||Originally trading out of Bristol, the Bright and Meyler families’ activities subsequently expanded across the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, North and South America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand. The Bright family were heavily involved in the trade of sugar between Jamaica and the United Kingdom in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Their activities in this capacity included the purchase and management of sugar plantations and livestock pens, the shipment of cargo between Jamaica and Bristol, participation in the slave trade, including the purchase and shipment of slaves, and the establishment and running of stores trading in imported goods and purchasing sugar from local plantations. The family also had other commercial and industrial interests, including mining, banking, ship, railway and canal construction, and landed estates.
The Bright and Meyler families forged numerous complex partnerships in Jamaican trade in the eighteenth century. Henry Bright (1715-1777) was apprenticed to Richard Meyler Sr. (1685-1772) in 1732; as junior partner, he went to the Caribbean in 1739 when Meyler’s trade expanded, and later married his daughter and heiress Sarah Meyler (1720-1769). Henry and his brother Francis (1723-1754) worked closely with the Meyler family in Jamaica; following Henry’s return to Bristol and Francis’ death in 1754, Richard Meyler Sr.’s nephew Jeremiah Meyler (1729-1792) assumed the management of the Jamaican end of their business. This relationship disintegrated in the 1760s as Jeremiah’s debts increased. Subsequently, Lowbridge Bright (1741-1818), Henry’s nephew, was sent to Jamaica, where he developed a further partnership with Nathaniel Milward. Henry’s son Richard (1754-1840) would later enter into business with Lowbridge Bright; together with Evan Baillie they expanded into other parts of the West Indies.
In 1818 Richard Bright inherited the Meyler estates in Jamaica; this inheritance was contested by the Meyler family, and the extensive lawsuits that followed were the primary motivation for the family to assemble and maintain this collection of papers. Charles Edward Bright, Richard’s grandson, immigrated to Australia in 1852 during the Victorian gold rush and established a branch house of Gibbs, Bright & Co (the partnership between his father Robert Bright and the Gibbs family, and the owners of the SS Great Britain); the papers of Gibbs, Bright & Co are interconnected with the Bright family papers, and are also held by the University of Melbourne. The Bright family papers were willed to Charles’ son Alfred, who transferred them to Australia in the early twentieth century.
Members of the Bright family were also prominent in medicine, law and politics. Henry Bright became
Mayor of Bristol in 1771. Dr Richard Bright MD (1789-1858), a son of Richard Bright and grandson of
Henry, was a pioneering researcher of kidney disease and diseases of the brain, and Fellow of the
Royal Society. Benjamin Heywood Bright (1787-1843), another of Richard Bright's sons, was a
barrister, book collector and Shakespearian critic.
||Graziers, Traders, Shipping agents, Exporters