Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bridgeman, Orlando

BRIDGEMAN, Sir ORLANDO (1606?–1674), lord keeper, was the eldest son of Dr. John Bridgeman [q. v.], rector of the family living of Wigan, and in 1619 bishop of Chester. His mother was Elizabeth Helyar,daughter of Dr. Helyar, canon of Exeter and archdeacon of Barnstaple. After receiving a home training, Orlando Bridgeman went in July 1619 to Queens' College, Cambridge, where he took his bachelor's degree in January 1624, and was elected fellow of Magdalene (where his father had previously been a fellow and M.A.) on 7 July of the same year (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. 483). In November of that year he was admitted at the Inner Temple, was called to the bar on 10 Feb. 1633, and was made a bencher shortly before the Restoration. His legal reputation during Charles I's reign stood very high. He was chief justice of Chester 1638; attorney of the court of wards and solicitor-general to the Prince of Wales 1640. He had also the reversion of the office of keeper of the writs and rolls in the common pleas. This promotion was no doubt favoured by his political views. He was returned in 1640 to the Long parliament for Wigan, and was earnest in his support of the royal cause, and knighted in the same year. He voted against Strafford's attainder, and opposed the ordinance by which the militia was taken out of the hands of the king, and on the outbreak of the civil war assisted his father in maintaining the royal cause in Chester. He sat in the Oxford parliament of 1644, and in January 1645–6 was one of the king's commissioners at the Uxbridge negotiations, where, though the son of a bishop, he displayed such a tendency to compromise in church matters, and so lawyer-like a desire to meet political opponents halfway, that he incurred the censure both of Charles and of Hyde. As a prominent member of the royalist party he was compelled, after the death of Charles, to cease public advocacy at the bar, but appears to have escaped fine or other punishment, and on his submission to Cromwell, who was extremely anxious to secure the proper administration of the law, was permitted to practise in a private manner. He devoted himself to conveyancing, to which the vast changes in property resulting from the civil wars had given special importance, and for which the conspicuous moderation of his temper well fitted him, and was in this matter regarded as the leading authority by both parties, his very enemies not thinking their estates secure without his advice. After his death his collections were published under the title of 'Bridgeman's Conveyancer,' of which five editions were printed, the last and best in 1725. He was not, however, allowed to live in London; for he received a license from the council of state to remain at Beaconsfield with his family on 10 Sept. 1650, and on 15 and 29 Oct. also had special licenses to come to London and reside there for about a month, while engaged on special business.

In the political confusion which succeeded the death of Cromwell Bridgeman took no share. His legal reputation, however, and his former active loyalty were sufficient to put out of sight his late submission to Cromwell. Within a week after the king's return he was made successively serjeant-at-law and chief baron of the exchequer, and received a baronetcy, the first created after the Restoralion (Prince, Worthies of Devon), in which he is described as of Great Lever, Lancashire. His property in this county appears to have been considerable, as Pepys speaks of another seat, probably Ashton Hall, 'antiently of the Levers, and then of the Ashtons,' as being shortly afterwards in his possession (Pepys, Diary).

In October (9–19) 1680 Bridgeman presided as lord chief baron at the trial of the regicides. He conducted these trials — at a time when, if ever, political partisanship might have been expected to run riot—with remarkable moderation. He appears to have especially distinguished himself by his effective reply to Cook, one of the prisoners, who 'delivered himself lawyer-like for two or three hours to the judges' (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep 18lb). At the conclusion of this trial he was made lord chief justice of the common pleas, the patent being dated 22 Oct. 1680, though he is mentioned as chief justice as early as 29 May (ib. 153). During the seven years that he held this office he preserved a high and undiminished reputation. 'His moderation and equity were such that he seemed to carry a chancery in his breast' (Prince, Worthies of Devon). His love of legal exactitude was great enough to become proverbial, and an illustration of it is furnished by North, who states that when it was proposed to move his court, which was draughty, into a less exposed situation, Bridgeman refused to allow it, on the ground that it was against Magna Charta, which enacts that the common pleas shall be held 'in certo loco,' and that the distance of an inch from that place would cause all pleas to be 'coram non judice.' Reports of his judgments were edited from the Hargraves MSS. by S. Bannister in 1823. He was during these years several times commissioned to execute the office of speaker in the lords during the absence of the lord chancellor (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. 100 a, 142 b, 175 a). On 26 March 1664 he was appointed one of the first visitors of the Royal College of Physicians, London (ib. 8th' Rep. 234 b).

