Clement-Jones family - Person Sheet
Clement-Jones family - Person Sheet
NameRev George Wilson BRIDGES, 3140
FatherAlderman George BRIDGES , 1519 (1764-1835)
MotherMary WILSON , 1520 (1767-1863)
Birth1794, Jamaica, West Indies
Marriage1815, Gretna
ChildrenElizabeth Mary , 10155 (1821-)
 George Henry Green , 10156 (1826-1892)
 Henry , 10157 (1831-)
 William Wilson Somerset , 10158 (1832-1899)
Notes for Rev George Wilson BRIDGES
He went to Jamaica in 1815 as Rector of the Parish of Manchester and was the author of The Annals of Jamaica as well as several pamphlets on the anti-slavery issue.

Reverend George Wilson Bridges (1788–1863) was a writer, photographer and Anglican cleric. After eloping with his wife, he was rector for the Jamaican parish of Manchester from 1817 to 1823. He was then rector at the neighbouring parish of St Ann from 1823 to 1837.[1] He published works against William Wilberforce and another book resulted in his London publisher being found guilty of libel against Louis Celeste Lecesne and John Escoffery.[2] After his wife left him he lost four of their daughters in a boating accident. Bridges went to Canada and returned to meet William Fox Talbot and take up photography. He toured around the Mediterranean taking 1,700 early pictures including Egypt, Greece, the Holy Land and Mount Etna erupting.[3] His last parish was in Gloucestershire.


Bridges was born to a rich family in Essex. His future was assured as the son and heir and he trained to be a cleric. He caused his first scandal however when he eloped to Gretna Green to marry. The marriage to Elizabeth Raby Brooks caused a family split and gave a poor start to the marriage.

In 1814, Bridges made a tour of Europe and had an account of his travels published. Whilst still a member of Trinity College, Oxford, he visited France, Holland, Flanders, Germany and Switzerland.


He left for Jamaica in 1816 at the invitation of the Governor of Jamaica where he was reportedly paid very well.[3] He was rector of St Mark's church in Mandeville where he was meant to oversee the Jamaican parish of Manchester from 1817 to 1823. Mandeville was a new settlement with a church that was founded in 1816 and the very first official building that they built was the rector's house. Bridges let this house out as a tavern.

In 1823 Bridges became responsible for the neighbouring parish of St Ann. He was the rector of this parish until 1837.[1]

Bridges worked in Jamaica where his books and publications caused difficulties. His annals, volume 2 was the subject of a libel case thousands of miles away in England. The case revolved around two men, Louis Celeste Lecesne and his brother in law John Escoffery, who were thrown off the island using powers under an Aliens Act.[6] His libel against Lecesne and Escoffery was that Bridges wrote that they "were impatient to sheathe their daggers in the breasts of its white inhabitants". The case resulted in the publisher having to withdraw the second volume of the book.[2] With the publisher's assistance the volume was amended and reissued. This was not the last time that Bridges' behaviour would be discussed in London.

Bridges spoke out against the abolition of slavery and he was an enemy of Methodist missionaries. There was a parliamentary enquiry into a flogging that Bridges had given to a slave as punishment for attending a Methodist meeting.[7] The case was raised in 1830 in the British House of Commons by Henry Brougham who reported that a girl had been hit by Bridges, flogged by two men at Thomas(sic) Wilson Bridges' instruction. The punishment was for failing to carry out an order. She had complained but the local committee had decided by fourteen to four to take no further action.

Bridges later founded a group who tried to throw the missionaries out of Jamaica.

In 1834 Bridges' wife left him, taking their son, Henry, for company. Elizabeth left for Britain leaving Bridges with four children to parent. At the time of this estrangement they had six children. The last child was in England. After some months Bridges returned to England to find his wife and his missing son and daughter. He didn't return to Jamaica for over twelve months and he spent some time with Somerset Lowry-Corry who was Earl Belmore and Jamaica's former governor.

