CFHS code : ML28

Parish : St Mary the Less

Inscription : side 1 JAMES HAMBLIN SMITH MA of Gonville & Caius College b Dec 2 1827 d July 10 1901 side 2 ELLEN HALES wife of JAMES HAMBLIN SMITH b Dec 3 1828 d June 1912 side 3 LILIAN HAMBLIN SMITH [only] and dearly loved child of JAMES HAMBLIN & ELLEN HALES SMITH b April [-1] [1864 d Jun 2 1867

Monument : Stone cross (broken – base only)

Above information from Cambridge Family History Society Survey

Lat Lon : 52.202817, 0.13781792 – click here for location

Smith grave
Smith monument


This broken base of a stone cross, in the parish area of St Mary the Less, is located behind the bench at the north east of the centre circle, approximately five rows east.


[side 1]

JAMES HAMBLIN SMITH MA of Gonville & Caius College b Dec 2 1827 d July 10 1901

[side 2]

ELLEN HALES wife of JAMES HAMBLIN SMITH b Dec 3 1828 d June 1912

[side 3]

LILIAN HAMBLIN SMITH [only] and dearly loved child of JAMES HAMBLIN & ELLEN HALES SMITH b April [-1] [18–] d Jun or Jan [-2] 1867

James Hamblin Smith (2 December 1827– 10 July 1901)
James Hamblin Smith was born in Upper Rickinghall, Suffolk on 2 December 1827, the son of James Hamblin Smith and Mary Finch. He attended Botesdale and Hinderclay schools before being admitted to Caius as a pensioner,  aged 18, on July 6 1846.  He gained his BA (32nd Wrangler Classical Tripos) in 1850 and his MA in 1853. His low ranking on the Classical Tripos was later said to be due to the death of his father at around the same time. In his obituary it was said ‘there is strong reason to assume that had this heavy blow not fallen his name would have been found in the First Class and thus he would have ranked as a double First Class man’.
He was a Classics Lecturer at Peterhouse from 1868 to 1872.

James Hamblin Smith later worked as a private tutor or ‘poll coach’ for the Poll Course at Cambridge University. He was known to many generations of students as “Big Smith” and was said to be an extraordinary gifted teacher. After his death it was reported that ‘he possessed the gift of presenting and explaining difficulties to the
minds of his pupils in the most interesting manner and so sagacious was he in gauging their calibre and acquirements that he knew exactly in each subject he taught where they needed assistance, which he gave with unstinted zeal and readiness. His own knowledge was absolutely encyclopaedic no matter what was
the study under his consideration, be it classics, mathematics, theology, history, law and so on’.

He married Ellen Hales (née Gross), the daughter of Samuel Chilton Gross, of Alderton Suffolk, on 8 April 1857.  They lived at 42 Trumpingon Street from at least 1861 onwards where they appear to have lived a comfortable life with at least four domestic servants to help run the household. They had three sons and two
daughters: James Hamblin (1858-1887), Mary Hamblin (1861-1929), Lilian Hamblin (1864-1867), Maurice Hamblin (1870-1936) and Rupert Hamblin (1872-1936).

He was a major education figure within the town and was a member of the Council of the Senate, Chairman of the Cambridge University Board of Examiners and Chairman of the Perse Schools. He was also influential in the improvements to the sewerage system in the city, in issues related to Addenbrookes Hospital and wrote
many books. The books he wrote included study aids and text books, which were aimed at both school and university students – these publications made his name known outside of Cambridge. Such was his influence that it was said that 50% of all Cambridge University students had passed through ‘his hands’. For many years he was ‘daily observed between his house and University Library, generally with a pile of books under his arm, when a genial and cordial greeting was ever ready for friends and acquaintances he might meet’. His obituary in the Cambridge
Independent Press in July 1901 closed by saying ‘..he was regarded by his friends as a tower of strength in all matters where a sound sense, tact and ability were required….his thoughts and actions were founded on and guided by the highest principles’

James Hamblin Smith spent his holidays at Woodbridge, which is where his wife Ellen had been born. His sons James and Rupert are both buried in Woodbridge, and his own death was widely reported there with the Ipswich Evening Star saying that ‘he would be missed in many places, but especially in Woodbridge where his kindness, generosity and goodness of heart would be long remembered’. He died at 42 Trumpington Street, Cambridge on 10 July 1901. He was said to have been in failing health for some time before his death.

Ellen Hales Smith (née Gross) (3 December 1828 – 22 June 1912)
Ellen was the daughter of Samuel and Ann (née Woolnough). She was born in Alderton in Suffolk, which was a small village of c.600 people at the time, located a mile from the Suffolk coast. Her father Samuel was a gentleman farmer of around 500 acres at Red House Farm. She was baptised in Alderton on 9th December 1828.

Her father died when she was 15 years old, and her mother Ann then took over the running of the farm. She married James Hamblin Smith when she was 28 years old. After being widowed she continued to live at 42 Trumpington Street with her son Rupert (1901/1911) and a team of four servants. She died aged 83 years old at her home in Trumpington Street. She left an estate valued at £20,509, 0s 6d (c.£2.4m at 2018 values).

Lilian Hamblin Smith (April 1864 – 2 June 1867)
Lilian was the youngest daughter of James and Ellen Hamblin Smith. She died at 42 Trumpington Street aged 3 years old.


ACAD – A Cambridge Alumni Database

by Sheila Plaister  and Claire Martinsen

Ellen Hales Smith; James Hamblin Smith; Lilian Hamblin Smith