William Smyth, one of the founders of Brasenose College, was born in Lancashire. It is thought that he developed a connection with Lady Margaret Beaufort (the mother of King Henry VII) during his upbringing close to her home at Knowsley Hall. This connection would result in Smyth holding several important offices: from 1495 to 1514 he was the Bishop of Lincoln, his successor being Thomas Wolsey, he was Lord President of the Council of Wales and the Marches between 1501 and 1512 and Chancellor of Oxford University in 1500.
He was well-known as a philanthropist, refounding the hospital of St John the Baptist in Lichfield and adding a school here for very poor children. He also gave money to Oriel College and estates to Lincoln College, as well as founding Brasenose with Richard Sutton. Smith gave Brasenose their lands at Cold Norton in Oxfordshire, and wrote the original statutes for the College. In addition to the lands he bequeathed to Brasenose vestments, manuscripts and books, though it is thought that many of these never reached the College due to the intervention of Cardinal Wolsey.
A portrait of Smyth can be seen in the College Hall, alongside his likeness in the stained glass (both in the Hall and the College Chapel).