In 1837 the separated couple were to face a disaster when a boat accident resulted in the loss of all four of their daughters. Some small consolation was that their son was saved. Bridges and his son turned their backs on England and on Jamaica and set out for Canada. Bridges and his son were there for a number of years and they had an octagonal house built at Lake Rice. In 1842, William Bridges was ill so they returned to England.
[edit]William Fox Talbot

Bridges took a new job as rector of St Giles Church in Maisemore in Gloucestershire. where William attended school. It was through a friend of William that Bridges became acquainted with the Talbot family after admiring one of William Fox Talbot's publications. This was the first book printed with photographs and it was made possible by Fox Talbot's invention of the calotype. Bridges became intrigued by the calotype process and persuaded Talbot to support him with photographic paper for a major project. Moreover Talbot allowed Bridges to be instructed in its use even though an American patent was some years away.

In 1846 Bridges lent his wooden house at Rice Lake in Ontario called Wolf Tower to Catharine Parr Traill. This may have been because he had little need for this house as for the next seven years he was to wander through Europe and north Africa taking photographs using the novel calotype technique.

In 1847 it was recorded that the Jamaican government would give thirty pounds annually to a Mr Stewart towards the upkeep of the infant son of the Reverend George Wilson Bridges. No explanation is offered. However the government also awarded sixty pounds per year to Bridges himself for 25 years service and because he left because of a "calamitous situation".[11] These monies must have benefited Bridges on his travels.

Bridges first stop was Paris where he had a state of the art camera made for himself by an optician named Charles Chevalier. It was there that he met Richard Haight, an American, who used his camera to take pictures in England.

In Malta, Bridges met a fellow clergyman Rev. Calvert R. Jones and an entrepreneur cousin of William Fox Talbot's, Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, who was touring the Mediterranean in his yacht, Galatea. Both of these had been asked to assist Bridges by Fox Talbot. This wasn't entirely altruistic as Bridges was sending one copy of each exposure back to Fox Talbot so that he could develop the pictures. In return Bridges received more prepared paper.

In 1851 he was in Egypt but during his travels he also visited Italy, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, the Holy Land and the rest of North Africa.[12] Some of the earliest successful photographs in these countries were taken by Bridges. The negatives from these pictures can achieve several thousand pounds each at auction.

Later publications

Bridges became secretary to the Bishop of Bristol, James Monk in 1852 until Monk gave him the position at the village and ferry port of Beachley. In return for forty pounds each year Bridges took care of the Gloucestershire parish and St John's church. Bridges published a number of publications based on the 1,700 negatives that he had gathered. He had tried to sell many whilst in Malta, but there was little profit.

When his estranged wife, Elizabeth died in 1862 he published a book entitled, Outlines and Notes of Twenty-Nine Years. The 29 years refers to the time from when they parted until her death.

Bridges died on September 20, 1863, whilst still at Beachley parish.


Alpine sketches, comprised in a short tour through parts of Holland..., 1814[4]
A Voice from Jamaica; in reply to William Wilberforce, London, 1823
Dreams of dulocracy: or, The puritanical obituary, 1824
The driving system, 1824
The annals of Jamaica, Volume 2, 1828[13]
Outlines and Notes of Twenty-Nine Years
Palestine as it is: in a series of photographic views, 1858


George Wilson Bridges (1788-1863), Rector of Mandeville (Manchester parish, Jamaica) 1817-23, and subsequently St Ann parish (1823-1837) was the elder son of George Bridges (1759-1835) of Lawford Place, Manningtree, Essex, corn merchant and country banker who, by 1815 in partnership with, among others, John Marratt of Dedham, controlled the recently developed Essex port of Mistley. A loyal Tory, he had staged in 1809 at Lawford Place a commemoration of George III's jubilee, a dinner for a hundred local poor. At the end of 1815 (when, according to G.W. Bridges, the family had a house in Russell Square as well as Lawford Place) his business affairs were precarious and he seems to have withdrawn from banking. One of the tenants at Mistley had been Golding Constable, father of the painter John Constable, who had in 1804 painted the Bridges family at Lawford Place, with the sixteen year old George standing at the left.

George's mother was Mary Wilson (1768-1863), sole daughter of William Wilson, formerly of Durham, Clapton and Dedham, and Knotts Green, Leyton (where George Wilson Bridges had been baptised in 1788) who died at Brunswick Square in 1805. The Survey of London indicates only one Brunswick Square resident of that name, at No 27, between 1802 and 1807, and describes him as Governor of the Foundling Hospital – an indicator of wealth and influence. On the death of his widow, Ann Wilson, in 1820, a substantial legacy from him would be shared among his surviving Bridges grandchildren.

The Bridges family had Leicestershire gentry roots. They still owned the advowson for the Rectory of Bruntingthorpe, a few miles outside Leicester. George's grandfather, another George Bridges, had nominated his son-in-law, Thomas Freeman, for the benefice, and Freeman would live until 1834 at the age of 75. George Wilson Bridges himself, in his brief Outlines and Notes Of Twenty-Nine years (1862), (a document which begins with the claim that 'The Writer would not quit the World in the character of that Myth to them which he has too long been to himself') explains that he became an Anglican clergyman because it was his father's intention, at the first opportunity, to present him to Bruntingthorpe, and that he had had no choice. Bridges has been seen by one modern historian of Jamaica as, in his youth, a disciple of Rousseau, but these late reminiscences around his marriage, in which he presents himself to the friends he had written them for, as, substantially, an innocent victim of the intrigues of others - clearly less than “Confessions” - can't always be independently confirmed.

George's Oxford education was at Trinity. He was ordained priest in Norwich, at 24, in December 1812, becoming curate at Frenze in Norfolk.

The duties did not prevent him undertaking a somewhat abridged Grand Tour in 1814, the result of which was a book, Alpine Sketches, comprised in a short tour through parts of Holland, Flanders, France, Savoy, Switzerland and Germany during the summer of 1814 by a member of the University of Oxford (1814).

In 1815, at 27, he took what turned out to be the life-defining step of eloping from Cheltenham with Elizabeth Raby Brooks, (1794 -1862), said to have been already pregnant by him, whom he married at Gretna Green on 24 August – the marriage was subsequently regularised at St George Hanover Square on 3 March 1816, witnessed by “F Brooks” (sic), almost certainly her sister Frances. No witness from the Bridges family appears to have been present. By the time of his father's death in 1835, leaving a very short will which doesn't even mention him, a complete breach had opened up between him and his immediate kin.

Elizabeth Raby Brooks had been born in Jamaica, daughter of John Brooks in St Elizabeth, and Ann Virgo Dunn. She too had expectations – her father, who had died in 1798, had provided £1000 currency in trust for her marriage or her 21st birthday. She was sister to George Brooks of Burnt Ground, who had in 1807 married Sarah Tharp Petgrave, daughter of William Burt Wright.

Elizabeth's sister, Frances, b 1797, married in 1817 the younger William Burt Wright of Kingston. One of Elizabeth's aunts was Ann Pinnock, nee Dunn, (1765-1818) widow of Philip Pinnock (b 1747) at New Shafston Pen, who, in her will, drawn up in June 1818, (PROB11/1718) left Elizabeth £600 in 3% Consols for her own personal use, in the hands of named trustees, Thomas Philip Hampson, William Burt Wright senior, and Francis Smith of Spanish Town, (though probate was in the end, in 1826, granted to Ann Pinnock's sister, Elizabeth Brooks, widow, then in London - Francis Smith, the only surviving original executor, having renounced). It is not known whether, when she left Bridges in 1834, she had other identifiable independent funds, but she would clearly not (as Bridge himself also claims) have lacked family support. Her estate at death was recorded at less than £800. Bridges however, was convinced that by eloping with her he had earned the lasting enmity of another unidentified Dunn aunt (for whom one candidate might possibly be Elizabeth Brooks) in Cheltenham, from whose house Elizabeth had gone with him, and that she had later funded Elizabeth Bridges and her son in, and on condition of, separation. For Bridges, the Hall family in St Ann seemed to have played a part, too.

