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Rev. Robert Midgley (1684 24 May 1761), son of the Rev. Joseph Midgley of Thirsk, Yorkshire, by Sarah, daughter of John Pybus of Thirsk, gained a B.A. at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in  1703 and an M.A. in 1733 and was master for fifty-three years at Coxwold Free Grammar School. (DNB)


                     The Old Grammar School at Coxwold, now a private residence


The DNB states that he was the author of the Compendious Schoolmaster1 to which his portrait was prefixed'. The inscription on his monument in Husthwaite Church appears together with his portrait engraved by James Fittler in 17902 

However, Nichols states in his Literary History, by 'some mistake, which cannot easily be accounted for, one (portrait) prefixed to his The Compendious Schoolmaster, 8vo; as he was not author of any such work.'2

According to the DNB it appears that this Robert was the nephew of Robert Midgley M.D.  Leeds (b. abt. 1655, d.1723) son of Ralph Midgley of West Breary and grandson of Robert Midgley of Breary, parish of Adel, a predecessor of Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cornwall. However neither Robert of Coxwold nor his father Joseph appear on Thoresby's Midgley pedigree. Perhaps this is not surprising as Ralph and his wife Frances Burniston had fourteen children between them.

 See Leeds page  

Gedcom file of Midgley of Breary chistennedat Adel Parish Church

The book The Compendious Schoolmaster was printed in 1688 and as Robert the master of Coxwold Grammar was born about 1684, it would have been impossible for him to have written it! In addition, within the treatise there is a first hand poetic account by the author of the Great Fire of London (1666) which again would preclude the master of Coxwold Grammar. Thus rightfully as Nichols implies, the authorship should reside with another. Rather than Robert Midgley of Leeds as suggested in the DNB, there is another probable author, Robert Midgley of London, M.D.  (d. 1694), son of Samuel (supposedly brother of Ralph of Breary) who, according to the Midgley pedigree in Thoresby's Leeds would be a cousin of Robert of Leeds. The fact that the author witnessed the Great Fire of London, that he was an M.D. in London and the book was printed at The Strand in London all indicate that this Robert of London is the true author. 

Robert Midgley of London also had licensed to him on 26 May 1692, William Dugdale's  Monasticon anglicanum in three volumes 'printed, for Sam Keble at the Turks-Head, in Fleet-street; Hen. Rhodes at the Star the corner of Bride lane in Fleetstreet, 1693.'

                       Robert Midgley, master of Coxwold Grammar                           
       Cambridge Alumni for Midgley 1660's-1700's 3


1. The Compendious Schoolmaster: Teaching the English Tongue. This has no author mentioned but was licensed to 'Rob. Midgley.' on 29th November 1687 and was printed in 1688 with a foreword written by the author's friend 'R.W.'

2.  Nichols, John. Illustrations of the Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 1 (1817), pp. 767769 .

3. John Venn & J. A. Venn (eds.), Alumni Cantabrigienses A Biographical List of All Known Students ...From the Earliest times to 1751. Volume 1, part 3
pp. 185-186.


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© Copyright Tim Midgley 23rd January 2019, revised 4th January 2024.