Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameAlderman George BRIDGES
Birth1764
Death1835
OccupationBanker and Merchant
FatherGeorge BRIDGES (1733-1800)
MotherSarah HERVEY (1734-1803)
Marriage1787
SpouseMary WILSON
Birth1767, Whitechapel, London
Death1863
MotherAnn MONCK
Children
Birth1799
Death1858
Birth1788
Death1863
Birth1790, Lawford, Essex
Death1873
Birth1793
Death1871
Birth1795
Death1866
Birth1797
Death1820
Birth1799
Death1815
Birth1803
Death1831
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.
Last Modified 19 Feb 2012Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh