The Historical Bridget Hodgson: Early life and character
Bridget Hodgson was born in the parish of Pontrilas, Hereford, to Humphrey Baskerville, Esquire. Because the parish records for this period do not survive, we don’t know when she was born, but sometime in the 1610s or 1620s would be a fair guess. Bridget married twice, first to Luke Thurgood of Bedfordshire, and then to Phineas Hodgson, the son of Thomas Hodgson, a former Lord Mayor of York. We don’t know when Phineas died, but by 1662, when Bridget received a license to practice midwifery, Phineas had died.
While it is unclear how much money inherited from her first husband and how much from her parents, surviving documents make clear that in keeping with her gentry heritage, Bridget was quite wealthy. In 1671, her home in the parish of St. Helen Stonegate was taxed at six hearths, and her will includes items such as silver plate, a coral necklace, a velvet saddle, as well as many cash bequests. Bridget also passed on to her daughter loans she had made worth hundreds of pounds. She also requested that her body be buried in a tomb she had built for herself, and asked that the church be decorated with her family’s coat of arms. While the tomb does not survive, you can read the inscription here.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the historical Bridget Hodgson was the strength of character that comes through the historical record. This is apparent in the specific directions she gives for the conduct of her funeral, but even more remarkable are the names of her goddaughters, some of whom she includes in her will.
In order to understand the significance of the girl's names, we should note that in the early modern period, midwives often served as godmother to children they delivered, and it was the godparents who named the child. In most cases, the godparents consulted the child's birth parents ahead of time, and gave the child whatever name they were told. But in Bridget’s case, there is clearly something more going on. According to Bridget's will:
Item. I give unto the several persons hereafter named for whom I was Godmother ten shillings apiece, to wit: Bridget Swain, Bridget Ascough, Bridget Morris, Bridget Wilberfoss, Thomas Robinson, Edward Watson, and Thomas Horsley.
Add to this that she also named her own daughter Bridget, and it becomes clear that we are dealing with a woman whose self-esteem knows no bounds.