BRIDGEMAN, Henry (1725-1800), of Weston Park, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 7 Sept. 1725, 1st surv. s. of Sir Orlando Bridgeman, 4th Bt., of Castle Bromwich, Warws. by Anne, da. of Richard Newport, 2nd Earl of Bradford. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1744; L. Inn 1744. m. 12 July 1755, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Rev. John Simpson of Stoke Hall, Derbys., 5s. 3da. suc. to Weston estate of his uncle Thomas, 4th Earl of Bradford, 1762; and fa. as 5th Bt. 25 July 1764; cr. Baron Bradford 13 Aug. 1794.
Clerk of the Household to the Prince of Wales 1756-60; clerk comptroller of the Board of Green Cloth 1761-Apr. 1764.
Recorder, Wenlock 1774- d.
Bridgeman sat at Ludlow on the interest of Lord Powis whom he followed as one of the ‘Shropshire Gang’. On 23 Feb. 1756 he obtained through the Duke of Newcastle a place in the Household of the Prince of Wales;1 and in the new reign was appointed to the Board of Green Cloth. Newcastle, in his list of 13 Nov. 1762, still classed him among his friends; on 20 Nov., when Powis’s defection to the court had become clear, Newcastle wrote to the Duke of Devonshire that Bridgeman had ‘been closeted, and ... acted admirably well’;2 and on the 27th he still hoped he was sure of Bridgeman.3 But Bridgeman voted with Administration on the motion to postpone consideration of the peace preliminaries, 1 Dec., and was listed by Fox among those supporting them. This seems, however, to have been a matter of honest conviction: by the autumn of 1763 Jenkinson classed Bridgeman as ‘contra’; he voted with Opposition on 15 Nov., and again on 15 and 18 Feb.; and wrote on the 17th, in reply to a note from Powis,4
that on the most mature and deliberate thinking and conversing on the subject his Lordship alludes to in his note, he thinks himself indispensably obliged to give his vote today as he did on Tuesday.5 If it was a matter relative to any private affairs of his Lordship, Mr. Bridgeman would think himself not only guilty of a great breach of friendship, but of the highest ingratitude; this being an affair of national concern, he thinks, as he has already shewn his opinion upon it, his character might be justly called in question if he did not pursue it with steadiness and resolution.
Bridgeman was dismissed from his place at the Green Cloth for these votes;6 was a member of Wildman’s Club; and was classed by Newcastle as a ‘sure friend’, 10 May 1764. When the question of general warrants came up once more on 29 Jan. 1765, Powis wrote to George Grenville: ‘I could not prevail with Sir Harry Bridgeman to be absent—though I tried all means to engage him to be so.’7
In a new Government under the aegis of the Duke of Cumberland, Bridgeman appears in Newcastle’s list of 15 May among those to be restored to their places;8 he re-appears in that of 26 June,9 and in several later lists;10 is crossed out in that of 2 July, and does not appear thereafter.11 Presumably Bridgeman did not wish to be re-employed. But he was listed by Rockingham as ‘pro’ in the summer of 1765, and on 2 June 1766 is named by Newcastle among those ‘Proposed to be made peers’.12
When Richard Lyster, M.P. for Shropshire, was dying, Bridgeman consulted Brooke Forester about standing for the county, and was advised to ask, among others, Powis’s ‘opinion and friendship’; which, according to a note by Powis on an extract copied from Forester’s letter, he never did.13 Meeting with insufficient support, he gave up his candidature early in May. There was again some talk about his standing for the county in 1768.14
When the break came between Chatham and the Rockinghams over Edgcumbe’s dismissal, Bridgeman talked to Newcastle ‘very strongly against resignations; and hoped, the Duke of Portland would not resign’.15 He himself continued to support Chatham; was classed accordingly by Rockingham, Townshend and Newcastle in their lists; and voted with the Government even on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and on nullum tempus, 17 Feb. 1768. On 29 Jan. 1767 Nathaniel Ryder wrote in his diary:16
Went to the Duke of Grafton’s levee. Sir H. Bridgeman was there and took the Duke of Grafton aside. The conversation seemed by his countenance to be upon business of importance. I should probably think it was about a peerage, and as far as I could judge from Sir H. Bridgeman’s looks the answer he received from the Duke of Grafton did not seem very favourable.
In 1768 he was returned for Wenlock together with George Forester, and in four divisions over Wilkes and the Middlesex election voted with the Opposition, 3 Feb., 15 Apr., and 8 May 1769, and 25 Jan. 1770; no other vote by him is recorded till 1773. In Robinson’s first survey on the royal marriage bill in March 1772, Bridgeman was classed as ‘doubtful, present’, in the second as ‘contra, present’. On the renewed motion over the Middlesex election, 26 Apr. 1773, he appears as voting with Government; and at the end of the Parliament was classed by Robinson as ‘pro’. On 26 Mar. 1770 occurred Bridgeman’s only recorded contribution to debate during his 46 years in the House—whether it amounted to a speech is uncertain: he seconded General Howard’s motion to vote a copy of the Whisperer a libel, and call for its prosecution.17
In the next Parliament Bridgeman appears in three out of twelve division lists, each time voting with Opposition: on America, 26 Oct. 1775; on Dunning’s motion, 6 Apr. 1780; and on the motion against prorogation, 24 Apr. 1780. Over the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, he was listed by Robinson as ‘pro, abroad’; and at the end of the Parliament, as ‘con’. Absent abroad, he appears in none of the five division lists 12 Dec. 1781-15 Mar. 1782; next, adhering to Fox, he voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries and for Fox’s East India bill; also for Pitt’s scheme of electoral reform, which was not a party issue; and after the dismissal of the Coalition, continued with Opposition. He was created a peer, 13 Aug. 1794, and died 5 June 1800.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Bridgeman to Newcastle, 23 Feb. 1756, Add. 32863, f. 61.
- 2. Add. 32945, ff. 90-91.
- 3. To Rockingham, ibid. f. 162.
- 4. Powis mss.
- 5. Tuesday was 14 Feb., but the vote was taken on the 15th at 4.30 a.m.; similarly the main division of the sitting of the 17th was not taken till the 18th at 5 a.m.
- 6. Walpole, Mems. Geo. III, i. 316.
- 7. Grenville mss (JM)
- 8. Fortescue, i. 92; Add. 32966, ff. 395-6.
- 9. Add. 32967, ff. 114-15.
- 10. Ibid. ff. 128-33 and 161-4; see also Fortescue, i. 127.
- 11. Ibid. i. 131, 143.
- 12. Add. 33001, f. 264.
- 13. Powis mss.
- 14. John Walsh to Geo. Clive, 18 Mar. 1768, Clive mss at India Office.
- 15. Newcastle to Rockingham, 25 Nov. 1766, Add. 32978, f. 62.
- 16. Harrowby mss.
- 17. J. Harris to Hardwicke, Add. 35609, f. 167.