Roger Gale (antiquary)

for the 20th century MP see Roger Gale
Roger Gale
Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for Northallerton
In office
December 1705  1713
Preceded by Sir William Hustler
Succeeded by Leonard Smelt
Preceded by Robert Dormer
Succeeded by Henry Peirse
Personal details
Born 27 September 1672
Impington, Cambridgeshire
Died 25 June 1744
Scruton, Yorkshire
Resting place Scruton, Yorkshire
Nationality English
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Henrietta Roper
Children Roger Henry Gale
Residence Scruton, Yorkshire
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge University
Occupation writer, antiquary

Roger Gale (27 September 1672 – 25 June 1744) was an English scholar and antiquary as well as a member of Parliament for Northallerton. His father was an ecclesiastic and professor at Cambridge, which the younger Gale also attended. After his graduation, Gale briefly served as a diplomat in France, as well as holding a position as a reader at Oxford University's Bodleian Library. On his father's death in 1702, Gale retired to his family estate, but was elected to Parliament in 1705, where he served until 1713. He then continued in public service until 1735, when he once more retired to his estates.

Besides his governmental career, Gale was a member of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society, where he served as treasurer. Gale was known as a collector of manuscripts and other antiquarian items, writing a few published works on those subjects. He donated his manuscript collection to his alma mater in 1738, and died in 1744. Although contemporaries felt he was one of the foremost scholars of his age, later historians have been less convinced, contrasting his learning unfavourably with his father's.

Early life

Roger Gale was the eldest son of Thomas Gale and Barbara Pepys. His father was Dean of York as well as a professor of Greek at Cambridge University, while his mother was a cousin of the diarist Samuel Pepys. Roger was born on 27 September 1672 at Impington, Cambridgeshire. Thomas and Barbara had a younger son, Samuel Gale, who also became an antiquary, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who became William Stukeley's as second wife.[1][2]

Gale was educated at St Paul's School in London,[2] where his father was in charge from 1672 to 1697.[1] He then went on to attend Trinity College starting in 1691, earning his Bachelor of Arts in 1695 and a Master of Arts in 1698. He then became a reader at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University on 6 March 1699.[2] Soon after this, probably in the later part of 1699, he went with Charles Montagu, then the Earl of Manchester, on a diplomatic mission to France.[3] His father died in 1702, and Gale retired to his newly inherited estates at Scruton, Yorkshire.[2]

Public service

In 1705 he was elected a member of Parliament (MP) for Northallerton in a by-election. He remained an MP until 1713, usually voting with the Whigs and working on committees concerned with regulating servant wages and the naturalisation of foreigners. After leaving Parliament, he was appointed to a commission dealing with stamp duties, then later was a commissioner of excise. He remained in that position until 1735, when Robert Walpole had him removed to free the post for one of Walpole's friends.[2]

Gale also served as the first vice-president of the Society of Antiquaries, and was the treasurer of the Royal Society for a number of years.[2] In 1736 he returned to his estates and retired from public life.[3]

Antiquary and writer

Gale inherited his father's library of manuscripts and books, which he eventually donated to his alma mater, Trinity College,[1] in 1738.[3] Included in Gale's donation was one of only two complete manuscripts of the Liber Eliensis, now known as Trinity College MS O.2.1.[4][5] Gale also collected coins, and donated his collection to Cambridge University.[2]

In 1697 Gale translated Louis Jobert's La science des medailles into English, with the title of The Knowledge of Medals.[2] This was designed as an instruction to the beginning coin collector, and also contained information to protect the new collector from fraud.[2] Gale then in 1709 published his father's work on the Antonine Itinerary, which Gale supplemented with his own notes and commentary. His last major published work was as the editor of a 12th-century manuscript register of the Honour of Richmond that was contained in the Cotton library.[2] He also contributed a number of essays on antiquarian topics to the Philosopical Transactions journal put out by the Royal Society.[3]

Gale's letters survive, and some were first published in the third volume of John Nichols's Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica in 1790. Later more appeared in Nichols' Literary Anecdotes, and then finally his complete letters were published in three volumes by the Surtees Society along with letters from his brother Samuel and brother-in-law William Stukeley.[2] Nichols in 1781 declared that Gale was "one of the most learned men of his age",[6] but later scholars have been less full of praise. D. C. Douglas, writing in the 1950s, contrasted Gale with his father, and felt that the younger Gale was given a greater reputation than he deserved. Notwithstanding Douglas' opinion, Gale's work did much to preserve important historical information, as he was a member of the new style of antiquary, who instead of working just with manuscripts, turned to the topography and other relics in the countryside. This group of antiquaries did much to record information that has since disappeared.[2]

Death and family

Gale married Henrietta Roper, the daughter of Henry Roper of Cowling, Kent. She died in 1720. They had one son, Roger Henry Gale, who was born in 1710. Gale himself died on 25 June 1744 at his estates in Scruton, and was buried near the church there.[2] There is no monument in the churchyard, as he stipulated in his will that he be buried in such a manner that no one would know exactly where he was buried.[7]


  1. 1 2 3 Doggett "Gale, Thomas" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Clapinson "Gale, Roger" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. 1 2 3 4 Clapinson "Roger Gale" Bodleian Library Record p. 107
  4. Staff "Liber Eliensis" Trinity Library Catalogue
  5. Blake "Introduction" Liber Eliensis pp. xxiii–xxiv
  6. Quoted in Clapinson "Gale, Roger" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  7. Clapinson "Roger Gale" Bodleian Library Record p. 116


  • Blake, E. O. (1962). Blake, E. O., ed. Liber Eliensis. Camden Third Series. London: Royal Historical Society. pp. xxiii–lx. OCLC 462668616. 
  • Clapinson, Mary (2004). "Gale, Roger (1672–1744)" ((subscription or UK public library membership required)). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  • Clapinson, Mary (April 1986). "Roger Gale, An Eighteenth-Century Antiquary". The Bodleian Library Record. 12 (2): 106–118. 
  • Doggett, Nicholas (2004). "Gale, Thomas (1635/6–1702)" ((subscription or UK public library membership required)). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 4 January 2010. 
  • Staff (2011). "Liber Eliensis". Trinity Library Catalogue. Trinity College Library. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir William Hustler
Robert Dormer
Member of Parliament for Northallerton
with Sir William Hustler
and Robert Raikes

Succeeded by
Leonard Smelt
Henry Peirse

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