Ancestry of Sir Frederick Bridge
SirFredSpy.jpg (5K)

Caricature by Spy

Sir Frederick was organist of Westminster Abbey and a well-known musician and composer of various choral works, now largely forgotten. He also used to travel around the country and give public recitals, including at least one in Kent, attended by my cousin Ianthe who was taken as a child by her father. He believed that he was related to the great man, as did many others in the family, including some of Richard's descendants in the USA. Of course, it might be so but a shared surname is not evidence of a blood tie. The surname Bridge must have arisen independently on many occasions in different parts of the country.

Sir Frederick wrote an autobiography A Westminster Pilgrim which tells us that he was born in Oldbury but that the family moved to Rochester in Kent when his father became a "lay reader", which means that he was employed to sing in the cathedral choir. It wasn't hard to find the census returns and marriage and birth registrations. (Note that he was baptised John Frederick and appears simply as John in the census, which only recorded first names.)

Family of John and Rebecca Bridge
date location record name description note
20 Jun 1842 Dudley, Worcs. at the parish church Marriage John Bridge
bachelor of full age, iron turner;
son of John Bridge, grinder
& Rebecca Cox
spinster of full age
dau. of Joseph Cox, farmer
Tat Bank, near Oldbury
Portway, parish of Rowley Regis
29 Jan 1843 Oldbury, Worcs. Birth Sarah Mallin Bridge dau. of John and Rebecca
5 Dec 1844 Oldbury, Worcs. Birth John Frederick Bridge son of John and Rebecca Parsonage Place, Oldbury
16 Sep 1847 Oldbury, Worcs. Birth Samuel Ward Bridge son of John and Rebecca
31 Mar 1851 Rochester Saint Margaret's, Kent
Morden St.
Census John Bridge Head, lay clerk 29, b. Rowley Regis, Worcs.
Rebecca Bridge wife 31, b. Oldbury, Worcs.
Sarah Bridge daughter 8, b. Oldbury, Worcs.
John Bridge son 5, b. Oldbury, Worcs.
Samuel Bridge son 3, b. Oldbury, Worcs.
16 Aug 1853 Rochester, Kent Birth Joseph Cox Bridge son of John and Rebecca
Joseph also made a successful career in music, being for many years organist at Chester cathedral.
This gives us Sir Fred's father and grandfather. John Bridge, born about 1818 in Rowley Regis, was the son of John Bridge senior living at Tat Bank in 1842. The next step came when I received an e-mail from Christina Hunt who had been researching her husband's Bridge ancestors, who also thought they might be related to Sir Fred. She had found a number of possible connections and in particular one family in the Oldbury area, which appeared in the 1841 census returns for Tat Bank.
Family of John and Sarah Bridge
date location record name description note
29 Sep 1833 Christ Church, Oldbury, Shropshire Baptism Sarah Bridge daughter of John and Sarah
6 Sep 1835 Christ Church, Oldbury, Shropshire Baptism Joseph Bridge son of John and Sarah
7 Jun 1841 Oldbury, Worcs.
Tat Bank
Census John Bridge Head, grinder 50, b. Worcs.
Sarah Bridge wife 45, b. England
Sarah Bridge daughter 13, b. Worcs.
Martha Bridge daughter 11, b. Worcs
William Bridge son 10, b. Worcs.
Joseph Bridge son 5, b. Worcs
Edwin Bridge son 2, b. Worcs.
22 Sep 1878 Oldbury Death Sarah Bridge buried in Oldbury cemetary
1818 is about the right date for the first child of this family and it was common practice to name the first son after his father. The older children had left home by 1841 and John junior was shortly to be married. From his age in the census, John senior was born around 1790. The 1841 census only recorded the county of birth, not the parish, but clearly he was not born in Kent!

Christina then received help from another correspondent who sent an extract from A History of the Black Country which had an entry for Sir Frederick (in Chap. 10, Men of the Black Country), including the information

His great grandfather's ashes lie in Rowley church. (William Bridge came to Rowley 1785 died 1847.) Other members of the family... James, died 1921, was buried at Netherton.

Since William did not die until 1847, his death was registered with the extra information that he was born in Staffordshire, about 1761 (from his age at death). Christina Hunt found his marriage in Halesowen, Worcestershire, followed by several baptisms, one of which seems to fit for John Bridge senior.
Family of William Bridge
date location record name description note
8 Feb 1785 Halesowen, Worcs. Marriage William Bridge & Mary Cooper
21 Aug 1785 Halesowen, Worcs. Baptism James Bridge son of William
2 Nov 1788 Halesowen, Worcs. Baptism John Bridge son of William seems to have died
18 Sep 1791 Halesowen, Worcs. Baptism John Bridge son of William
It is worth noting that Rowley Regis (in Staffordshire) is sandwiched between Dudley on the west and Oldbury and Halesowen on the east, these three being in Worcestershire. The villages are within easy walking distance of each other. (Today they are all suburbs of Birmingham!)

So we have Sir Fred's great-grandfather William born in Staffordshire in 1761, eight years before James1 Bridge in Smarden. They could have been cousins (though it would be very hard to prove) but even so the closest relationship would be that Sir Fred was a third cousin to Frederick Bridge in Kent.

A further point is that there has to be some reason why a man migrates from one locality to another. The first ever coke-fired blast furnace was built in 1709 at Coalbrookdale, 20 miles west of Rowley Regis and would have started to draw in new workers though in the early days they would have come from the surrounding villages. Just possibly some might have made the journey from Kent.