Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bendish, Bridget

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1250906Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 04 — Bendish, Bridget1885Sidney Lee

BENDISH, BRIDGET (1650–1726), Oliver Cromwell's granddaughter, was daughter of General Henry Ireton, by his wife Bridget, Cromwell's eldest daughter. She was born about 1650. As a child she was a favourite with her grandfather. About 1670 she married Thomas Bendish, esq., a leading member of the independent or congregational church of Yarmouth, and a distant relative of Sir Thomaa Bendish, an Essex baronet, who was for many years English ambassador at the Porte. Soon after the marriage Bridget settled at South Town, near Yarmouth, where her husband owned farm and salt-works. She closely resembled her grandfather in personal appearance and ( the opinion of many) in character, and she gained an extraordinary reputation on that account. According to the sketch of her penned in her lifetime by Samuel Say, a dissenting minister of Ipswich, she was a rigid Calvimst of uncertain temper, with a strength of will and physical courage rarely paralleled. She laboured incessantly in her own household, on her husband's farm and at his salt works, yet was always noted for dignity mien and the charm of her conversation She was an ardent champion of her grandfather's reputation. On one occasion she was travelling to London in a public coach when a fellow-passenger in conversation with a companion spoke lightly of the Protector. Bridget not only inveighed against the offender for the rest of the journey, but on alighting in London snatched another passenger's sword from its sheath and challenged the slanderer to fight her there and then. She always took a lively interest in politics, and is said to have compromised herself in many ways in the Rye House plot (1683). She contrived the escape of a near relative who was in prison on suspicion of complicity. In 1688-9 she secretly distributed papers recommending the recognition of William III. In 1694 Archbishop Tillotson introduced her to Queen Mary, and a pension was promised her, but it was never granted owing to the death of both her patrons immediately after the interview. On 27 April 1707 her husband died. Mrs. Bendish was always careless about money matters, and although she received a large bequest from her aunt, Lady Fauconberg, she had to depend for her livelihood in her old age on her own exertions. She died in 1726 and was buried at Yarmouth. Contemporaries state that Cromwell's best-known portraits represented his granddaughter to the life. She had three children: 1, Thomas, who died in the West Indies; 2, Bridget, who died at Yarmouth, unmarried, in 1736, aged 64; and 3, Henry, who died in London in 1740, having married Martha Shute, the sister of the first Viscount Barrington [q. v.]

[The Rev. Samuel Say's 'Character of Mrs. B[ridget] B[endish], granddaughter of Oliver Cromwell. Written in the year 1719, on occasion of the closing words of Lord Clarendon's character of her grand&ther' (that he was 'a brave wicked man') was published with a few lines added after Mrs. Bendish's death— 1, in the Gent. Mag. (xxv. 357) for Aug. 1765; 2, in the Letters of John Hughes and others (ii. 307- 15) 1772; 3, in the Westminster Mag. for 1774 (with other reminiscences of Mrs. Bendish by Dr. Hewling Luson of Lowestoft), and 4, in Noble's Memoirs of the House of Cromwell 1787 (together with Luson's account and a third set of reminiscences by Dr. J. Brooke) ii. 329-46. See also Granger's Biog. Hist. iii. 174, and especially Davy's MS. Suffolk Collections in Brit. Mus. MS. Addit. 19118, ff. 54-63.]

S. L. L.