Clement-Jones family - Person Sheet
Clement-Jones family - Person Sheet
NameAlderman George BRIDGES , 1519
OccupationBanker and Merchant
FatherGeorge BRIDGES , 3138 (1733-1800)
MotherSarah HERVEY , 3139 (1734-1803)
1Mary WILSON , 1520
Birth1767, Whitechapel, London
FatherWilliam WILSON , 3152 (-1805)
MotherAnn MONCK , 3153 (1745-1814)
ChildrenElizabeth Ann , 1465 (1799-1858)
 George Wilson , 3140 (1788-1863)
 Mary Ann , 3141 (1790-1873)
 Jane Monck , 3142 (1793-1871)
 John William , 3143 (1795-1866)
 Sarah Ann , 3144 (1797-1820)
 Frances Maria Yale , 3145 (1799-1815)
 Ann , 3146 (1803-1831)
Notes for Alderman George BRIDGES
Of Lawford Place Essex built in c 1790.

George Bridges was a banker and merchant of some standing in Essex and Suffolk. In 1790 he and John Marratt of Dedham founded the Manningtree and Mistley Bank, and in 1799 the Hadleigh Bank in Suffolk. From 1812 to 1815 Bridges also had an interest in Cox's Harwich Bank.

His father, George Bridges the elder, lent his name to these ventures until his death in 1800 but his main occupation was as a merchant at Mistley, the port on the Stour estuary from which Constable's father and other local merchants shipped their cargoes to and from London. By 1800 Bridges the elder and his son had built up an extensive business in ‘buying & Selling all sorts of Corn & Grain Deals & Iron’, according to the draft articles of the co-partnership to which they admitted George Elmer that year.

Further articles drawn up in 1804 between George Bridges the younger and Elmer mention in addition the manufacture of malt, salt and lime, and indicate that their activities had spread as far as Sudbury. The firm of Bridges and Elmer must have prospered because in 1811 it took a twenty-one year lease at £1,400 per annum on the whole port of Mistley.

One of the ‘tenants at will’ who was taken over in this transaction was Golding Constable, the artist's father, who rented granaries and a coalyard at Mistley. The younger Bridges' banking and mercantile concerns, however, appear to have suffered a considerable set-back in the depression that followed the end of the war with France. The Bridges, Elmer and Howlett partnership (as it had by then become) was dissolved on Christmas day 1815 and the Manningtree and Mistley Bank was taken over by Alexander & Co. of Ipswich the same year.

The identification of the sitters in No.1 is made in family papers now in the possession of Mrs E.F. Gundry. These also supply information about the date of the
painting. Wishing to document the authorship of the picture, John G. Bridges obtained in 1867 the following declaration from his aunts Mary Ann Bridges (Mrs Evans) and Jane Monck Bridges (Mrs Bliss), who figure in the painting as the two girls at the keyboard: ‘We can well testify, that the Picture representing the Family of our Father the late George Bridges Esqr of Lawford Essex now in your possession was painted there by the late John Constable Esqr, R.A. about the year 1804’. This is the date one would expect, since Ann Bridges, born in 1803, looks about a year old in the picture. With their joint declaration the two aunts also sent J.G.Bridges their individual recollections of the period, from which it is clear that ‘about the year 1804’ was an agreed compromise. Mrs Evans wrote: ‘I think it was the winter of 1805 - & 6, that Mr. Constable painted the picture, in the dining room of our dear old home at Lawford he was staying with us the whole time - your aunt Ellicombe [Ann Bridges, later Mrs Ellacombe] was the baby of about a year old’. Mrs Evans was obviously under the impression that Ann was born later than 1803. Her sister, Mrs Bliss, remembered Ann's birth-date more accurately, telling J.G.Bridges that the sittings ‘mighthave been in 1803-as Ann was born in Apl-and she is the baby but MrC. was in our house for weeks doing it- I rememberthat he had done not long before a full length portrait of a Mrs Gubbins a handsome woman if any one knows anything about that the same memorandums in any journal of MrC.'s might also note our picture’.7

Mrs Evans thought the portrait was painted in the dining-room at Lawford, but J.G.Bridges was probably more accurate when, in a letter to F.M.Nichols in 1891, he said it was done in the drawingroom. In the same letter Bridges wrote: ‘John Constable was a great Friend of the Family at that time & as I have often heard my Father [the younger of the two boys in the picture] say spent much time at Lawford Place’. D.S.MacColl, who in 1912 first published the portrait and some of the documents quoted above, reported a family tradition that ‘Constable showed an admiration for one of his sitters, the lady at the spinet or early pianoforte, and that his visits were in consequence discouraged’. A similar story, communicated by a more recent member of the family, appeared in Xylonite Magazine in 1953, Lawford Place being at that time the British Xylonite Plastics Research Station.


