Paul Bridson 1694-1771

Youngest son of John Bridson of Orristal Malew, he was, in Frances Wilkin's words, for many years "in the anomalous position of being the deputy searcher or customs officer for Douglas while he was also both a merchant in his own right and an agent for others in the Guinea and smuggling trades".

Usually referred to as Captain Paul Bridson - the title refers to his Captaincy of Douglas (ie he was effectively the leading police officer of the town).

The 4th Duke of Atholl in 1791, accused him openly of corruption

 It has been proved before you, that Paul Bridson, our principal Revenue Officer at Douglas ( which always has been, and will probably continue to be, the first port of the island,) was himself, and a factor for others ; that his salary was 3l. Manx ; that he made entries from Great Britain and Ireland, the Custom-house being at Castletown, a distance of nine miles ; that almost every species of goods and spirits were smuggled in quantities from the duties payable to my family ; and that India goods especially were considered as fair game.


When I hear of people on such salaries as these, living splendidly, bringing up numerous families,or dying opulent, I cannot but doubt the fair collection ; and when I further consider, that a principal part of these duties were paid ad valorem, agreeable to whatever account the importers chose to give, without any sufficient check, I shall conclude by asserting, that it was impossible under such a system for duties to be fairly collected.

Paul Bridson was a major importer of Guinea goods (ie material that would then be re-exported to buy slaves on the African coast) from c.1750 - he was responsible for 41% of the total value imported by the leading Dutch importing master Jan Wolfers - he also had strong links with Liverpool merchants. His name appeared from 1730's onwards on customs entries for Derbyhaven - apparently importing goods (wool, hides etc) from Ireland - but from c.1745 he moved his business to Douglas and in the next 20 years imported Guinea goods valued over £80,000, Wilkins describes him as the leading merchant on the Island. One possibility is that the capital required for his expansion came via his wife's family.

Married Alice Joyner (b. 1710 d. 1755 bur. 18 Mar 1755 Braddan) - four sons and four daughters mentioned in her will:

Braddan Burials record:


Will 1770; Buried Braddan 26 Oct 1771 (as in burial register - will also dated 1771) - MI records 1772 (transciption error ?)


F Wilkins Manx Slave Traders Kidderminster: Wyre Forest Press (ISBN 1-897725-13-2) 1999

Frances Wilkins 2000 Manx Mariners Kidderminster: Wyre Forest Press 2000 (ISBN 1-897725-14-0)

E Bridson A Disturbance at Douglas J. Manx Museum vol VI #77 1960/61 pp98-100




Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001