The end of Bridgetower's life is shrouded in mystery. He was rumoured
to have died in 1850, but his death certificate shows that “George
Polegreen Bridgetower, Gentleman”, died at 8 Victory Cottages,
a small back street in Peckham, on 29 February 1860, and was buried
at Kensal Green cemetery. Victory Cottages was apparently also known
as Norfolk Street , and the rate book records the inhabitant of
No 8 as 'Bridge'. In September 1859, a few months before his death,
Bridgetower made a will leaving his entire property, under £1000,
to the sister of his wife, maiden name Leake.
Bridgetower's life was extraordinary in its talent, determination,
and faithfulness to his art. Like his great contemporary the violinist
Viotti, music was the medium which transformed his circumstances
and sustained him. Like his father, Bridgetower learned everything
there was to learn from his environment and turned it into a gem
of performance which he shared with his colleagues, his audiences
and his pupils. To the generations that succeeded him, Bridgetower's
legacy was not only about music, it was also about the possibility
of transforming and transcending one's circumstances, and about
the contribution it was possible to make in shaping one's environment,
even under the most difficult circumstances.
The final irony was that this African Prince turned out to be -
undeniably - a prince of European culture.
References and further reading
Read a fuller version of Mike Phillips' essay in Adobe Acrobat
(pdf format) 104KB.
Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips