Bridget Talbot

Bridget Talbot

Political campaigner and inventor of a waterproof torch. Campaigned to secure the Ashridge Estate for the National Trust, lived at Little Gaddesden

Link with the Chilterns

Campaigned to secure the Ashridge Estate for the National Trust, lived at Little Gaddesden






Bridget Elizabeth Talbot OBE was a remarkable woman of many achievements.  She was a tireless campaigner for good causes, one of which was to help save the Ashridge Estate for the National Trust.

She was born at Little Gaddesden near Berkhamsted and lived there for most of her life.  Her father was a younger brother of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and she was a niece of Adelaide, Countess Brownlow, whose husband owned Ashridge during the early part of last century.

During the first World War, Bridget Talbot served with the Anglo-Italian Red Cross on the Italian-Austrian front and was awarded the Italian Medal for Valour (the Croce de Guerra). In 1920 she received an OBE for her work with the Red Cross and remained an active supporter of the organisation all her life.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s she was active in a campaign to preserve the lives of merchant seamen, and invented a waterproof torch for lifebelts to give men lost overboard after an attack or accident a better chance of rescue.  She then used her political and social connections to persuade Parliament that these torches be made compulsory for all Merchant Navy, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel, thereby saving the lives of many seamen during the second World War.

When the Ashridge Estate was effectively ‘put up for sale’ following the death of Earl Brownlow in 1921, it was in great danger of being bought by developers.  Bridget Talbot was determined that this should not happen, and spearheaded a successful national campaign to secure much of the land for the National Trust.  It is thought that she also made a substantial financial contribution to the public subscription fund which was set up to purchase the estate.

Passionately committed to changing the systems which she felt had failed, her political allegiance moved away from the Conservative world into which she had been born, and she joined the National Labour Party in 1931, assisting Ramsey Macdonald in his election campaign.  She stood (unsuccessfully) as a Liberal candidate for Bermondsey in 1950, and in 1964 considered standing as an independent candidate for Richmond in the general election.  She later attempted to start an independent party to resist British entry into the European Union (Common Market).

Miss Talbot died in 1971.  In her will she requested that a children’s home be established at Little Gaddesden House, but unfortunately this was not possible financially.  She also requested that her ashes be scattered ‘over the little stream off the grass road between Edlesborough and Ivinghoe, in view of the nine miles stretch of wood and country, and a stone put up …. to say that I saved them for the National Trust’.

Grid Reference


What you can visit

The Ashridge Estate (National Trust) near Berkhamsted.  There is a small memorial plaque on the wall of the visitor centre.

Memorial stone bench halfway along a bridlepath between Edlesborough church and Ivinghoe Aston, where her ashes were scattered (Grid Ref SP963183).

Little Gaddesden House is not open to the public but can be seen from a nearby bridlepath, or glimpsed from the road south of Little Gaddesden village.