The elopement and the scandal do not seem to have concerned the Governor of Jamaica, the Duke of Manchester, who in 1817 made Bridges Rector of the new church at Mandeville in the Jamaican parish created in his own name. Bridges claimed that because of the near-bankruptcy of his father he had to fund the voyage to Jamaica on borrowed money. Bridges refused to live in the newly-built Rectory on grounds of lack of privacy and the vestry (with one dissenting vote) allowed him to let it at £300 currency annually as a tavern - which it remained throughout his time in Manchester. He was allowed to keep £240 currency of the rent and found alternative accommodation for his family.

By the 1820s Bridges, who wrote that his attitude towards emancipation had been formed by his residence in the island, was attacking Wilberforce in print, (A Voice from Jamaica; in reply to William Wilberforce London 1823) and compiling the Annals of Jamaica he published in 1828. Bridges derived income from his baptism of thousands of enslaved people, arguably the result of policies put in place as part of the amelioration of the slave system; by 1819 his Jamaican Church stipends were £500 currency for a Rector – the Bishop of London having taken advice from Jamaica merchants that this was a sum which could 'maintain their position as gentlemen'. Daive Dunkley has suggested that Bridges' opposition to amelioration of slavery was in fact opposition to the foreseeable prospect of a black majority with political rights, rather than a simple defence of the slave economy. Dunkley argues that this led Bridges from the advocacy of planter government to - effectively – suggesting the establishment of the equivalent of a Crown Colony in Jamaica, in which a Governor and appointed Council, not an elected Assembly, would rule.

It also gained him a high profile. In 1829-31 Bridges became a major target for anti-slavery journalism. The violence of his language in Volume II of the Annals about the case of the mixed-race Louis Celeste Lecesne and his brother in law John Escoffery, British citizens of San Domingo origin, expelled on very dubious grounds from Jamaica in 1824, perhaps simply because they were arguing to improve the rights of Jamaican people of colour, attracted attention in London. Bridges described them as 'impatient to sheathe their daggers in the breasts of the white inhabitants'. They sued Bridges' publisher, John Murray, in late 1829, forcing him to withdraw and amend volume II. This was one of three major stories around Bridges to break during 1829-31.

The violence was not just verbal. In the case of Henry Williams, (aka Henry Atkinson Williams) in 1829, a Methodist class leader and enslaved person on Rural Retreat in St Ann, at the time being run by an attorney named Betty on behalf of Ellen Moffat Adam, the daughter of the late owner, William Atkinson (vide her husband, Matthew Adam, compensation claimant), Bridges, who was a St Ann magistrate as well as Rector, intervened personally to instruct Williams to ensure his class attended the Parish Church the next Sunday. Williams attended, but his class did not. Williams was then sent in chains to the Rodney Hall (St Ann), and later St Thomas in the Vale workhouses, in both of which he experienced repeated severe floggings. The case was reported in the anti-slavery Jamaica newspaper, the Watchman, and became material in the UK for anti-slavery campaigners. There had been other earlier instances of committal to the workhouse for – effectively – private Methodist worship among the enslaved in St Ann.

During the 1831-2 Baptist War, Williams was again arrested, this time under under martial law, charged with holding suspicious (according to him, Methodist class) meetings at his house, found guilty by court-martial in the guardroom at St Ann's Bay on 16 January 1832, given the maximum 39 lashes, and sentenced to six months in the workhouse. Though those responsible probably had the earlier case in mind, or had been told of it, Bridges' name doesn't appear in the official record of the 1832 court martial. Nor does Williams' further persecution appear to have received much anti-slavery press coverage. Goderich's reaction was to indicate that he supported neither the proceedings not the sentence, but he reversed neither, on the grounds of elapsed time and distance, and confined himself to advising the Governor not to advance the militia officers or the magistrates involved further except in the absence of fit alternative candidates.

A further well-publicised 1828 instance of Bridges's violence towards individual enslaved people was recorded in the case of his servant, Kitty Hylton, whom he accused, on her account wrongly, of slaughtering a turkey for his dinner without his permission. She was flogged so badly by other servants on Bridges' instructions and by Bridges himself that her case was taken to the Council of Protection for St Ann in 1828 by one of Bridges' own colleagues, though the Council voted against proceedings by 14 to 4. This case drew the attention of the Commons, Brougham, and, also, Goderich, who in February 1831, well after the 1828 incident, lamented that Bridges, a Minister of the Gospel, should have gone unpunished and required he be removed from the magistracy.

