Elizabeth Bridgen, fl. 1750-1773

Mother of a Bastard Child Moved from Parish to Parish


Born in approximately 1750, Elizabeth Bridgen claimed that as a young woman she was hired a servant to a Mr Merrington at the house of a Mr Thomas, a tailor at number 6, St John Square in St James Clerkenwell at £7 a year.

She left this position in 1768 and took up employment at £5 a year with a Mrs Lester, matron at the Foundling Hospital in Lambs Conduit Fields in the parish of St Pancras.

Illegitimate Child

She claims to have left the hospital in 1771. In September 1773, after becoming intimate with Christopher Plumley, a tailor, in December of the previous year, she gave birth to an illegitimate child, named Ann, in the house of a hairdresser named Mr Miller in Wych Street, St Clement Danes.

Christopher Plumley deserted her, and she appeared before two Justices, destitute with her bastard child. The Justices, John Fielding and Thomas Kynaston, ordered her removal from the parish of St Clement Danes to St James Clerkenwell on 14 December 1773.

However, in January 1774 the churchwardens and overseers of the poor in St James appealed, and following a hearing at the Middlesex sessions the parish officials of St Clement Danes agreed to allow her to be removed back to their parish. The grounds for the appeal are not clear, but it is noted on her bastardy examination that Elizabeth had "sworn falsly", presumably concerning the status of her employment with Mr Merrington.

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From Parish to Parish

The parish officials at St Clement's were clearly not happy with this, so Elizabeth was immediately subjected to a settlement examination, in which she testified to her service at the Foundling Hospital. Consequently, she was removed to St Pancras as the place of her last legal settlement.

She did not, however, stay there for long. A few months later, in May 1774 the parish officials of St Pancras appealed against this order, claiming that she could not obtain a settlement from working at the Foundling Hospital since the Hospital's charter explicitly stated that "no person living as hired Servant in the said Hospital shall be deemed to have any Settlement in the parish wherein the said Hospital is situate". The Middlesex Justices agreed, and she was removed back to St Clement Danes, who were once again required to care for her.

There are no further traces of Elizabeth and her child, but the way in which each parish tried to avoid responsibility, reflects the common experience of many eighteenth-century paupers.

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About this Biography

Created by

Victoria Philpott 

Further contributions by

Robert Shoemaker