Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Duke of Bridgewater
Duke of Bridgewater Francis Egerton.jpg
The Duke of Bridgewater in a 1788 engraving
Born21 May 1736 (1736-05-21)
Died8 March 1803 (1803-03-09)
ResidenceBridgwater House, London and Ashridge, Worsley Hall, Egerton Hall.
Other namesFrancis Egerton, 3rd and last Duke of Bridgwater, Marquess of Brackley, Earl of Ellesmere, Baron Egerton.
OccupationCanal builder
Known forBridgewater Canal
Net worth£2,000,000
TitleDuke of Bridgwater
PredecessorJohn Egerton, 2nd Duke of Bridgwater
Successortitle extinct
Political partyWhig
RelativesDuke of Sutherland (brother-in-law); Viscount Cobham (cousin); Baron Lucas of Crudwell (nephew); Earl Brownlow (cousin); Grey, baronets of Egerton and Oulton.

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (21 May 1736 – 8 March 1803), known as Lord Francis Egerton until 1748, was a British nobleman from the Egerton family. He was the youngest son of the 1st Duke. He did not marry, and the dukedom expired with him, although the earldom was inherited by a cousin, Lieutenant-General John Egerton.

A pioneer of canal construction, he is famed as the "father of British inland navigation",[1] who commissioned the Bridgewater Canal—often said to be the first true canal in Britain, and the modern world. The canal was built for him by his agent John Gilbert with advice from James Brindley to service his coal mines at Worsley, in Lancashire.


Bridgewater, the younger son of Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater, was born on the 21 May 1736. He succeeded to the dukedom at the age of twelve on the death of his brother, John, 2nd Duke. As a child he was sickly and of such unpromising intellectual capacity that at one time the idea of cutting the entail was seriously entertained. Shortly after attaining his majority he became engaged to the society beauty the Dowager Duchess of Hamilton, but her refusal to give up the acquaintance of her sister, Lady Coventry, led to the breaking off of the match. Thereupon the Duke broke up his London establishment, and retired to his estate at Worsley where he devoted himself to the making of canals.[2]


The Bridgewater Canal from Worsley to Manchester which he constructed to transport coal obtained on his estates is usually cited as the first modern British canal as opposed to a river navigation—although the Sankey Canal is a rival to this claim, projected as a "navigation", but built as a true canal. The construction of Bridgewater's canal, with its aqueduct across the River Irwell, was carried out by James Brindley, the celebrated engineer.[2]

The completion of his first canal led the duke to undertake a more ambitious work. In 1762 he obtained parliamentary powers to provide an improved waterway between Liverpool and Manchester by means of a canal. The difficulties encountered in its execution were still more formidable than those of the Worsley canal, involving carrying it across Sale Moor Moss. But the genius of John Gilbert, his agent and Brindley, his engineer, proved superior to all obstacles although at one period the duke's financial resources were almost exhausted, the work was carried to a triumphant conclusion.[2]

Both canals were completed by the time Bridgewater was thirty-six years of age, and the remainder of his life was spent in extending them and in improving his estates. During the latter years of his life he derived a princely income from the success of his enterprise. Although a supporter of Pitt's administration,[2] he took no prominent part in politics.


The Bridgewater Chapel at St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Little Gaddesden, where many Egerton family members are buried

The duke accumulated great wealth through his canal and coal interests. His annual income was said to have exceeded £80,000. The family owned other estates: Belton House, a small Sussex estate and the Old House and, 6,000 acres (24 km²) at Ashridge. On leaving his Brackley and Worsley estates, the duke had an annual income in taxes and duties of £75,000 (estimated in 1997 as £2,360,000). The father of the first duke had bought Cleveland House in St James, London, which was rebuilt to the designs of Sir Charles Barry in 1840 and renamed Bridgewater House in 1854 for Lord Ellesmere, heir of the 3rd Duke.

With the Bridgewater fortune exceeding £2,000,000, the duke, the richest nobleman in England, set about rebuilding Ashridge. He began to pull the old buildings down, but he died before his plans could be completed, leaving his heir with nothing but rubble. He was the leading member of the syndicate which purchased and partly resold the famous Orleans Collection, from the banker Jeremiah Harman in 1789.[3]

He acquired an art collection valued at £150,000 (estimated in 1997 about £4.75 million). It was composed of several old master paintings including Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. It was inherited by his heir, 1st Duke of Sutherland. Most of his purchases are still held by the Egerton family.


Monument to Egerton as the Father of Inland Navigation.

The duke died unmarried on 8 March 1803, and the ducal title became extinct although the Earldom of Bridgewater passed to a cousin, Lieutenant-General John Egerton, who became 7th Earl).[2] The 3rd Duke of Bridgewater was buried in the Egerton family vault in Little Gaddesden Church, close to Ashridge.[4]

By his will the duke devised his canals and estates on trust, under which his nephew, the 2nd Marquess of Stafford (afterwards 1st Duke of Sutherland), became the first beneficiary, and next his son Lord Francis Leveson-Gower (afterwards 1st Earl of Ellesmere) and his issue. In order that the trust should last as long as possible, an extraordinary use was made of the legal rule that property may be settled for the duration of lives in being and twenty-one years after. The legatees were a great number of persons connected with the duke and their living issue, plus all peers who had taken their seats in the House of Lords on or before the duke's decease. The last of the peers died in 1857, but one of the commoners survived till 19 October 1883, and so the trust did not expire until 19 October 1903, when the whole property passed to the undivided control of Francis Egerton, 3rd Earl of Ellesmere. The canals had by then been transferred to the Bridgewater Navigation Company in 1872, by whom they were sold in 1887 to the Manchester Ship Canal Company.[2]


Scroop, 1st Duke of Bridgewater (1681–1745), the son of the 2nd Earl of Bridgewater, was created a duke in 1720. He was the great-grandson of John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater (cr. 1617; d. 1649), whose name is associated with the production of Milton's Comus and the latter was the son of Sir Thomas Egerton (1540–1617), Queen Elizabeth's Lord Keeper and James I's Lord Chancellor, who was created Baron Ellesmere in 1603 and Viscount Brackley in 1616.[2]

Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater
Arms of the Duke of Bridgewater 02866.jpg
CrestOn a Chapeau Gules turned up Ermine a Lion rampant of the first supporting an Arrow erect Or headed and feathered Argent[5]
SupportersDexter: A Horse rearing Argent gorged with a Ducal coronet Or; Sinister: A Griffin segreant Or gorged with a Ducal Coronet Argent beaked and legged of the last
MottoSic Donec

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baynes 1878.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Chisholm 1911, p. 558.
  3. ^ Twist 2002.
  4. ^ Bridgewater Chapel at Little Gaddesden Church, accessed 24 July 2015
  5. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.1077, Duke of Sutherland


  • Wikisource Baynes, T.S., ed. (1878), "Francis Egerton, third duke of Bridgewater" , Encyclopædia Britannica, 4 (9th ed.), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 342
  • Malet, Hugh (1990) [1961], Bridgewater: The Canal Duke, 1736–1803 (3rd rev ed.), Nelson, UK: Hendon Publishing Co, ISBN 0-86067-136-4
  • Twist, A. F. (2002), Widening circles in finance, philanthropy and the arts. A study of the life of John Julius Angerstein 1735-1823 (PDF), UvA-DARE Digital Academic Repository (University of Amsterdam), retrieved 11 April 2017


External links[edit]

Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Egerton
Duke of Bridgewater
Peerage of England
Preceded by
John Egerton
Earl of Bridgewater
2nd creation
Succeeded by
John William Egerton