The Bridges Family

FRIENDS OF ST. JOHN’S CHURCH, KEYNSHAM

A tour of St John the Baptist

The Bridges Family

 

As we enter the chancel, we see a cluster of large memorials and tombs. Seven of these refer to the Bridges family who “owned” the chancel for nearly 200 years and as such should have a special mention. I have labelled their memorials alphabetically clockwise from the north wall A,B,C,D – Altar- south wall E,F,G. Note the family tree at the end.

The Abbey was dissolved in 1539. In 1552 Sir Thomas Bridges who lived at Cornbury, Oxford bought the lease on the site of the Abbey and its lands for £922:2s:2d. The Abbey burial ground is thought to have been the area towards the station and was used until the early 1700’s when the family took it into their grounds. The Bridges were never Lords of the Manor, the title and manor being bought first in 1613 by Mrs Ann Whitmore of Shropshire for £3,835.

The Bridges were the Patrons of the living and as such appointed the priests and were responsible for the upkeep of the chancel. Sir Thomas’s son Henry was the first to live in Keynsham - he died in 1588. His monument (D) is in the northeast corner. Large, made of Bath stone, its transportation here must have been quite a problem. He is shown in full armour with a pleated neck ruff.

In the early 1600s the family built a large mansion (almost certainly from Abbey stone) somewhere on the site of the Abbey. Sir Thomas II and Elizabeth (nee Hyde) were probably the first to live there. The Hearth Tax Register of 1664-5 lists it as having 19 hearths; in the eighteenth century it was described as draughty and uncomfortable. They installed the screen bearing the arms of Charles I and which is now on the south side, sometime between 1625 and 1632 when the tower fell. The shields are those of Thomas II – White (argent) background with black (sable) cross with leopards head and crescent (denoting descended from second son) and Elizabeth Hyde – Red (gules) background with two white chevrons.

Their son Sir Edward helped in the rebuilding of the tower. He gave the stonemasons permission to cut through the elder trees in the churchyard, knock a hole in the Abbey wall and take stone from the Abbey ruins. He paid to repair the “little ile”, gave small donations and hired out his ox-teams to help in haulage. Edward died suddenly in 1638. His wife Philipa (E) had seven children in 12 years and died at the comparatively young age of 34. Her memorial contains a poem quoted in full by Elizabeth White.

In 1643 the Civil War raged here with action in Bristol and Bath. Sir Thomas III (C) supported the King and like many supporters gave his family silver to the cause. At 28 years he was Governor of Bath which eventually he surrendered. He lost his estates and paid a heavy fine.

In 1660 at the restoration of Charles II he was reinstated and back in Keynsham. In 1661 he attended the coronation of Charles II with his wife Lady Anna Rodney (G) of Rodney Stoke and son Thomas IV (F) who was created a knight of the Bath but tragically, died five weeks later. The grief stricken parents erected a very large monument (blocking the lancet window). It is the largest monument in a village church in north Somerset.

Sir Thomas III and Lady Anna were very generous donating a fine set of Communion silverware, Chalice, Flagon etc in 1701. Lady Anna presented an Altar cloth cushion and pulpit cloth in crimson velvet all with gold fringes and a large Prayer Book to be used at the Altar. After the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 when six Keynsham men were hung by Judge Jeffries, he built the Alms houses on Bristol Road, some say for the widows and families, which also bear the Bridges and Rodney shields. (Gold (or) background with three red (gules) splayed eagles).

Sir Thomas III second son Harry (A) married an heiress, Lady Dianna Holles. They had a daughter Anabella. The small font was his gift in 1725. Harry also had an illegitimate son James. James went to Chew Stoke when Thomas Bilbie was casting two new TrebleBells for Keynsham and, with others present, cast in silver coins to make the bells sound sweeter. Sir Thomas III did not accept James and in his will (which can be found on www.) ensured that he would not inherit the estate. When Harry died in 1728, he was the last of the resident Bridges and the patronage of the church passed in 1746          to a cousin, the Duke of Chandos. James supervised his father’s funeral and is also buried here along with many members of his large family who died in infancy. The house and site were sold in 1775 and a condition of the sale was that the house should be razed to the ground. The family might have left the town but both Elizabeth White and F R Allen comment that in some of the restoration appeals, relatives have responded and helped St John’s.

 Edmund Prideaux      

 

The Bridges Family in Keynsham

Sir Thomas I - buys Abbey site 1552-  brother of Sir John first baron Chandos

(D) Sir Henry died in 1588 – Tomb in NE of chancel

Sir Thomas II m Elizabeth Hyde (d1628) – Shields on the screen

Sir Edward (d1638) m Philipa (E)

(C) Sir Thomas III m Lady Anna Rodney (d1705) George (B) Katherine (B)
             (d1706)               (d 1705)                          (d 1677)      (d 1687)

(F)  Sir Thomas IV          Harry m Lady Diana Holles            ?
  (d 1661) Big monument    
(d 1728)         Font               James (illegitimate)
                                                  Anabella