|Administrative / biographical background:
On account of their extremely humble origin, the Gale family, and Leonard Gale's account of them, are particularly worthy of note. The memoir (Robert Willis Blencowe, 'Extracts from the Memoirs of the Gale Family', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 12, pp. 45-60) of Leonard Gale, written three years before his death, is titled- 'The advice of me, Leonard Gale, to my two sons, Leonard and Henry, being in the 67th year of my age, A.D. 1687'.
'I was born in the parish of Sevenoake, in Kent, my father, a blacksmith, living in Riverhead Street, in the parish aforesaid, who lived there in very good repute, and drove a very good trade; his name Francis Gale: my mother was the daughter of one George Pratt, a very good yeoman, living at Chelsford, about five miles from Riverhead.' He goes on to describe how all his family, with the exception of one brother, died of the plague, and he was left at the age of seventeen with some £200, of which he soon lost £150 through 'bad servants and trusting', but by the time he was twenty-one he had made good all his original losses, with the help of 'a boy to strike and to blow for me, and a man to work by the piece ... for all the time I kept a smith's forge I layd by £100 a year ... and having gotten enough to keep me well, and being burdened with free quartering of soldiers, I left off, and came down into Sussex ... before I went home again I took St. Leonard's forge'(M. A. Lower, 'Sussex Iron Works', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol. 2. pp. 200, 216). He then entered into partnership with Thomas Burrell, son of Walter Burrell, for fifteen years, until the trade in iron fell off, when he became sole proprietor of Tinsloe forge(About 2 miles N-E. of Crawley, and 2 miles N-W. of Crabbett). After thirty years' trade he had acquired a fortune of £5000 or £6000, and being without family, married 'the daughter of Mr. Johnson', by whom he had five children, and at the time of writing was said to be worth at least £16,000. The advice concludes with some stern remarks on the merits of the Protestant religion, 'for a better religion cannot be found out than that is', and a business directive on the importance of the acquisition of Cowden iron-works.
The writer died in 1690, and Leonard, his eldest son, then seventeen, succeeded to the lion's share of his property. He received a good education, first from Mr. Boraston, of Hever, and then at University College, Oxford. In 1697 he was called to the bar but 'too great a lover of idleness and ease, I neglected the study of the law, and devoted myself to the management of my property in the country'. The following year he purchased the house and estate of Crabbett in Worth(For the descent of the Crabbett estate before this time, see this Catalogue and R. W. Blencowe, 'Extracts from the Memoirs of the Gale Family', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 12. p. 52 footnote) for which, including timber, he paid £9000. He bought Crabbett for two reasons: 'one was, that my estate might lie together, and the other, that I might have a good estate which I had not before, for I was always afraid of building'.
'Aug 19th, 1703, being near thirty years old I marryed with Mrs. Sarah Knight, my mother's sister's only daughter [born 15 September 1680], after I had made my court to her two or three years; by her I had a plentiful fortune [£7,000 or £8,000], we were marryed in the parish church of Charlwood, by Mr. Hesketh, the rector.' They had three sons and seven daughters. In 1710 he was elected one of the members for East Grinstead without expense or opposition, but sat for only one parliament until 1713. By Michaelmas 1724 he claimed to be worth £40,667,[For a valuation of the estate of Leonard Gale, and details of partition see Add. MS. 4699 in the East Sussex Record Office] but after his death in 1750 the Gales became extinct in the male line, though his three surviving daughters married well; Philippa married, 21 January 1730, James Clitherow, of Boston House, Brentford, Middlesex. Her father 'gave her £8,000 to her portion, and she has £1,200 per ann. settled on her and her heirs, of which £600 per ann. is for her jointure'; Elizabeth married Henry Humphrey, of Lewes, who was for many years chairman of the Quarter Sessions for East Sussex. On his death the bulk of his own (but not his wife's, which, as she died childless, reverted to her sisters' families) property went to his nephew, Henry Jackson; Sarah married Samuel Blunt, of Horsham, and in the partition of the property the estate at Crabbett came to him.
The 'Mrs. Blunt' of the Diary was his second wife, Winifred Scawen, by whom he had three sons. The eldest son, Robert, who never married, was an officer in the Horse Guards and died in 1780 of an inflammation caught while helping to put out a fire in Hounslow. The Scawens became extinct in the male line after the death in 1800 of Captain John Scawen, who ruined himself racing and died in India.
The estate passed to Samuel Blunt's second son, the Rev. William Blunt, who married Mary, daughter of Sir Francis Glanville, of Ketch-french, Cornwall. They had two children, Mary, who married George Wyndham, 1st Lord Leconfield, and Francis Scawen Blunt (Memorials to Francis Scawen Blunt, 1842, Mary, his wife, 1855, Leonard Gale, 1746, Sarah, his wife, 1750, and other persons mentioned in this Catalogue are to be found in the church of St. Nicholas, Worth, and are described fully in W. H. Godfrey, ed., Guide to the Church of St. Nicholas Worth), to whom the estate eventually passed, who was a Deputy-Lieutenant of the County. He in turn had two sons, Francis Scawen and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, the former being a conspicuous soldier until his death in 1872, while the latter is noted as writer, poet, exploratory traveller, and a diplomatic figure in mid-Victorian years. The first Europeans ever to reach Baghdad from the direction of the Mediterranean in the north were Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and his wife, Lady Anne, (Lady Anne Noel, Baroness Wentworth, grand-daughter of Byron, the poet) whom he married, 8 June 1869. In the autumn of 1878, after a visit to Egypt, where Blunt later built himself a house at Sheykh [sic] Obeyd, they decided to travel the 2000 miles from Damascus to the Persian Gulf via Central Arabia, and visit en route the Emir of Nejd in the plateau which is the home of the Arab race and Arab mare. The famous Crabbett stud originated from an Arab mare sent home on this journey.
It was at Crabbett Park that the Crabbett Club was established, an off-shoot of the 'Wilton' or 'Wogger' Club founded by Lord Pembroke for sport and other diversions. After its transfer to Newbuildings Place in Shipley (one of the most interesting houses in West Sussex; it was built in 1683 by Phillip Caryll)[Sussex Notes and Queries, Vol. XV, p. 279] it was reconstructed and became more of a convivial meeting with after-dinner oratory and verse of a not too serious nature and eventually decidedly literary. Here Hilaire Belloc, Wilfrid Meynell, Francis Thompson, and Oscar Wilde were all visitors, though Wilde only once. William Morris, too, was a guest. Other visitors included Mr. (afterwards Sir Winston) and Mrs. Churchill. Among the reminiscences recalled by the then Prime Minister's seventieth birthday was the outcome of a visit by Mr. Churchill to 'Justice', a play by John Galsworthy, who wrote it after visiting Dartmoor and Lewes Prisons, and making a serious study of the conditions of solitary confinement. After seeing it, Churchill, who was then Home Secretary, applied for a memorandum on prison reform to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, whom Mr. and Mrs. Churchill visited at Newbuildings 'to hear the nightingales'.