Edward Bridges

  • Kevin Theakston
Part of the Transforming Government book series (TRGO)


Edward Bridges, Secretary of the Cabinet 1938–46, and Permanent Secretary of the Treasury and Head of the Civil service 1945–56, remains a legendary figure in the history of the civil service. If there were ever a Whitehall version of Mount Rushmore (doubtless on a smaller scale and in some quiet corner of the home counties!), his visage would surely be prominent among the granite heroes. ‘The last great figure of the old school’, was Sam Brittan’s verdict on him. ‘The twentieth century incarnation of the Victorian ideal’ runs the caption to the photograph of the grim-faced Sir Edward in Peter Hennessy’s book, Whitehall. He was, says Hennessy, ‘the finest flowering of the Victorian public servant — high minded, politically neutral, a gifted all-rounder who believed that government was best served by crowding the higher Civil Service with latter-day Rennaissance men.’ For Richard Chapman, he was simply ‘a great civil servant — possibly the greatest British civil servant of this century’.1


Prime Minister Civil Service Royal Commission Labour Party Permanent Secretary 
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  1. 3.
    John Winnifrith, ‘Edward Ettingdean Bridges - Baron Bridges, 1892–1969’, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol. 16 (1970), pp. 38–40. See also: Chapman, Ethics in the British Civil Service, pp. 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 15.
    Lord Bridges, The Treasury (London: Allen and Unwin, 1964), pp. 173, 176; Bridges to Helsby, 19.10.49, PRO PREM 8/1142.Google Scholar
  3. 22.
    J.M. Lee, Reviewing the Machinery of Government 1942–1952 (London: Birkbeck College, 1977), pp. 47, 140, 144, 147; Chapman, Ethics in the British Civil Service, pp. 210, 219.Google Scholar
  4. 40.
    Sir William Armstrong, ‘Edward Bridges 1892–1969’, Public Administration, vol. 48 (1970), p. 1; Harris, Memory-soft the air, pp. 36–7; The Times, 29 Aug. 1969; DNB entry, p. 135; Chapman, Ethics in the British Civil Service, pp. 21–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kevin Theakston 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Theakston
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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