Captain Charles Ridgely

A painting of Captain Charles Ridgely holding a spyglass
Painting of Captain Charles Ridgely by John Hesselius.


Captain Charles Ridgely (1733-1790) served in the 1750s as a ship’s captain for the mercantile firm James Russell and Company. His maritime adventures included quelling a mutiny, surviving two hurricanes, and being imprisoned by the French during the French and Indian War. In 1763, he retired from the sea and assumed control of the family iron business, while remaining an active agent for British merchants until the Revolutionary War. An active politician and member of the Maryland Legislature, he was the acknowledged political boss of Baltimore City.

After the death of his brother John in 1771 and his father in 1772, Captain Ridgely owned a two-thirds share in the Northampton Ironworks and maintained control of the entire operation. The Northampton Ironworks was a labor-intensive business which relied on a large and diverse workforce of enslaved persons, indentured servants, convict laborers and, during the Revolutionary War, British prisoners of war. The war created an ever-growing market for the forge’s products such as shot, cannons, and camp kettles. Income from this enterprise permitted Captain Ridgely to acquire thousands of acres of land confiscated from the British immediately following the War, and he eventually owned more than twenty-four thousand acres.

Captain Ridgely married Rebecca Dorsey, the daughter of another Anne Arundel County ironmaster. The two had no children, but he raised and educated his nephew Charles Ridgely Carnan to be his business partner and heir. The two resided at the Lower House at Hampton as the great Hampton Hall was under construction from 1783-1790. Known as "The Builder," Ridgely died in June 1790, soon after the mansion was completed.

Last updated: June 24, 2020

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Mailing Address:

535 Hampton Lane
Towson, MD 21286


410-962-4290 (option 2)

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