By Claire Cooper
All young curates look forward to the day when they are given their own parish, but when Gerald and Jill Bridgman took up their post in Crawley there was no church or vicarage, just a muddy fieldThe newlyweds were chosen to build a whole new parish – the fist to be created in Sussex since the war. Now retired and living in Lindfield, Canon Bridgman and his wife Jill look back on a lifetime of service to the church, and a journey which took them from an outbuilding with a makeshift holy table to the magnificent church of Holy Trinity Hull and York Minster.
Born in 1922, Gerald Bridgman was educated at Weymouth Grammer School, where he excelled both in the classroom and on the sports field, epresenting the school in soccer and athletics.
After leaving school he went into accountancy, working for Dorset County Council’s Treasurers Department before leaving to join the Royal Army Ordinance Corps when he was 19 years old.
“I was part of a team based at headquarters in Leicester, lecturing and preparing units for the D Day landings,” Gerald recalled. “As a committed Christian I was often called upon for pastoral work and always strived to be compassionate when making difficu decisions.”
Gerald’s call to the ministry had come several years earlier, so after leaving the army he went straight to Bristol Theological College for two years and then to St Catharine’s College in Cambridge, where he left with an Hons Degree in Theology and University soccer colours! He was ordained at Chichester Cathedral in 1951.
“I could have gone straight into being a curate but I felt I wanted to further my knowledge of theology, so I spent a year studying at Wyclife Hall Theological College in Oxford,” said Gerald. “I was also pleased to play for the Oxford University Soccer Centaur.”
His fist job was as a curate at Broadwater parish in Worthing, where he was invited to become Chaplain of the Sea Cadets. He also continued his sport, playing football for Worthing FC and joining the church tennis club where he met his future wife Jill, a musician, who worked with the church youth groups.Gerald and Jill were married in 1956, and soon afterwards were given a rare and exciting opportunity to build their own parish.“
“Following the extensive bombing in London, people were moving further afield ino new towns and the church was looking to build a new parish in Crawley,” Gerald explained. “We were asked to set up St Mary’s Church at Southgate - the fist parish church to be built in Sussex since the war.”
“We started from scratch,” said Jill. “When we arrived it was just farmland! There were no lights and everything seemed very primitive.
- extract from March 2016 edition of Lindfield Life magazine. See the published issue for full story -