People on board
Martha Bridge was born on the 8th of October 1875 in Lambeth, London to Thomas Henry Bridge and Martha Lucock, the eldest of their five children. Thomas Henry was a Bootmaker, a trade his elder son, also Thomas Henry, also took up. The family lived in Battersea and Martha Bridge began in the Shillington Street School in 1882. In the 1891 census the family was actually living on Shillington Street, including Alice, Nellie and Percival.
Martha Bridge has not been found in the 1901 census though the rest of the family were living in Killarney Road, Wandsworth. The younger daughter, Nellie, then aged nineteen, was working as a ‘Bootmaker’s Shop Assistant’, while her father and eldest brother were Bootmakers, suggesting that the family business had extended. Percival was working as a Gun Smith. By 1911 the family had moved to 28 Larkhall Rise in Clapham where Martha was living with her parents and her sister Alice, neither sister giving an occupation. Also living with them was Thomas Henry’s widowed brother, Samuel.
By July 1918 Martha Bridge was working as Cook in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Abercorn at 112 Gloucester Place in London. In March 1917 the Duchess had travelled with her family to Ireland for the funeral of her daughter Gladys, Countess of Wicklow, and it appears that the family planned another visit to Shelton Abbey, Arklow, the home of the widower and his son. This time Martha Bridge was to accompany them as well as Eleanor Strachan, Lady’s Maid to Lady Alexandra Phyllis Hamilton, daughter of the Duchess.
It seems that Martha Bridge was worried about travelling to Ireland and on the 23rd of July she wrote her Will which was witnessed by the Parlour Maid and the Kitchen Maid in the Abercorn household. She left a gross estate of £745 but the Will was not written in legalese and it is unlikely that a solicitor was present. She bequeathed to her sister Alice “my house in Belleville Road, Battersea and the one in Swaffield Road, Wandsworth, I cannot remember the numbers of either house, my father Thomas Henry Bridge knows all about them”. She also left “Russian Bonds and money in the Post Office Savings Bank”. She left her clothes to her sister Nellie and her “little bit of jewellery” to be equally divided between Alice and Nellie. It remains a mystery as to how she had acquired ownership of the houses she was leaving to her sister.
The Abercorn group was in Wicklow in September and the Duchess returned to London in early October. Lady Alexandra Hamilton remained on for an extra week with Martha Bridge and Eleanor Strachan, travelling home on the 10th on RMS Leinster. None of the three survived the sinking, and only Martha’s body was recovered. It was identified by Reginald Armstrong, Land Agent at Shelton Abbey, but her burial place has not been found. A memorial service was held in London for Lady Hamilton where the death of her two employees was acknowledged. The Bridge family had suffered another tragedy on the 1st of October when Samuel Bridge took his own life at his wife’s grave in Richmond Cemetery.