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Local legal historic sites: Lombardy Hall, home of Gunning Bedford Jr.


Lombardy Hall, country home of Gunning Bedford Jr.

Three miles south of the Widener Law campus, just off route 202, is Lombardy Hall, farm and country home of Gunning Bedford, Jr., Delaware attorney, judge and signer of the United States Constitution. Bedford was born in 1747 in Philadelphia and attended what is now Princeton University where he roomed with James Madison. He studied law with Joseph Reed and eventually moved to Delaware, first to Dover and then to Wilmington. He represented Delaware at the Continental Congress, was a member of the Delaware legislature and was Delaware’s attorney general. Bedford had a cousin, confusingly also named Gunning Bedford, who was also an attorney, an officer in the Continental Army and governor of Delaware.


Gunning Bedford, Jr.

At the Constitutional Convention, Bedford spoke strongly for the rights of small states like Delaware. Another delegate, William Pearce, described him as “… a bold and nervous Speaker, and has a very commanding and striking manner; -but he is warm and impetuous in his temper, and precipitate in his judgment. Mr. Bedford is about 32 years old, and very corpulant.”

Bedford was selected by George Washington to be federal district judge for Delaware. He held this position until he died in 1812.

Lombardy Hall was Bedford’s country home; he also had a town house in Wilmington at 606 Market St. After his death Lombardy Hall went through several owners and eventually became vacant. In 1967 it was purchased by the local Masonic Lodge (Bedford was the first Masonic Grand Master of Delaware) and restored. It is open to the public by appointment only.

Photos from: Wikimedia Commons

For more information: Conrad, Henry C. Gunning Bedford Junior. Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol 26, 1900.

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