Tracing the English Roots of Joseph Bridger & Hester Pitt
by Janet Ross
The Bridger Family Association went to England on September 6-11, 2014, to visit some of the places where our Bridger and Pitt ancestors lived, worshipped, and studied. We wanted to share the itinerary and photos from this trip.
Our American ancestors have been traced to Joseph Bridger and Hester Pitt of Isle of Wight Co., VA. Their English ancestors who were traced on this trip include Samuel and Lawrence Bridger, Joseph Bridger’s father and grandfather, respectively, and Hester Pitt Bridger’s father Robert Pitt and his grandparents William and Elizabeth Gibbs.
Joseph Bridger was born in 1631 in Dursley, Gloucestershire, England, probably at Woodmancote Manor. His parents were Samuel Bridger and Mary Purchase. Samuel was born in 1584 in Godalming, Surrey, England, died 31 July 1650 Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England, and was buried in the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral. Samuel attended Magdalen College, Oxford University, Oxford, England (matriculation 30 April 1602), where he earned a B.A. He was Auditor to the Dean and Chapter of the Gloucester Cathedral. Samuel’s parents were Lawrence Bridger and Gillian Tanner. Lawrence was born in 1550 in Godalming, Surrey, England, died in 1630 in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England, and was buried in St. John the Evangelist Church, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England. He attended Magdalen College, Oxford University, where he became a Fellow in 1568, earned a B.A. degree on 23 October 1570, and earned a M.A. degree on 21 June 1574. He was the Rector of Slimbridge Parish from 1577 until his death in 1630 and a Cannon of Gloucester.
Hester Pitt was born about 1638 in England or Virginia. Her father was Robert Pitt, who was born in Bristol, England, and baptized 16 March 1605/6 at St. Thomas the Martyr Church, St. Thomas Parish, Bristol, England. He was the son of William Pitt and Mary Gibbs. William was born 1575-80 in Bristol, England, died in 1624 in Bristol, and was buried 24 November 1624 at St. Thomas the Martyr Church, St. Thomas Parish, Bristol, England. William married Mary Gibbs on 19 June 1603 at St. Thomas the Martyr Church, St. Thomas Parish, Bristol, England. Mary was born in 1578 in Bristol to William Gibbs and Elizabeth Northall, who married 26 September 1574 at St. Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol, England.
The Bridger Tour
Magdalen College, Oxford University, Oxford, England. The Bridger bus tour began in London. Our first stop was Magdalen College, where Samuel and Lawrence Bridger received their college education.
The tower of Magdalen College.
Above right: Chapel where both Lawrence & Samuel Bridger worshipped.
Woodmancote Manor, Dursley, Gloucestershire, England. This beautiful house was the former residence of Samuel and Joseph Bridger. Joseph Bridger, son of Samuel, was born about 1631, likely in this house. The house is currently the residence of Ian and Rachel Fairbourne.
St. John the Evangelist Church, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England. Lawrence Bridger, upon receiving his M.A. from Magdalen College, Oxford, was recommended to the office of Rector and Clerk of Slimbridge by the President of Magdalen College and was invested with the office by Queen Elizabeth I at Windsor Castle on 11 October 1577. He served as Rector until his death in 1630 and was buried in the Slimbridge Church. Lawrence was the father of Samuel Bridger, and the grandfather of Joseph Bridger, Sr., of Isle of Wight Co., VA.
Slimbridge Church, St. John the Evangelist
Interior of Slimbridge Church from the tower.
The Bridger stained glass window to the left of the alter.
The town of Slimbridge as viewed from the bell tower of the church.
Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England. Lawrence Bridger (1550-1630) was installed as a Prebend of the Third Stall at Gloucester Cathedral in 1586, a post he held until he resigned in 1625. Lawrence’s son Samuel Bridger was the Auditor to the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester Cathedral. Samuel was buried in the Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral in 1650.
Lady Chapel of Gloucester Cathedral, where Samuel Bridger was buried. The plaque identifying his resting place has been removed.
The cathedral’s treasury contains a silver cup and patea cover from Slimbridge Church dated 1719.
The Kings Arms Hotel, Malmesbury, England.
We stopped for lunch at the Kings Arms in Malmesbury.
Other places we visited on the Bridger tour included Cheddar, Bath, Berkeley Castle (because Joseph Bridger was an associate of Gov. William Berkeley of Virginia and likely served with him as a Loyalist in the English Civil War, making Joseph Bridger a true Virginia Cavalier), and Stonehenge.
Additional photos of the reunion can be seen on www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6iwcXYsEPI, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiQYTHE07UY, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwUGL5pbM0E&feature=em-upload_owner&app=desktop.
After the Bridger Tour, David and Janet Ross visited Bristol, England, and two churches that were connected to the Pitt and Gibbs families.
St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, England. A potential early ancestor of Hester Pitt, wife of Joseph Bridger, was Nicholas Pitt, who at the time of his death (about 1497) was a minister and Clerk of St. Mary Redcliffe. In addition, the widow Elizabeth Northall married widower William Gibbs in this church on 26 September 1574. Mary Gibbs, one of their eight children, was the grandmother of Hester Pitt Bridger. Queen Elizabeth I said that this church was “the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England.” It was the church where people prayed for a safe voyage and received a blessing before beginning a sea voyage. So, we can assume that our Bridger and Pitt ancestors prayed at St. Mary Redcliffe before embarking for America in the 17th century.
St. Thomas the Martyr Church, St. Thomas Parish, Bristol, England. The Pitt and Gibbs ancestors of Hester Pitt, wife of Joseph Bridger, worshipped in this church. The tower dates from the 14th century and so would have been part of the building that they knew, but the rest of the church dates from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Hester’s father Robert Pitt was baptized here on 16 March 1605/06. He was the son of William Pitt, Mayor of Bristol in 1623, who was buried here 24 November 1624, as was his wife Mary in June 1634. William was the son of Thomas Pitt, merchant and Chamberlin of Bristol, who was buried here 06 March 1613. Mary was the daughter of William Gibbs, brewer, sheriff, and Chamberlain of Bristol, who was buried here 02 March 1602/03 next to his father, also named William Gibbs, who was buried here 07 October 1578.