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Newdigate, Roger (DNB00)


NEWDIGATE, Sir ROGER (1719–1806), antiquary, fifth baronet of Harefield, Middlesex, and Arbury, Warwickshire, was born on 30 May 1719. He was the seventh son of Sir Richard Newdigate, third baronet of Harefield and Arbury, by his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Roger Twisden, bart. Sir Richard Newdigate [q. v.], the chief justice, was Roger's great-grandfather. Roger Newdigate was sent to Westminster School, and while there in 1734 succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his elder brother, Sir Edward Newdigate, the fourth baronet. He matriculated at University College, Oxford, on 9 April 1736, was created M.A. on 16 May 1738, and became D.C.L. April 1749 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.)

From 1741 to 1747 Newdigate was M.P. for Middlesex, and from 31 Jan. 1750 to 1780 (when he retired) was M.P. for the university of Oxford. He was a high tory, and Horace Walpole in 1767 calls him ‘a half-converted Jacobite.’ He spoke in favour of the repeal of the Plantation Act in 1753, and opposed the Duke of Grafton's administration in the debates on the land tax, and the proposed grant to the royal princes in 1767.

Newdigate owned extensive coalworks near Bedworth, Warwickshire, and some years before his death cut a canal through his collieries and woods to join the Coventry canal. He was an active promoter of the Coventry, the Oxford, and Grand Junction canals, and of the turnpike road from Coventry to Leicester. He built a poorhouse and school for Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, the parish in which his Arbury estates were situated. He rebuilt Arbury House in the ‘Gothic’ style, on the site of an ancient priory. There is a description of the house in William Smith's ‘County of Warwick’ (p. 149). He was also the owner of the manor of Harefield, Middlesex, and about 1743 resided at Harefield Place. In 1760, having fixed his principal residence at Arbury, he sold Harefield Place to John Truesdale, retaining the manor and his other estates in Harefield. In 1786 Newdigate built a house called Harefield Lodge, about a mile from Uxbridge (Lysons, County of Middlesex, pp. 107, 109, 111; Walford, Greater London, i. 245).

During a tour early in life in France and Italy Newdigate made sketches of ancient buildings, filling two folio volumes preserved in his library at Arbury. He collected ancient marbles, casts of statues, and also vases, some of which were engraved by Piranesi. He purchased for 1,800l. two marble candelabra found in Hadrian's Villa, but a good deal restored (Michaelis, Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, pp. 593, 594). These he presented to the Radcliffe Library, Oxford. He gave to University College, Oxford, a chimney-piece for the hall, and in December 1805 presented to the university 2,000l. for the purpose of removing the Arundell collection into the Radcliffe Library, a plan carried out by Flaxman. He also gave 1,000l. in the funds, partly for a prize for English verse, and partly towards the improvement of the lodgings of the master of University College. The prize, well known as the ‘Newdigate,’ is of the annual value of twenty-one guineas, and is confined to undergraduates. It was first awarded in 1806, and in accordance with Newdigate's desire the competing compositions were originally restricted to fifty lines and to some subject connected with the history of ancient sculpture, painting, or architecture: the poems were not to contain any compliment to Newdigate himself.

Newdigate died at his seat at Arbury, after a few days' illness, on 23 Nov. 1806, in his eighty-seventh year. He was buried in the family vault at Harefield parish church, where there is a tablet to his memory (Walford, Greater London, i. 248). Newdigate is described by his friend Archdeacon Churton as an intelligent and polished gentleman of the old school. A portrait of him was painted for University College, Oxford, by Kirkby, and he was also painted at the age of seventy-three by Romney. He was a student of theology and the author of an unpublished dissertation on Hannibal's march over the Alps (cf. Gent. Mag. 1807, pt. ii. p. 634).

Newdigate married, first, in 1743, Sophia, daughter of Edward Conyers of Copped Hall, Essex; secondly, in 1776, Hester, daughter of Edward Mundy of Shipley, Derbyshire. He died without leaving any children, and his Harefield estates passed to the great-grandson of his uncle, Francis Newdigate, viz. Charles Newdigate Parker, who assumed the surname of Newdegate and re-purchased Harefield Place, and whose son, Charles Newdigate Newdegate, is separately noticed. A life interest in the Warwickshire estates was bequeathed to Francis Parker Newdigate of Kirk Hallam, Derbyshire.

[Burke's Landed Gentry; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Welch's Alumni Westmonast.; Gent. Mag. 1806, pt. ii. pp. 1173–4, 1807 pt. ii. pp. 633–5, and 705 f.; Chalmers's Biog. Dict. xxiii. 115–17; authorities cited above.]

W. W.