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Tracing the Bridgeman family – anywhere but in Bridgeman Downs

By Administrator | 9 November 2018

Recently, some research questions came through to State Library of Queensland's Ask Us service, asking about Henry St John Bridgeman, an Irish migrant, after whom the northern Brisbane suburb of Bridgeman Downs was named. What did the research staff find out?

Starting at the Immigration Indexes, available through the Queensland State Archives (QSA) website, showed that there was no Henry St John Bridgeman. In fact, the closest Bridgeman was John, an Englishman.

The next Immigration Index to check, also held by QSA, was the Land Orders. Land Orders permitted immigrants to purchase land, after certain obligations were met, and these records can contain information about the immigrant’s arrival in Queensland – including the Vessel (ship) that the person arrived on and date of arrival. Armed with the Land Order information from QSA, it was established that Henry St John Bridgeman arrived on the Golden City in March 1863. Land Order records show that the large family obtained 4 land grants in 1863, followed by another grant in 1865 and a further grant in 1874.

The Golden City, which brought Henry St John Bridgeman and family from Ireland to Queensland in 1863. State Library of Queensland, Neg. 63670

The Golden City, which brought Henry St John Bridgeman and family from Ireland to Queensland in 1863. State Library of Queensland, Neg. 63670

In fact H. S. Bridgeman’s name appeared on 153 hectares of land in current Bridgeman Downs, and 433 hectares in the present Boondall-Sandgate region.

Who was Henry St John Bridgeman and how did he have so much land? H. S. Bridgeman was a bank manager, who migrated from Queenstown (now Cobh) on 10 December 1862 and arrived in Brisbane on 9 March 1863. He was accompanied by his wife, Frances, and his 9 children – Lucy aged 12, Constance 11, Henry 9, Johanna 8, Richard 7, Mary 5, Agnes 4, Orland 3 and Theresa an infant. The family was accompanied by a servant called Johanna Quinn and most of the family were eligible for some form of Land Order.

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Brisbane Courier, 1864, advertisement

Brisbane Courier, 1864, advertisement

As well as his family’s extensive land holdings, H. S. Bridgeman also owned a shop and house, as this advertisement from The Brisbane Courier from 1864 shows.

Why is so little known about this large family? Even though Bridgeman Downs was named after H. S. Bridgeman in 1977, the family did not live on the land that he owned there. The family lived first in Ipswich, where H. S. Bridgeman worked in the Bank of Queensland, and a 7th daughter Isabella was born in 1866. Light Street in Fortitude Valley was home for many years and this is where H. S. Bridgeman died in 1878 and his wife, Frances, died in 1901.

Funeral notice for Henry St. John Bridgeman, Brisbane Courier, 4 July 1878, p.2

Funeral notice for Henry St. John Bridgeman, Brisbane Courier, 4 July 1878, p.2

Eldest and second youngest daughters, Lucy and Agnes, became nuns and were teachers with the Sisters of Mercy. Lucy (Sister Mary Bega) died young in 1877 but Agnes (Sister Mary Theresa) lived until 1931 and taught in many Convents in Central Queensland. Johanna died in 1881, age 27, also without marrying. Isabella, the only Queensland-born child, died in 1886 at just 20. Son Henry died in 1891, aged 36 and unmarried. Daughters Constance and Mary stayed living in Light Street and can be found running a business, and like their sisters and brother Henry did not marry. Constance died in 1906, followed by Mary in 1914.

Only two of the ten Bridgeman children married in Queensland – 2nd son Richard who married Johanna Liebs in 1882 and 6th daughter Teresa who became Mrs P Banks Wilkins in 1899. Sadly Mr P Banks Wilkins died a few years later in 1903, in Tasmania. Teresa’s second marriage, in 1905, was longer lasting and both she and her husband died in 1944.

No records have been found for youngest son Orland, but Frances Bridgeman’s obituary in 1901 states that she is survived by 4 daughters and 1 son.

If anyone has any information about grandchildren, great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren, please let us know.

Katy Roberts

Library Technician, Visitor & Information Services

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