Leeds Beckett University
NewGrangeTheWadesAndTheLesserGentry-ROWNTREE.pdf (11.62 MB)

New Grange, the Wades and the Lesser Gentry

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posted on 2022-11-04, 12:14 authored by Keith RowntreeKeith Rowntree

The lesser gentry is an understudied section within the upper reaches of society compared to the numerically smaller but more powerful greater gentry. Research into minor gentry families tends to concentrate on well known, reliable and expected records. Despite relative anonymity, the family at the centre of this study, the Wades, are arguably a more representative example of the many minor gentry families who resided throughout England often the de facto authority figures in the small areas they resided. 

This thesis aims to study the, often porous, boundaries between different strata of the gentry; definitions of gentry status that were often arbitrary and depended on context, local developments and shifts in attitude across time. Networks of family and friendship were essential facilitators to social, political and cultural success and relevance across the strata of lesser gentry. The study builds on existing work regarding the smaller gentry families variously described as the squirarchy, minor, lesser or parish gentry in the work of Vickery, French and Hague. 

Based on a review of the literature and historiographical debate, knowledge and evidence were collected by using a variety of multi-disciplinary sources to build a comprehensive picture to better understand the complex issues of social identity, behaviour and influence of lesser gentry families. The Wade family were unremarkable, making little impact on regional or national history. This inconspicuousness is precisely the point of investigating their origins, landholdings, allies, material culture, status, and wealth. They were representative of a group of gentry that was numerous, old fashioned, conservative and restrained. The term ‘lesser gentry’ covers a broad range of gentry families, diverse in size, wealth, social connection and geography. However, within their ranks, they shared a belief in a natural order embracing self-belief in their right to authority and an elevated social position.


Qualification name

  • PhD


Morgan, Simon ; Ewen, Shane

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Doctoral


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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