He lived in the county of Devon in South West England and reportedly had 17 children. John Lethbridge was a wool merchant based in Newton Abbot who invented a diving machine in 1715 that was used to salvage valuables from wrecks. This machine was an airtight oak barrel that allowed “the diver” to submerge long enough to retrieve underwater material.
In Lethbridge’s words:
After testing this machine in his garden pond (specially built for the purpose) Lethbridge dived on a number of wrecks: four English men-of-war, one East Indiaman (both English and Dutch), two Spanish galleons and a number of galleys.
He became very wealthy as a result of his salvages. One of his better-known recoveries was on the Dutch Slot ter Hooge, which had sunk off Madeira with over three tons of silver on board.
Lethbridge is buried in Wolborough church, Newton Abbot.