In 1831-2, during the uprising, Bridges helped to found the Colonial Church Union and seems to have played a part in steering its attentions, in the manner of the Church and King mobs of the 1790s in England, towards Baptist and Methodist congregations, buildings, and individual missionaries and their followers, however helpful to law and order some of them might in fact have been, in St Ann and elsewhere. He was also (in Emancipation Unmask'd, 1835) a severe critic of apprenticeship, from a completely different direction to that from which the anti-slavery campaigners were attacking, arguing that the evil was the loss of slaveholder power.

In 1834 his wife left him, taking George, one of their two sons, with her. No reconciliation ever took place, though Bridges returned to England with his infant son, just weaned at her departure, for a time to try to contact her, eventually retiring to Coole in Ireland to spend time with a friend, Manchester's successor as Governor of Jamaica from the period of Bridges' greatest notoriety, the 2nd Earl of Belmore. While he was preparing his return to Jamaica and counting the cost of the expedition (which he put at over £1,200, including the loss of a pawned silver presentation plate from the Jamaica Assembly) his father, whose affairs had recovered from their state in 1815, and had been living near Bath, died. Bridges, according to his Outlines, could do little more than follow the coffin from Whitechapel to interment in Ilford. He had been reconciled with neither his wife nor his family. In retrospect, he came to believe he had been frozen out mainly by the influence of his younger brother, John William Bridges (his financial agent in London,who had made a success of the estate and whose son was eventually Rector of Bruntingthorpe), and his brother's wife, whom he even saw as having influence on Elizabeth Bridges. (A photograph of the early 1860s in Essex archives shows J. W. Bridges nearly 60 years since Constable, watching steam threshing at a farm near Manningtree.) In 1837 Bridges's surviving four daughters drowned in Kingston Harbour on New Year's Day. His younger son William was saved.

The effect on Bridges seems to have been profound. Sturge and Harvey, who on the face of it would not have been his most welcome guests at any time, visited him on their 1837 tour in Jamaica, when he was still mourning his loss. They recorded that he received them kindly. The same year, he claims under the influence of the Canadian author Mrs Traill, to whom he eventually let the tower he built there, he left the island for Canada with William. They lived for a while in the wilderness, returning to Britain, for, he says, his son's health, via Malta, in 1842.

On his return he had become, under the auspices of J.H. Monk, (Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, Cambridge classicist and Tory, who is said to have been the last Bishop to wear a white wig in public), Rector of Maisemore near Gloucester. Through William, now a pupil at the local school, and the Mount-Edgecombe family, Bridges seems to have come into contact with W. H. Fox-Talbot (to whose family, who saw him as rich, he seems for a while to have presented himself as a frontiersman) at Lacock Abbey. Interestingly, Bridges' friend and predecessor as Rector of St Ann, Rev Lewis Bowerbank, became curate at St Cyriac's, Lacock, Fox-Talbot's parish church, later in the 1840s.

Bridges tried to get instruction in photography through Fox-Talbot and in the end succeeded. Fortified by an annual Jamaican government pension of £60 and a regular supply of photographic paper from Fox-Talbot, Bridges, having with the assistance of the Yorkshire former Whig MP Sir Sandford Graham, who had been one of Byron's companions in Italy in 1810, prepared his son William for the Navy, and set out in January 1846 for Paris, where he acquired a new camera, and began journeying round the Mediterranean, in contact from time to time with friends and contacts of Fox-Talbot, notably Kit Talbot, from his base in Malta, to Greece, Constantinople and Egypt, sometimes following his son's ship, and visiting and photographing Jerusalem in 1850. He had around 1700 pictures, and made attempts to publish them first through a Cheltenham agent and later in editions prepared by himself, without much success. On his return in 1852 Monk made Bridges his secretary, and found the living of Beachley, near Chepstow, for him at a stipend of £40. Elizabeth Bridges died in Ealing in February 1862, and Bridges re-interred her from Ealing at Beachley. He died on 20 September 1863, the year of his mother's death, and was buried next to his wife.

His assets were less than £100.
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