Mr Richard William Smith was born on 11 June 1854 in Camberwell, London, England and he was baptised on 9 July that same year in St George the Martyr Church, Southwark.
He was the son of Richard Smith (b. 1831), (listed variously as hairdresser and beer seller), and Marianne Croxford (1829-1914); his father was a native of Middlesex and his mother was from Henley, Oxfordshire and they had married on 14 November 1853. He had two full siblings: Frederick Alfred (b. 1856) and Henry (b. 1858)
On the 1861 census, Richard is noted living at the Rose and Crown a public house at 2 Williams Place, Walworth Road, Newington, Surrey.
Richard's father probably died sometime between 1861 and 1871, by which time Richard, his widowed mother, and siblings and half-siblings are to be found living at 5 Emanuel Terrace in Camberwell on the 1871 census; Richard is now listed as a clerk in the tea trade.
His mother Marianne would go on to have two more sons Edward Christopher (1865-1940) and Ernest Sydney (1870-1948), and married Christopher Megson—who it is assumed was their father since they took his surname—on 16 May 1875 in Esher, Surrey.
On the 1881 census, Richard is listed as a visitor (occupation: Clerk) at 29 Broadway, West Ham, Essex. In 1891 he is listed as a boarder (occupation: "Tea Chandler") at 20 Orchard Road, Kingston. While his mother is living at 69 Somerleyton Road in Lambeth with her 86 year old second husband and two younger sons. When Christopher Megson (Richard's step-father) died in 1897, it was Richard that was named in the probate record.
Richard appears at 69 Somerleyton Road in Lambeth on the 1901 census where he is still unmarried and still described as a Tea merchant.
By the time of the 1911 census Richard shows up with his now widowed mother at 53 Stanthorpe Road, Streatham, Surrey—an address he would live at for the rest of his life—and Richard is still working in the tea trade and remains unmarried.
He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first-class passenger (ticket number 113056 which cost £26), occupying cabin A-19; it is assumed he was travelling on business. He had made the same trip three years earlier, recorded arriving at New York aboard the Kronprinzessin Cecilie on 10 March 1909. On this occasion, he was described as 5ft, 7in in height, with grey hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion.1
Travelling with him as far as Queenstown was a family friend, Mrs Emily Nichols. Mrs Nichols' late husband, like Smith, had worked in the tea trade; although Frederick Nichols died in 1891, it is possible that Smith knew her through this connection.
It is speculated that the well-known Fr Browne photograph of a couple on the Titanic's promenade deck depicts Mrs Nichols and Mr Smith.
Possible photograph of Emily Nichols and Richard William Smith on the Titanic.
Smith died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
His estate, worth £1708, 6s, 5d, was administered to a widow named Susan Hepburn, the identity of whom is not clear.
Mr Richard William Smith, of Stanthorpe-road, Streatham, S.W., manager of the American business of Messrs. Reinachs, nephew, and Co., who died in the wreck of the Titanic on April 15th last, aged 56 years, left estate of the gross value of £1708, of which the net personalty has been sworn at £981. - Dartmouth & South Hams chronicle, 26 July 1912