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Earl of Bridgewater is a title that has been created twice in the Peerage of England.
The holders of the second creation also held the title of Duke of Bridgewater from 1720 to 1803. Francis Egerton, 3rd and last Duke of Bridgewater, is famously known as the "Canal Duke", for his creation of a series of canals in North West England.
The earldom was first created in 1538 for Henry Daubeny, 9th Baron Daubeny. The Daubeney family descended from Elias Daubeny, who in 1295 was summoned by writ to the Model Parliament as Lord Daubeny. The eighth Baron was created Baron Daubeny by letters patent in the Peerage of England in 1486 and was also made a Knight of the Garter the following year. All three titles became extinct on the first Earl of Bridgewater's death in 1548.
The title was then created secondly in 1617 for John Egerton, Baron Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley, after the town of Bridgwater in Somerset, where he owned estates. The Egerton family descended from Sir Richard Egerton of Ridley, Cheshire, whose illegitimate son Sir Thomas Egerton was a prominent lawyer who served as Master of the Rolls from 1594 to 1603, as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal from 1593 to 1603 and as Lord High Chancellor of England from 1603 to 1617. Thomas Egerton was knighted in 1594, admitted to the Privy Council in 1596 and in 1603 he was raised to the Peerage of England as Baron Ellesmere, in the County of Shropshire, and in 1616 to Viscount Brackley. In 1598 he had inherited the Tatton estate in Cheshire from his brother-in-law Richard Brereton. He was succeeded by his son, John who represented Callington and Shropshire in the House of Commons and served as Lord-Lieutenant of several counties in Wales and western England and who in 1617 was made Earl of Bridgewater in the Peerage of England.
He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, the second Earl. He was Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, Lancashire, Cheshire and Herefordshire. On his death the titles passed to his eldest son, the third Earl. He was a Whig politician and served as First Lord of Trade and as First Lord of the Admiralty. His eldest son from his first marriage, John Egerton, died as an infant, while his two elder sons from his second marriage, Charles Egerton, Viscount Brackley, and the Hon. Thomas Egerton, both died in the fire which destroyed Bridgewater House in London. Lord Bridgewater was succeeded by his eldest surviving son from his second marriage, the fourth Earl. He served as Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire and also held several positions at court. In 1720 he was created Marquess of Brackley, in the County of Northampton, and Duke of Bridgewater, in the County of Somerset. Both titles were in the Peerage of Great Britain.
Bridgewater outlived his two elder sons and was succeeded by his second but eldest surviving son from his second marriage, the second Duke. He died from fever at an early age. On his death the titles passed to his younger brother, the third Duke. He is remembered as the father of British inland navigation and commissioned the Bridgewater Canal, said to be the first true canal in Britain and the modern world. Bridgewater never married and on his death in 1803 the marquessate and dukedom became extinct. He was succeeded in the other titles by his first cousin once removed, the seventh Earl. He was the son of the Right Reverend the Hon. John Egerton, Bishop of Durham, son of the Right Reverend the Hon. Henry Egerton, Bishop of Hereford, youngest son of the third Earl. Lord Bridgewater was a General in the Army and also sat as Tory Member of Parliament for Morpeth and for Brackley. He was childless and on his death in 1823 the titles passed to his younger brother, the eighth Earl. He was known as a patron of science as well as a great eccentric. Lord Bridgewater never married and on his death in 1829 his titles became extinct.
Lady Amelia Egerton, sister of the seventh and eighth Earls, married Sir Abraham Hume, 2nd Baronet. Their daughter Sophia Hume married John Cust, 1st Earl Brownlow. Their grandson John William Spencer Brownlow Egerton-Cust, 2nd Earl Brownlow (1842–1867), assumed the additional surname of Egerton and inherited the Bridgewater estates after a lengthy lawsuit (see the Baron Brownlow for additional information on the Cust family). Also, Lady Louisa Egerton, daughter of the first Duke of Bridgewater, married Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Marquess of Stafford. Their son George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Marquess of Stafford, was created Duke of Sutherland in 1833. His second son Lord Francis Leveson-Gower assumed by Royal license the surname of Egerton in lieu of Leveson-Gower according to the will of the third Duke of Bridgewater. In 1846 the Brackley and Ellesmere titles were revived when he was made Viscount Brackley and Earl of Ellesmere. The Hon. Thomas Egerton, of Tatton Park, Cheshire, youngest son of the second Earl of Bridgewater, was the grandfather of Hester Egerton (d. 1780). She married William Tatton. In 1780 they assumed by Royal license the surname of Egerton in lieu of Tatton. Their great-grandson William Tatton Egerton was created Baron Egerton in 1859.