Bridgeman, John (DNB00)

BRIDGEMAN, JOHN (1577–1652), bishop of Chester, was born at Exeter, 'not far from the palace gate,' on 2 Nov. 1577, His grandfather was Edward Bridgeman, sheriff of the city and county of Exeter in 1578, who had, with other issue, two sons, Michael, the eldest (who died without issue), and Thomas, of Greenway, Devonshire. The future bishop was the eldest son of Thomas. He was educated at Cambridge, being originally of Peterhouse (B.D. 1596); he was elected a foundation fellow of Magdalene in 1599, and took his M.A. in 1600 (admitted ad eundem at Oxford 4 July 1600), and proceeded D.D. in 1612. He was canon residential of Exeter, and also held the first prebend at Peterborough and (from 1615) the rich rectory of Wigan, he being then one of James I's chaplains. On the translation of Thomas Morton to Coventry and Lichfield (6 March 1619) George Massie was nominated his successor at Chester, but his death intervened. Bridgeman was elected bishop of Chester 15 March 1619, and consecrated on 9 May. The revenues of the bishopric were small, and in 1621 (apparently on resigning his canonry) he was allowed to hold in commendam, along with Wigan, the rectory of Bangor-is-coed, Flintshire. This he resigned (9 Jan. 1640) to his son Henry. In 1686 Bridgeman bought from Richard Egerton the manor of Malpas, Cheshire, with Wolvesacre, Wigland, and Bryne-pits. As bishop of a diocese abounding in nonconformists, Bridgeman had no very easy or pleasant task when called upon to assert the authority of the church. His predecessor, Morton who drafted the king's declaration of 24 Hay 1618, known as the 'Book of Sports,' was perhaps less in sympathy with the puritans than Bridgeman; but he seldom proceeded beyond threats. Bridgeman was complained of as negligent in his duties as a repressor of nonconformity, and commissioners were sent by his metropolitan to report upon the state of his diocese. Thus stirred into activity he for a time performed an unwelcome office with some vigour. Contrasting him with Morton, Halley says of Bridgeman that he 'loved neither to threaten nor to strike, but when he did strike he did it as effectually as if he loved it.' A curious story is told of his shutting up Knutsford Chapel, on the ground that it had been profaned by the casual introduction of a led bear. This has been described as 'episcopal superstition,' but was probably only an excuse for closing a place which was in nonconforming hands. Thomas Paget, minister of Blackley Chapel, who had been treated by Morton with nothing worse than hard words, was cited before Bridgeman, and required to give reasons for judging it unlawful to kneel at the eucharist. In the course of the argument Bridgeman 'gravely laid himself upon a bench by a side of a table, leaning on his elbow,' to prove how unseemly would now be in church the posture in use at the institution of the sacrament. Paget was punished by suspension from his ministry [about 1620] for two years.' Some years later a more considerable man than Paget was suspended by Bridgeman. John Angier, the young non-conforming minister of Ringley Chapel, was the bishop's neighbour while Bridgeman resided at Great Lever, near Bolton, and was frequently called in to pray with the bishop's ailing wife. The position was for Bridgeman a somewhat equivocal one. 'My lord's grace of Canterbury' had already rebuked him for permitting nonconformists at Ringley and Dean; Angier's nonconformity he could not shake, so he told him he must suspend him, but would wink at his getting another place 'anywhere at a little further distance' [see Angier, John. In 1631 he suspended Samuel Eaton of Wirral, who is regarded as the founder of Congregationalism in Cheshire. When the time came for the temporary overthrow of episcopacy, Bridgeman disappeared from public view, and seems to have lived quietly in retirement. He died in 1662 at Morton Hall, Shropshire, and was buried at Kinnerley, near Oswestry. There is a stone over his grave, and a mural monument to his memory in Kinnerley Church, but neither gives the date of death: the register at Kinnerley only dates from 1677. He married, on 29 April 1606, Elizabeth, daughter of William Helyar (died 1645), archdeacon of Barnstaple and canon of Exeter, and left five sons: (1) Orlando [q. v.]; (2) Dove, prebendary of Chester, married Miss Bennett, a Cheashire lady, and had one son, Charles, archdeacon of Richmond, who died unmarried in 1678; (3) Henry [q. v.]; (4) James, who was knighted, married Miss Allen, a Cheshire lady, and had issue James (died unmarried), Frances (married William, third Baron Howard of Escrick), Magdalen (married W. Wynds), and Anne; (5) Richard of Combes Hall, Suffolk, married Katharine Watson. and had a son William, who became Secretary to the admiralty and clerk of the privy council; this William married Diana Vernatti, and had issue Orlando (whose only surviving son William died ummarried), and Katharine (married Orlando Bridgeman, fourth son of the second baronet, and died without issue). Ormerod says that Bishop Bridgeman 'was the compiler of a valuable work relating to the ecclesiastical history of the diocese, now deposited in the episcopal registry, and usually denominated Bishop Bridgeman's Ledger.'

(Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, pt. ii. pp. 10, 24; Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, ii. 293 seq.; Ormerod's Cheshire, 1819, i. 79; Fisher's Companion and Key to the Hist. of Eng. 1832, pp. 725, 756; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i. 80: Halley's Lancashire, its Puritanism and Nonconformity, 1869. i. 240, 260, 285, ii. 81, 145; Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, Laud, 1875, xi. 39; Lee's Diaries and Letters of P. Henry, 1882, pp. 194, 394; Burke's Peerage, 1883, p. 157; information from the master of Magdalene, and from Rev. J. B. Meredith, Kinnerley, West Felton.]

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