Bridgeman, William Clive, first Viscount Bridgeman 1864-1935, politician, was born in London 31 December 1864, the only child of the Revd John Robert Orlando Bridgeman, third son of the second Earl of Bradford and rector of Weston-under-Lizard, Staffordshire, and his wife (Marianne) Caroline, only child of the Ven. William Clive, archdeacon of Montgomery. Bridgeman was educated at Eton (1877-84), becoming captain of Oppidans, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, entering with an open classical scholarship in 1884 and graduating with a second class (division I) in part i of classical tripos in 1887. He was a lifelong Etonian: that his three sons each succeeded him there as captain of Oppidans, and that he himself was elected an Eton fellow, were sources of great personal satisfaction. Another early and enduring involvement was in cricket: a member of his school and university XIs, he became a considerable gentleman cricketer, playing for county sides, I Zingari, and the MCC, and later an assiduous spectator of big matches at Lords. An MCC committee member, he was elected president in 1931.
Bridgeman established himself as a country gentleman on a Clive family estate at Leigh, near Minsterley, Shropshire, but his principal interest was in politics, where he maintained his familys Conservative attachment. He was assistant private secretary to the first Viscount Knutsford [qv.], 1889-92, and to Sir Michael Hicks Beach (later Earl St Aldwyn, qv.), 1895-7. He became MP for the Northern (Oswestry) division of Shropshire, 1906-29. Adhering to the Disraelian tradition of social reform and to Unionism and closer imperial unity, Bridgeman first became prominent in support of the tariff-reform campaign led by Joseph Chamberlain [qv.]. A junior opposition whip (1911-15) and from 1915 a government whip in H. H. Asquiths coalition government, during 1916 he was also assistant director of the war trade department. In David Lloyd Georges coalition government he was successively parliamentary secretary at the newly created Ministry of Labour (1916-19) and the Board of Trade (1919-20), and first secretary of the mines department (1920-2), acquiring experience of industrial relations which was again called upon during the renewed industrial unrest of 1925-6. A participant in the 1922 Conservative under-secretaries revolt against the coalition government, he became home secretary in the Conservative government of 1922-4. As first lord of the Admiralty (1924-9) he resolutely upheld naval effectiveness and morale, ordering resumed construction of the Singapore base and countering attempts by the chancellor of the Exchequer, (Sir) Winston Churchill, to impose excessive cuts in warship construction, especially in the 1925 cruiser crisis. As leader of the British delegation at the 1927 Geneva naval disarmament conference, he resisted American claims to parity which in reality threatened British naval inferiority.
Bridgeman was admired for his common sense, honesty, plain-speaking, tenacity, and fair-mindedness. In the 1920s he was the closest political friend of the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, supporting him in leadership crises in 1923 and 1929-31, and contributing much to the tone of Baldwinite Conservatism—an emphasis upon moral seriousness and social responsibility, a concern to soothe class feelings, and deep distrust of Lloyd George.
Retiring from the House of Commons in 1929, Bridgeman was created a viscount that year. In 1932 he chaired a committee of enquiry on the Post Office and was appointed to the BBC board of governors, and in 1935 he became BBC chairman. From a clerical family background, he also became a leading lay Anglican churchman. Prominent before 1918 in resisting Welsh church disestablishment and defending church schools, he became a vice-president of the National Society (which administered Church of England schools) in 1931. He was a member of the archbishops committee on industrial problems (1917-18), and in 1927 was the two archbishops choice to introduce the revised prayer-book measure in the House of Commons.
In 1895 Bridgeman married Caroline, elder daughter of Cecil Parker, land agent to the first Duke of Westminster, and second son of Thomas Wolstenholme, sixth Earl of Macclesfield. A strong force behind her husbands career, she was the first woman chairman of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations in 1926, a member of the Church Assemblys house of laity from 1925 and of the archbishops commission on church and state (1930-5), and succeeded her husband as a BBC governor. She was appointed DBE in 1924. The Bridgemans had a daughter who lived one day and three sons. Robert, (born 1896), the second viscount, had a distinguished army career and became lord lieutenant of Shropshire, Geoffrey was a leading eye surgeon, and Maurice a senior civil servant and later chairman of British Petroleum.
Bridgeman was a Shropshire JP and deputy lieutenant, a privy councillor (1920), an elder brother of Trinity House (1928), honorary LLD of Cambridge University (1930), and chairman of the governors of Shrewsbury School. He died at Leigh Manor 14 August 1935.
The Times, 15 August 1935
Philip Williamson (ed.), The Modernisation of Conservative Politics: the Diaries and Letters of William Bridgeman, 1904-1935, 1988
Contributor: Philip Williamson