Dying doctor provided the means to ensure adopted city could have a grammar school

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On this day in 1732 Dr William Smith was lying in bed with a quill pen in his hand.

As a doctor he probably knew he was dying.

Forty years earlier he had been appointed physician to the town and garrison of Portsmouth and became involved in local politics.

He was elected a burgess and served two terms as mayor in 1713 and 1714. He bought himself one of the most prestigious houses in the town – 11 High Street (Buckingham House) – and a coat of arms.

While the doctor was an alderman, the grand jury at the Portsmouth Quarter Sessions expressed regret at the town’s lack of a grammar school.

Without any suitable local schools, the gentry were sending their sons away to board at huge expense and ‘to the prejudice of the town’.

Perhaps it was his memory of this that prompted Dr Smith to add a bequest to his will two days before his death, to ‘constitute and support a grammar school’.

It took more than 20 years for his dying wish to become reality – the first Portsmouth Grammar School being opened in Penny Street in 1753 – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.