Charles Bridges was christened in the parish of Barton Seagrave in Northamptonshire, England, on April 2, 1672, the son of John Bridges and Elizabeth Trumbull Bridges. He came from a well-educated gentry family, and his brother John Bridges was a barrister and one of the first and most laborious historians of Northamptonshire. Charles Bridges married Alice Flower on August 4, 1687, at Saint Marylebone, near London. They had at least one son and two daughters. He was an agent of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge by 1699 and served as a liaison with local charity schools at least until 1713, when his name disappears from the society’s records. Bridges may have been trained as a painter and begun a career as a portraitist, though the only English portrait firmly attributable to him is one of Thomas Baker, a fellow of Saint John’s College, University of Cambridge, painted after 1717.
In 1733 Bridges, probably by then a widower, contemplated moving to Georgia. Men approaching their mid-sixties seldom relocated to the colonies, but two years later he arrived in Williamsburg with his children. Armed with recommendations from Thomas Gooch, master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and Edmund Gibson, the bishop
of London, Bridges presented himself to Lieutenant Governorand Commissary . Their influence and his own talent enabled him to receive commissions for portraits from (1674–1744) and others, and in December 1735 he witnessed the will of Sir John Randolph. That same month Byrd introduced Bridges to as “a man of a good family,” who was forced “either by the frowns of fortune, or his own mismanagement,” to earn a living as a painter. Byrd stated that, although Bridges was not a portraitist of the first rank, had he lived back “when places were given to the most deserving, he might have pretended to be serjeant-painter of Virginia.” Bridges was the first documented painter to live and work in Virginia and to produce work of good quality. The more than two dozen portraits of Virginians attributable to him include members of the Blair, Bolling, Carter, Custis, Grymes, Lee, Ludwell, Moore, Page, and Randolph families. The work includes appealing double portraits of children, forthright images of great planters and their wives, and coats of arms for county governments. Portraits by Bridges can be seen at the College of William and Mary, the , the Virginia Historical Society, and Washington and Lee University.
Bridges also explored with Blair and Gibson the possibility of establishing a charity to teach Christianity to the colony’s African Americans. Because baptism was linked in many minds with notions of, which the planters certainly opposed, and because Blair and Bridges lacked funds and youthful energy, nothing came of this humanitarian ambition. One of Bridges’s daughters died in Williamsburg on August 24, 1736, and that December he rented a house in the borough for twelve months. Thereafter he moved to Hanover County, where he evidently stayed until he returned to England about 1744. Bridges died in his native Northamptonshire and was buried in the church of Warkton Parish near Barton Seagrave on December 18, 1747.