Francis Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater

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Arms of the Earl of Bridgewater (Egerton family)

Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater (11 November 1756 – 11 February 1829), FRS, FSA (1791), known as Francis Egerton until 1823, was a noted British eccentric from the Egerton family and supporter of natural theology.[1] He was the last earl of Bridgewater, now spelled Bridgwater.


Early life[edit]

He was a son of John Egerton, Bishop of Durham and Anne Sophia Grey. His maternal grandparents were Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent and his second wife Sophia Bentinck. Sophia was a daughter of William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland and Anne Villiers. Anne was a daughter of Sir Edward Villiers and his first wife Frances Howard. She was also a sister of Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey.

Egerton was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, and became a fellow of All Souls in 1780, and Fellow of the Royal Society in 1781. He inherited his title and a large fortune in 1823 from his brother, the 7th Earl.


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

Egerton was known for giving dinner parties in his Paris mansion for cats and dogs, where the dogs were dressed in the finest fashions of the day, down to fancy miniature shoes. Each day Egerton wore a new pair of shoes and he arranged the worn shoes into rows, so that he could measure the passing time. An animal lover, Egerton kept partridges and pigeons with clipped wings in his garden, allowing him to shoot them despite failing eyesight[clarification needed]. Egerton never married, and upon his death, his title became extinct. He was buried at Little Gaddesden, Hertfordshire.

In the early 17th century, Thomas Egerton, 1st Viscount Brackley, had purchased Ashridge House, one of the largest country houses in England, from Queen Elizabeth I, who had inherited it from her father who had appropriated it after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Ashridge House served the Egerton family as a residence until the 19th century. The Egertons later had a family chapel (the Bridgewater Chapel) with burial vault in Little Gaddesden Church,[2] where many monuments commemorate the Dukes and Earls of Bridgewater and their families.[3]

Arts and science[edit]

In 1812 he wrote "Description du Plan Incliné Souterrain" about the underground canals of the Worsley Navigable Levels, coal mines in Worsley, Greater Manchester, part of the Bridgewater estate.[4][5]

He bequeathed to the British Museum the valuable Egerton Manuscripts, consisting of 67 manuscripts dealing with the literature of France and Italy, and £12,000 to establish the Egerton Fund from which the Museum could purchase additional manuscripts. More than 3800 manuscripts have been purchased using the Egerton fund. He also left £8000 at the disposal of the president of the Royal Society, to be paid to the author or authors who might be selected to write and publish 1000 copies of a treatise "On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation". Mr Davies Gilbert, who then filled the office, selected eight persons, each to undertake a branch of this subject, and each to receive £1000 as his reward, together with any benefit that might accrue from the sale of his work, according to the will of the testator. His titles became extinct.

He left £8,000 for the Bridgewater treatises first appeared during the years 1833 to 1840, and afterwards in Bohn's Scientific Library, celebrating the wonder of God's goodness through the Creation.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Burke's (2003) 106th ed., vol.1 of 2, pp.1232-3
  2. ^ Bridgewater Chapel at Little Gaddesden Church, accessed 24 July 2015
  3. ^ Monuments in the Bridgewater Chapel, accessed 24 July 2015
  4. ^ Francis Egerton. Description du Plan Incliné Souterrain. 
  5. ^ Google eBook of Description du plan incliné souterrain


  • Caufield, Catherine (1981), The Emperor of the United States and Other Magnificent British Eccentrics, Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 77–79, ISBN 0-7100-0957-7 .

External links[edit]

Peerage of England
Preceded by
John William Egerton
Earl of Bridgewater
2nd creation