If you’re from north-east Essex, and perhaps if you’re from south-east Suffolk, you cannot avoid John Constable. My grandma had a print of The Haywain above her television, and we had Constable table mats. I grew up eating my Sunday roast while gazing down around the edge of the plate at what I could see of the horse outside Flatford mill, and the boat-builders along the river. If you go for a row at Dedham, you round a bend, and you’re suddenly in one of his paintings.

In 1804, John Constable painted a portrait of the Bridges family, who lived in Lawford. Pater familias George was a banker and a corn merchant, and Lawford Place was built by him in about 1790. It’s a famous painting (although didn’t feature in our table mat set), and I became curious about it while transcribing Lawford’s parish register, covering 1764-1812. Were the sitters in the register?

The Bridges family were clearly the grand folk of Lawford. It’s obvious, when you see how the family were recorded in the parish register. Everyone else in Lawford appears with a baptism date, their first name and their parents’ names. But not the Bridges! They almost always had their dates of birth (sometimes even the time of day) recorded in the register, alongside the baptism date, and the name of the clergyman who performed the rite. Their records dwarf everyone else’s as the cleryman often writes the enormous entry in larger writing than that reserved for the hoi polloi. Below is the baptism of Mary Anne, who appears in Constable’s painting at the piano, with a posy at her bosom.

There are ten baptisms in Lawford’s register for children of George and Mary Bridges, from 1788 until 1809. George Wilson was first, born in 1788; he is the eldest son, who stands to the far left of the painting. The next child was Mary Anne in 1790, seated at the piano with the flowers. Then came Jane in 1793; aged 11 at the time of the painting, she is the only sitter to be looking at the artist. John William was born in 1795; he’s the little boy sat on the left, wearing a miniature version of his elder brother’s outfit. Sarah Ann was born in 1797, and she’s standing, holding the hand of her infant sibling. Seated with the book is Elizabeth, who was baptised in 1799, and seated behind her is Frances Maria. Frances appears in the register in 1803, when she was received into the church, having been privately baptised earlier – she is clearly not a one year old in this painting, and appears to be about three or four. The baby with the dashing red shoes is Anne, who was baptised in 1803, which is presumably the same year as her birth.

The Bridges were lucky for a family of the period – by the time of the painting, eight children had been born to them in sixteen years, and none of them had died. Sadly, this was to change. There’s a burial in Lawford in 1806 for eighteen-month old William Bridges – I cannot see a corresponding baptism for the child, so it isn’t clear if he was a son of George and Mary or not. A seventh daughter was born in 1807, called Georgina Charlotte Sophia, followed by another son; Charles Marratt Bridges was born in the February 1809, and was buried that September.

By 1821, three of the girls you can see in the portrait had died: Frances Maria was 15 when she was buried in Lawford in 1815,4) the family abode being given as Lawford Place. Sarah Ann, holding her baby sister’s hand, died in April 1820, aged 22. Her abode was given as “Knightsbridge but lately Lawford”. Georgina, who was in born in 1807 and doesn’t appear in the portrait, was buried in 1821, aged 13. Again, the abode is given as “Knightsbridge but lately Lawford.” Apparently, the Bridges family had a house in Russell Square, but that’s three or four miles from Knightsbridge.

It has been said that John Constable was rather too interested in fourteen-year-old Mary Anne, and he had to be politely encouraged not to bother her. Meanwhile, her brother, George Wilson Bridges, went on to lead a tumultuous life. He was forced by his father to become a clergyman, eloped with a girl (perhaps as an act of rebellion against his parents), was left nothing by his father in his will as estrangement had ensued (George blamed his brother’s influence), supported slavery while living in Jamaica, was condemned by many when he behaved violently towards enslaved people, and in 1834, his wife left him. Four daughters drowned, he lived in the wilds of Canada for a time with his son, he experimented with photography guided by Fox Talbot, and he prepared his son for the Navy with a former MP who had toured Italy with Byron.
All of which lay before him as he posed solemnly, aged 16, for John Constable.
Last Modified 23 Aug 2020Created 2 Apr 2024 using Reunion for Macintosh