Thomas Wale

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Thomas Wale of Little Shelford and Harston, aged 93 Thomaswale.jpg
Thomas Wale of Little Shelford and Harston, aged 93

Thomas Wale was a Cambridgeshire gentleman born at Risby, Suffolk on the 7 September 1701 and died in 1796. He is notable for having left a significant quantity of documents collated throughout his life which constituted the book My Grandfather's Pocket Book . His documents provide a unique insight into 18th-century English life. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography refers to him as "an eighteenth-century squire".

Cambridgeshire County of England

Cambridgeshire is a county in the East of England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the north-east, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west. The city of Cambridge is the county town. Modern Cambridgeshire was formed in 1974 as an amalgamation of the counties of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely and Huntingdon and Peterborough, the former covering the historic county of Cambridgeshire and the latter covering the historic county of Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough, historically part of Northamptonshire. It contains most of the region known as Silicon Fen.

Risby, Suffolk village in United Kingdom

Risby is a village in Suffolk, located around 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Bury St. Edmunds, north of the A14 road. It is believed that the village was founded in about the tenth century, presumably on the strength of its having a Norse name, possibly Rȳðs - by "farm settlement at a clearing" and identical to Ryssby in Sweden. The traditional division or Hundred in which it stands is Thingoe, also a Norse name. The village now has a population of 840, increasing to 866 at the 2011 Census.



He was the son of Margaret Sparke of Risby and Gregory Wale. His personal papers were sealed in a cupboard in his house and only discovered a century later when the property was destroyed. These papers form the basis of the book "My Grandfather's Pocket Book", published by his Grandson.

Gregory Wale English gentleman

Gregory Wale was a Cambridgeshire gentleman, a Justice of the Peace for Cambridgeshire and Conservator of the River Cam.

Early life

He grew up and was educated at Raslingworth, Walden, and London. He became an apprentice to Mr William Allen at Lynn for six years, starting in about 1718.

Saffron Walden market town in the Uttlesford district of Essex, England

Saffron Walden is a market town in the Uttlesford district of Essex, England, 12 miles (19 km) north of Bishop's Stortford, 18 miles (29 km) south of Cambridge and 43 miles (69 km) north of London. It retains a rural appearance and some buildings of the medieval period. The 2001 parish population of 14,313 had risen to 15,504 by the 2011 census.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Kings Lynn market town in the county of Norfolk, England

King's Lynn, known until 1537 as Bishop's Lynn, is an English seaport and market town in Norfolk, about 98 miles (158 km) north of London, 36 miles (58 km) north-east of Peterborough, 44 miles (71 km) north north-east of Cambridge and 44 miles (71 km) west of Norwich. The population is 42,800. It is a cultural centre with two theatres, three museums, several other cultural and sporting venues, along with three secondary schools and one college.


Thomas Wale was a merchant in Riga and Narva over a period of thirty years. He described his occupation as "trafic and merchantdise" (page 339). Part of his business involved the trade of ships' masts. This family business had been commenced in the 17th century. It passed under a number of different names during the 18th century, according to his current partners. Most notably it was known as Wale, Fraser & Company (c1747), Wale, Auchterlony and company and Wale, Peirson & Ouchterlony. He also pursued farming in Cambridgeshire.

Riga City in Latvia

Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 637,827 inhabitants (2018), it is also the largest city in the three Baltic states, home to one third of Latvia's population and one tenth of the three Baltic states' combined population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava river. Riga's territory covers 307.17 km2 (118.60 sq mi) and lies 1–10 m above sea level, on a flat and sandy plain.

Narva City in Ida-Viru, Estonia

Narva is the third largest city in Estonia. It is located at the eastern extreme point of Estonia, at the Russian border, on the Narva River which drains Lake Peipus.

The family Business

In 1653 Robert Wale's wife was joyntured for life out of Harston Hall and her son Robert started the merchants business at Riga with £500 obtained by mortgage on this property. The Hall had been purchased by an earlier Thomas Wale in 1613.

Thomas Wale first visited Riga in 1724 aboard the Larke and traded there until 1730. He described his early business there as "chiefly in the factorage and commission way: For his said patron Mr Allen and his own friends".

Family life

He married Louisa Rudolphina Rahten at Mittau, Courland, Poland on 17 March 1749. They married again in Riga in 1760 "to convince the world of their connubil rights". She was the daughter of Hoff Prediger the Reverend Nicolaus Friedrich Rahten of Lunenburg, Brunswick.

Courland Place in Latvia

Courland, is one of the historical and cultural regions in western Latvia. The largest city is Liepāja, the third largest city in Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland as they were formerly held by the same duke.

Poland republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Thomas Wale had eight children, but only four survived. His sons included General Sir Charles Wale (born 15 August 1752) who became Colonel of the 33rd (The Duke of Wellington's) Regiment of Foot on 25 February 1831. Charles Wale was the last British governor of Martinique between about 1812 and 1815. He was responsible for capturing Guadeloupe from the French and was given the governorship in recognition of this.

Wale's sister Margaret Wale (born 24 February 1699 died 1762) lived at Harston, probably in Harston Hall. She married Allen Hurrell (senior, died 1740 [1] ) at Little Shelford on the 12 January 1719 and their daughter Margaret (Peggy) Hurrell (junior) married John (Littel) Bridge (died 1776, buried at Harston) an "eminent counsellor at law" at Lackford, near Risby, Suffolk near Bury St Edmunds in 1752 [2] (In "My Grandfather's pocket book" this marriage is given (on page 307) as follows: "married Mr. Budge [i.e. Bridge] at Lackford, Aug.12th, 1758 [the '58 here may also be an error]. John Littel Bridge's brother Thomas was also in business in Riga, associated with Thomas Wale. Margaret Bridge's son was Thomas Bridge (Little) of Shudy Camps (died c1830). Thomas Bridge's daughter Henrietta Bridge married William Long and their daughter was Henrietta Langhorne. All of the above were notable landowners in Harston [3] John Littel Bridge was the son of Robert Bridge of Shudy Camps and Sarah (or Susanna) daughter of Thomas (or John) Littel of Halstead Co, Essex [4]

Thomas Wale left an early description of how foreigners became naturalised in England.

Other Details

He left papers containing to all details of his life and times, including recipes, ledgers, descriptions of his journeys and family, and copies of contemporary documents.

As well as accounts of his travels within England, Thomas Wale also left details about his voyages to Russia, Switzerland and Scotland.

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  1. Reported in the Gentleman Magazine, 1740 page 571
  2. London Evening Post (London, England), Saturday, August 8, 1752; Issue 3871
  4. E.N. Geijer, Rouge Dragos Pursuivant of Arms, College of Arms, Queen Victoria Street London EC4

Further reading