A great benefactor of the town, Master inherited the collection from her step-mother, Frances Hannah Bridge, whose brother, Thomas Man Bridge (1809-1883) collected the artworks. In the 1860s he and his sister Frances moved to Shakespeare Lodge, Folkestone, where he died in 1883.

Bridge was a solicitor by profession and a collector of Old Master drawings. Collecting such works became a pastime among the wealthy in the 1700s and 1800s. Most of these collections were eventually broken up and sold or given to national collections like the British

Library; the Master Collection is a rare one person collection of international significance held by a provincial institution.

Gems in the collection include studies by the 17th century artists: Il Guercino; Agostino Carracci; and Jusepe de Ribera; plus a rare 16th century pen-and-ink by Perino del Vaga, a pupil of Raphael. Bridge favoured Italian artists, especially of the Bolognese School, but also collected Dutch and French works. British art also features, with works by Reinagle, Callcott, Prout, W.J. Muller, and Collins.