On the disgrace of Clarendon the great seal was given to Bridgeman on 30 Aug. 1667, not as lord chancellor, but with the inferior title of lord keeper. In May of the same year he received a grant of the reversion of the surveyorship of the customs (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Ser., 1666–7, p. 139). Until 23 May 1668, when he was succeeded in the chief justiceship by Sir John Vaughan, he filled both offices. At this time he resided at Essex House in the Strand; but he had also a seat at Teddington, Middlesex, where he was dangerously ill in March 1667 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. 485), and apparently another residence at Bowood Park (Cal. of State Papers, Dom, Ser., 1660–1). According to general testimony Bridgeman did not retain in this new office his former high reputation. Thus Burnet says that 'his study and practice had lain so entirely in the common law that he never seemed to know what equity was.' His love of moderation and compromise had evidently grown upon him. North describes him as 'timorous to an impotence, and that not mended by his great age. He laboured very much to please everybody, a temper of ill consequence to a judge. It was observed of him that if a case admitted of diverse doubts, which the lawyers call points, he would never give all on one side, but either party should have something to go away with. And in his time the court of chancery ran out of order into delays and endless motions in causes, so that it was like a fair field overgrown with briars.' There was, too, another cause for his failure: 'What was worst of all, his family was very ill qualified for that place, his lady being a most violent intriguess in business, and his sons kept no good decorum whilst they practised under him; and he had not the vigour of mind and strength to coerce the cause of so much disorder in his family' (North, Life of Lord-keeper Guildford, p. 180).

As lord keeper, Bridgeman was of course the mouthpiece of Charles to the parliament, and delivered the king's speech on 10 Oct. 1667, 19 Oct. 1669, 14 Feb. and 24 Oct. 1670, and 22 April 1671 (Parl. Hist. vol. iv.) Actually, however, he was, during all the transactions connected with the treaty of Dover in 1670, kept in ignorance of the real intentions of Charles. As a staunch protestant it was necessary to withhold from him the clause by which Charles bound himself to declare his conversion to Romanism in return for a special subsidy from Louis XIV, and he was therefore, with others, tricked by the duplicate treaty which Buckingham, also too protestant to be trusted, was allowed to imagine that be had concluded (Dalrymple, Memoirs). His general views, however, and his personal integrity made him an obstacle to the full carrying out of Charles's plans. 'He boggled at divers things required of him;' he refused to put the seal to the Declaration of Indulgence, as judging it contrary to the constitution; he heartily disapproved of the closing of the exchequer, refused to stop the lawsuits against the bankers, which resulted from this step, by injunction, although Charles was known personally to wish it; and remonstrated against the commission of martial law, although at that time there was colour for it by a little army encamped on Biackheath (North, Life of Guildford, 181). 'For the sake of his family, that gathered like a snowball while he had the seal, he would not have formalised with any tolerable compliances; but these impositions were too rank for him to comport with' (North Eramen, p. 38). He appears also to have refused to put the great seal to various grants designed for the king's mistresses. It was decided to remove him, and on 17 Nov. 1672 the seal was taken from him and given to Shaftesbury, who was thought to be willing to be more compliant. The warrant from Charles to Henry Coventry to receive the seal from Bridgeman is dated 16 Nov. (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. 234 b}. He at once went into retirement at Teddington, and after an illness in the spring of 1673, from which, however, he had completely recovered in April, he died on 25 June 1674, and was buried at Teddington. He was twice married: first to Judith, daughter and heir of John Kynaston of Morton, Shropshire; secondly, in May 1670 (ib. 7th Rep. 488 ), to Dorothy, daughter of Dr. Saunders, provost of Oriel College, Oxford, widow of George Craddock of Carswell Castle, Staffordshire. By his first marriage he had one son, by his second two sons and a daughter, the latter of whom, in 1677, married Sir Thomas Middleton of Chirk Castle, bringing with her 6,000l., left her by her father (ib. 470 a). The present Earl of Bradford is the direct lineal descendant of the lord keeper by his first wife.

[The principal modern authority for Bridgeman's life is Foss's Lives of the Judges, to which the writer of this article desires to own the fullest obligation. This, however, deals purely with his legal career. A good many notices of him occur in the Records of the Hist. MSS. Commission, and in the Calendar of State Papers, of which the most important are referred to above. North's Examen and Life of Lord-keeper Guildford, and the articles in the last edition of the Biog. Brit., have also been consulted. Prince, in his Worthies of Devon, has one or two interesting facts.]

G. A.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.36
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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318 i 3-2 f.e. Bridgeman, Sir Orlando: for the long parliament read both the short and the long parliaments
l.l. for in the read on 27 Nov. 1643
ii 1 omit same year