Bridges, John (1666-1724) (DNB00)
BRIDGES, JOHN (1666–1724), topographer, was born in 1666 at Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire, where his father then resided. His grandfather was Colonel John Bridges of Alcester, Warwickshire, whose eldest son of the same name purchased the manor of Barton Seagrave about 1665, and employed himself for many years in the careful improvement of the estate by planting it and introducing such discoveries in agriculture as were then recent, particularly the cultivation of sainfoin. His mother was Elizabeth, sister of Sir William Trumball, secretary of state. He was bred to the law, became a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, was appointed solicitor to the customs in 1695, a commissioner in 1711[-2], and cashier of excise in 1715. He was also a governor of Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals. In 1718 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and in the following year he began the formation of his voluminous manuscript collections for the history of his native county. He personally made a circuit of the county, and employed several persons to make drawings, collect information, and transcribe monuments and records. In this manner he expended several thousand pounds. It was his intention to make another personal survey of the county, but before he could carry this design into effect he was attacked by illness, and died at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn on 16 March 1723-4.
Bridges's manuscripts fill thirty folio volumes, besides five quarto volumes of descriptions of churches collected for him and four similar volumes in his own handwriting. These are now to be found, paged and indexed, in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Left by Bridges as an heirloom to his family, they were placed by his brother William, secretary of the stamp office, in the hands of Gibbons, a stationer and law-bookseller at the Middle Temple Gate, who circulated proposals for their publication by subscription, and engaged Dr. Samuel Jebb, a learned physician of Stratford in Essex, to edit them. Before many numbers had appeared Gibbons became bankrupt, and the manuscripts remaining in the hands of the editor, who had received no compensation for his labours, were at length secured by Mr. William Cartwright, M.P., of Aynho, for his native county, and a local committee was formed to accomplish the publication of the work. This was entrusted to the Rev. Peter Whalley, a master at Christ's Hospital. The first volume appeared in 1762, and the first part of the second in 1769; but delay arose in consequence of the death of Sir Thomas Cave, chairman of the committee, and the entire work was not published till 1791, more than seventy years after Bridges's first collection. It bears this title: 'The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire. Compiled from the manuscript collections of the late learned antiquary, John Bridges, Esq. By the Rev. Peter Whalley, late fellow of St. John's College, Oxford,' 2 vols., Oxford, 1791, folio. Whalley's part in the work was very inadequately performed. He professed, indeed, to have added little of his own, except what he compiled from Wood and Dugdale; and so easy a matter as the continuation of the lists of incumbents and lords of manors was left unattempted. Archdeacon Nares wrote the preface, and Samuel Ayscough compiled the index. The value of these two folio volumes is entirely due to Bridges, and if his papers had been properly arranged he would, in the estimation of his successor, Baker, have equalled Dugdale. A magnificent copy of the work is preserved among the select manuscripts in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 32118-32122). It is illustrated with numerous sketches, engravings, and additions in print and manuscript. A printed title pasted inside the cover states that 'this copy of Bridges's "History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire" was, at great expense and with untiring perseverance, illustrated by Mr. Thomas Dash of Kettering. It has received numerous additions by his son William Dash, who has had it rebound (1847) in its present extended form of five volumes, and strictly enjoins on the party receiving it that the book be preserved in its entirety, and that no part of it be ever broken up or dispersed.' It was bequeathed by Mr. William Dash to the British Museum, where it was deposited in 1883.
Bridges's collection of books and prints was sold by auction soon after his death. The catalogue of his library was long retained as valuable by curious collectors. A portrait of him, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1706, was engraved by Vertue in 1726.
[Manuscript Memoir in Dash's copy of the Hist, of Northamptonshire, and other manuscript notes in the same work; Bridges's Northamptonshire, pref., also ii. 221; Brydges's Censura Lit. (1807), iii. 219, 331; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iii. 521-36, vii. 407, 436; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 94, 161, ii. 61, 105-9, 700, 701, iii. 615, vi. 49, 189, viii. 348, 349, 399, 566, 682-4, ix. 566; Noble's Biog. Hist. of England, ii. 182; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 461, 5th ser. v. 86, 175; Quarterly Review, ci. 3, 4.]