Sir Henry Bridgeman
Sir Henry Bridgeman was born on the 7th September 1725. He inherited Weston in 1765; an inheritance that cam via his mother, Lady Anne Newport, following the death of her brother Thomas Newport. The estate included mineral and land wealth, both in North Shropshire and Bolton.
His wife Elizabeth Simpson, was also an heiress, having inherited Babworth in Nottinghamshire and Stoke Hall in Derbyshire.
Sir Henry was a skilled politician, representing the Shropshire market towns of Ludlow and then Much Wenlock; he also had an interest in music, theatre, literature and polite society.
He appreciated the notable wealth of his era, achieved through the sale of building leases and developments in Bolton, and took great pleasure in making his mark at Weston Park.
During his age is when some of the most significant investments took place at Weston, the legacy of which has very much made the estate what it is today. These included the alterations to the House itself by the architect James Paine, the building of the Temple of Diana, the Roman Bridge, the Great Barn (which is now known as the Granary) and, of course, his commission to landscape the Park by Capability Brown.
He also added extensively to the estates art collection; pieces included a George Stubbs, Chippendale furniture and Gobelin tapestries commissioned when he was in Paris.
Sir Henry had huge aspirations for Weston when he commissioned two of the leading lights of the 18th century, as far as country house estates were concerned; Capability Brown and James Paine. He also appointed Henry Bowman as his land agent; all three of whom had worked for the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth. It is Bowman that would have overseen the delivery of Brown’s plans, with the original drawings discovered only twenty years ago, where they have been held for many years in the Staffordshire archives following a flood of the House.
The principles of improvement both in agriculture and industry were hugely embraced by Sir Henry. For example, he was one of the investors into the world’s first Ironbridge, built by Abraham Darby in 1781 in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire. He invested £50 towards the £3,150 cost and was a trustee for the project.
Sir Henry had eight children, five sons and three daughters. When he died on 5th June 1800 his title went to his third son, Orlando, who became the first Earl of Bradford.