rochester over some reclaimed land adjoining his property, and won the case.

At a very early date in his life Smith felt the passion of collecting Roman and British remains, and, with the encouragement of Alfred John Kempe [q. v.], his ‘antiquarian godfather,’ his desires grew apace. For twenty years during the excavations of the soil of London or the operations of dredging the Thames, he was on the alert for antiquities, and his energies were amply rewarded. The knowledge of his acquisitions spread far and wide when he published in 1854 a ‘Catalogue of the Museum of London Antiquities,’ which he had obtained. His fellow-antiquaries urged that the collection should be secured by the nation, but his offer of it to the British Museum in March 1855 at the price of 3,000l. was declined. A cheque for that sum was sent to him by Lord Londesborough, but, as the antiquities would not be kept intact, the cheque was returned. In the next year they were transferred to the British Museum for 2,000l., and they formed the nucleus of the national collection of Romano-British antiquities. Smith was by this time accepted as the leading authority on Roman London.

The garden at Temple Place was in later life his chief recreation, and his energies found full vent in the cultivation of its grounds. He especially applied himself ‘to pomology and to the culture of the vine in the open ground,’ making considerable quantities of wine from the grapes which he reared. His pamphlet ‘On the Scarcity of Home-grown Fruits in Great Britain,’ which first appeared in the ‘Proceedings of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire’ in 1863, passed into a second edition, and fully a thousand copies were distributed in France and Germany. In this tract he advocated the planting of the waste ground on the sides of railways with dwarf apple trees and with other kinds of fruit, and this suggestion was adopted to a considerable extent abroad and to a limited degree in England.

Smith belonged to many learned societies at home and abroad. He was elected F.S.A. on 22 Dec. 1836, and much of his earliest work was contributed to the ‘Archæologia’ (cf. Literary Gazette, 6 Nov. 1852, pp. 828–9). For more than fifty years Smith took a keen interest in the work of the London Numismatic Society; from 1841 to 1844 he was one of its honorary secretaries, and from 1852 he was an honorary member. To the ‘Numismatic Chronicle’ he made a variety of contributions, and he received in 1883 the first medal of the society, in especial recognition of his services in promoting the knowledge of Romano-British coins. In conjunction with Thomas Wright he founded the British Archæological Association in 1843, and he frequently wrote in its journal. After his retirement to Strood he actively assisted in the work of the Kent Archæological Association, and contributed many papers to the ‘Archæologia Cantiana.’ For many years he compiled the monthly article of ‘Antiquarian Notes’ in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’ He was a writer in the ‘Athenæum,’ in the ‘Æliana’ of the Newcastle Society (of which he was a member), and in the ‘Transactions’ of several other antiquarian bodies. When, through the medium of his friend, the Abbé Cochet, he intervened successfully with Napoleon III for the preservation of the Roman walls of Dax, a medal was struck in France in his honour to commemorate the event (1858).

Smith was unmarried, and a sister kept house for him. She died in 1874, and was buried in Frindsbury churchyard. After a confinement to his bed for six days, he died at Temple Place on 2 Aug. 1890, and was buried in the same churchyard on 7 Aug. At a meeting, early in 1890, of the Society of Antiquaries, it had been proposed to strike a medal in his honour, and to present him with the balance of any fund that might be collected. The medal, in silver, was presented to him on 30 July (only three days before his death), and there remained for him the sum of one hundred guineas. A marble medallion by G. Fontana belongs to the Society of Antiquaries.

Smith's works comprised: 1. ‘List of Roman Coins found near Strood,’ 1839. 2. ‘Collectanea Antiqua: etchings and notices of ancient remains,’ 1848–80, 7 vols. The articles are chiefly on Roman remains, coins, ornaments, and monuments, in England, France, and Italy. The ‘notes on the antiquities of Treves, Mayence, Wiesbaden, Bonn, and Cologne’ in the second volume, the details in volume iii. of the ‘Faussett Collection of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities,’ and the account in the next volume of the public dinner to Smith at Newport, Isle of Wight, on 28 Aug. 1855, were issued separately in 1851, 1854, and 1855 respectively. 3. ‘Antiquities of Richborough, Reculver, Lymne in Kent,’ 1850. A supplement on Lymne (in which he was assisted by James Elliott, jun.) came out in 1852, and one on Pevensey, with the aid of Mark Anthony Lower, was issued in 1858. 4. ‘Inventorium Sepulchrale:’ the antiquities dug up in Kent, 1757–1773, by Rev. Bryan Faussett, 1856. 5. ‘Illustrations of Roman London,’ 1859. 6. ‘The Importance of Public Museums for Historical Collections,’ 1860. 7. ‘Remarks on Shakespeare, his Birthplace,’ 1868; 2nd edit. 1877. 8. ‘Rural Life of Shakespeare,’ 1870; 2nd edit. 1874; a third edition was afterwards in preparation. 9. ‘South Kensington Museum Catalogue of Anglo-Saxon and other Antiquities discovered at Faversham by William Gibbs,’ 1871. 10. ‘Address to Strood Institute Elocution Class,’ 1879. 11. ‘Retrospections, Social and Archæological,’ 1883, 1886, and 1891, 3 vols. Prefixed to volume i. is the medallion bust of him ‘from the marble by Signor Fontana.’ His portrait is the frontispiece of volume iii., which was edited from page 186 by Mr. John Green Waller.

A list of ‘Isle of Wight Words, Superstitions, Sports,’ &c., by Roach Smith and his brother, Major Henry Smith, R.M., was published by the English Dialect Society as part xxiii. (series C. original glossaries).

[Men of the Time, 12th ed.; Athenæum, 9 Aug. 1890, p. 202; Isle of Wight County Press, 2 Aug. 1890; Times, 14 Aug. 1890, p. 9; Proc. Soc. of Antiquaries, 1889–91, pp. 310–12; Portraits of Men of Eminence, vol. v. ed. Walford, pp. 13–15; Proc. of Numismatic Soc. in Numismatic Chronicle, x. 39, xi. 18–21; Journ. Brit. Archæol. Assoc. xlvi. preface, pp. 237–43, 318–330.]

W. P. C.