Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater

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The Duke of Bridgewater
Duke of Bridgewater Francis Egerton.jpg
The Duke of Bridgewater in a 1788 engraving
Born 21 May 1736 (1736-05-21)
Died 8 March 1803 (1803-03-09)
Residence Bridgwater House, London and Ashridge, Worlsey Hall, Egerton Hall.
Nationality United Kingdom
Other names Francis Egerton, 3rd and last Duke of Bridgwater, Marquess of Brackley, Earl of Ellesmere, Baron Egerton.
Occupation Canal builder
Known for Bridgewater Canal
Home town Worsley, Lancashire
Salary £75,000
Net worth £2,000,000
Title Duke of Bridgwater
Predecessor John Egerton, 2nd Duke of Bridgwater
Successor title extinct
Political party Whig
Religion Protestant
Spouse(s) unmarried
Children none
Relatives Duke of Sutherland (brother-in-law); Viscount Cobham (cousin); Baron Lucas of Crudwell (nephew); Earl Brownlow (cousin); Grey, baronets of Egerton and Oulton.
Arms of Egerton: Argent, a lion rampant gules between three pheons sable[1]

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 naval construction he was famous as the originator of British inland navigation, the commissioner of the Bridgewater Canal—often said to be the first true canal in Britain, and the modern world. (see below for a qualification)— The canal was built for him by James Brindley to service his coal mines at Worsley, in Lancashire.


Main article: Egerton family

Scroop Egerton, 1st Duke of Bridgewater (1681–1745) was the son of the 2nd Earl of Bridgewater, and was created a Duke in 1720; he was the great-grandson of John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater (d. 1649; cr. 1617), 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.

Biography of the 3rd Duke[edit]

Lord Francis Egerton succeeded to the Dukedom at the age of twelve on the death of his brother, the 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 retiring to his estate at Worsley, devoted himself to the making of a canals.

Great Works – the Worsley-Manchester and Liverpool-Manchester Canals[edit]

The navigable canal from Worsley to Manchester which he projected for the transport of coal obtained on his estates is usually cited as the first modern British canal (as opposed to a river navigation)—though 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 famous aqueduct across the Irwell, was carried out by James Brindley, the celebrated engineer.

The completion of this first canal led the Duke to undertake a still 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 the execution of this canal were still more formidable than those of the Worsley canal, involving, as they did, the carrying of the canal over Sale Moor Moss. But the genius of Brindley, his engineer, proved superior to all obstacles, and though at one period of the undertaking the financial resources of the Duke were almost exhausted, the work was carried to a triumphant conclusion.

Both these canals were completed when Bridgewater was only thirty-six years of age, and the remainder of his life was spent in extending them and in improving his estates; and during the latter years of his life he derived a princely income from the success of his enterprise. Though a steady supporter of Pitt's administration, he never took any prominent part in politics.


He accumulated great wealth through his canal and coal interests, and his annual income was said to have exceeded £80,000. The family owned three estates at the time: Belton House, a small Sussex estate, the Old house and, 6,000 acres (24 km²) at his house of Ashridge. On leaving the Brackley and Worsley estates that he owned, the duke earned an annual income in taxes and duties of £75,000 pa (estimated in 1997 as £2,360,000). With the proceeds he built a magnificent Georgian mansion in London's St James's called Bridgwater House (it was later renamed Stafford House, and later still Lancaster House).

With the Bridgewater fortune now exceeding £2,000,000, and the Duke being the richest nobleman in England, he 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 a pile of rubble. He was the leading member of the syndicate which purchased and partly resold the famous Orleans Collection, from a banker named Jeremiah Harman in 1789.[2]

He manage to acquire a fantastic and then famous art collection valued at £150,000 (estimated in 1997 about £4.75 million). It was composed of several 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.


The Bridgewater Chapel at St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Little Gaddesden, where many Egerton family members are buried
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). The 3rd Duke of Bridgewater was buried in the Egerton family vault in Little Gaddesden Church, close to Ashridge.[3]

By his will he 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 the 19th October 1883, so the trust did not expire until 19 October 1903, when the whole property passed under the undivided control of Francis Egerton, 3rd Earl of Ellesmere. The canals, however, had been transferred to the Bridgewater Navigation Company in 1872, by whom they were sold in 1887 to the Manchester Ship Canal Company.



Arms of Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater
Arms of the Duke of Bridgewater 02866.jpg
A Coronet of a Duke
On a Chapeau Gules turned up Ermine a Lion rampant of the first supporting an Arrow erect Or headed and feathered Argent
Argent a Lion rampant Gules between three Pheons Sable
Dexter: A Horse Argent gorged with a Ducal coronet Or; Sinister: A Griffin segreant Argent gorged with a Ducal Coronet Or beaked and legged of the last
Sic Donec


  1. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.1077, Duke of Sutherland
  2. ^ Widening circles in finance, philanthropy and the arts. A study of the life of John Julius Angerstein 1735–1823
  3. ^ Bridgewater Chapel at Little Gaddesden Church, accessed 24 July 2015

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Egerton
Duke of Bridgewater
1748 – 1803
Peerage of England
Preceded by
John Egerton
Earl of Bridgewater
2nd creation
1748 – 1803
Succeeded by
John William Egerton