Laud, the future archbishop, was another of the royal chaplains who accompanied the King on his visit to Scotland; and it was doubtless at this period that that lasting friendship was commenced between the two chaplains which only terminated with Laud's cruel execution. This close intimacy with Laud probably had a considerable influence in forming the future life and character of bishop Bridgeman, who was a few years the junior in years, though senior in his appointment as King's chaplain.
Upon his return home from Scotland Dr. Bridgeman set himself to work to recover his rents and manorial rights, which had for some time been withheld from the parsons of Wigan.
Prescriptions for tithes were claimed by some of the larger owners of land, and some of the smaller tithe payers broke the custom of tithing by setting up their sheaves irregularly instead of putting them in hattocks; sundry encroachments had been made upon the glebe by tenants who pretended ownership of their land or houses; and notably the tenants of the lord's mills, who refused to acknowledge the parson's rights as lord of the manor, and claimed to hold the mills as their own property, subject only to certain small annual rents or payments; moreover, the mayor and corporation had entered upon the profits of the markets and fairs, and taken possession of the manorial courts. Dr. Bridgeman quietly and gently, but firmly and perseveringly, prosecuted his rights and eventually acquired possession of much that had been for some time past withholden from the parson.
- The custom of tithing for all kinds of corn and grain in Wigan parish was this: when the corn was cut it was shortly afterwards bound up in sheaves, and presently set up in hattocks (i.e. eight sheaves in each hattock), and after it had stood in the field for a while to dry, the owner sent for the parson, or his proctor and titheman, and asked him to set out his tithe, and when it had been so set out the owner was at liberty to carry his corn, but not before.
- Bishop Bridgeman's Wigan Leger. This Leger is unfortunately not the original, but a copy made in 1708 for the Reverend the Honourable Edward Finch, rector of Wigan (who gives a minute account of the original MS. purporting to be "a true copy of Bp John Bridgman's book in wch he enterd his concerns relating to Wigan. As soon as you lift up the cover upon wch the Brass clasps were fixed upon the very past board upon the inside (the Book being bound in Calve's leather) were writ with his own hand the words you see writ in this diagram, wch I, Edward Finch, parson of Wigan, scored out upon this cover having laid the book it selfe upon it" Here follows the diagram in which is written, "Ego Johannes Bridgeman Epūs Cestren: et Rector de Wigan hunc agnosco Librum, atque bia in eodem conscripta ad hunc usque diem 19 Octob: 1619, velpropriâ meâ manu vel jussu meo conscripta testor Deumque omnipotentem ad veritatis testimonium advoco." Below which is written,—" The size and shape of Bp John Bridgeman's manuscript Book of wch the following manuscript is an exact copy transcribed by my order in my own chamber at my Brs house (the Deanery at York), because the hand was too small and troublesome to read in much or often in Bp Bridgman's original entry books. Transcribed during my Brs residence in summer Anno Dn'i 1708: and the winter following compared and found to agree with the original by us
- Edw. Finch,
- Henry Finch."