Anyone interested in the history of Northamptonshire will eventually
come accross the work of John Bridges. His History and Antiquities
of Northamptonshire was the first published work that gathered
together natural history, social and genealogical information for
the whole county, and it is widely recognised as one of the major
county histories of the eighteenth century.
John Bridges - Northamptonshire Antiquarian
Bridges was born in 1666 at Binfield in Berkshire but shortly afterwards
his family relocated to Barton Seagrave Hall in Northamptonshire.
Bridges was a learned and honourable man, a respected lawyer and civil
servant. He was admitted to the Royal Society on 15th June 1709 and
served on its Council from 1712 with the likes of Sir Christopher
Wren, Sir Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley.
Bridges was an avid collector of books and other papers and manuscripts.
He was eminently placed to write Northamptonshire's county history
and began the "great undertaking" in 1718. Unfortunately
his untimely death in 1724 meant that he never saw his work published;
indeed it wasn't until 1791 when the two volumes of the History
and Antiquities of Northamptonshire were published in their final
format by Peter Whalley.
Bridges made a series of "parochial visitations" to collect
information and, from his notes, we know that he personally visited
Helmdon on 11th July 1721. One wonders who he met - almost certainly
he would have conversed with George Jones, the rector of Helmdon at
When consulting the History it must be remembered that Bridges
work was not entirely accurate. Many mistakes or omissions have been
uncovered in the 300 hundred odd years since its compilation. However,
the fact that his works still forms the starting point for many local
history enthusiasts is a tribute to his efforts and dedication.
A full and faithful transcript of the excerpt for Helmdon is now
A book entitled "The Making of A County History"
by Tony Brown and Glenn Foard was published in 1994. It chronicles
the life of John Bridges and describes the twists and turns leading
up to the eventual publication of the History whilst providing
a fascinating insight into the nature of antiquarian work in England
in the 18th century. ISBN 0 947590 20 X.