Prosperous draper of Newcastle upon Tyne and staunch pillar of WM, he was born at Eastgate, Weardale on 25 August 1817, the son of Cuthbert and Ann Bainbridge. They were a devout WM family. He built up a progressive department store in Newcastle, with associated manufacturing and wholesale activities. (The family business was eventually sold to the John Lewis Partnership in 1952.) He became a local preacher and a leading member of Brunswick WM chapel, Newcastle. He was one of the first lay representatives to the WM Conference in 1878. Keen to promote evangelism, he actively encouraged the visits to England, and the north-east in particular, of Phoebe Palmer in 1859 and Moody and Sankey in 1873.
His sister Elizabeth became the second wife of Luke Tyerman. Another sister, Jane Margaret Bainbridge (19 November 1813 - 1873), on 11 March 1837 at City Road Chapel married John Kirsop (d.1871) of the London firm of Morrison, Dillon & Co. They lived in London until 1859 when they moved to Redgate Hall, Wolsingham. Returning from a trip abroad in 1873, she died in London at the home of her brother-in-law, Luke Tyerman. Among her bequests were £1,000 each to Barnardo's and the NCHO, and £500 for poor widows in Weardale.
Two of his sons, Cuthbert Bainbridge (1840-1872), a Weardale farmer and close friend of T.B. Stephenson, and Thomas Hudson Bainbridge (1842-1912) espoused these causes. The former was commemorated by the building of memorial churches at Heaton Road, Newcastle (1885) and at Eastgate (1891). The latter, influenced by T. Champness and H.P. Hughes, had a fine record of religious and philanthropic service, promoting Home Mission 'Gospel Cars' and joining with W.H. Stephenson to found the Newcastle Mission.
Only the youngest of his sons, Emerson Mushchamp Bainbridge junior (1845-1911), did not enter the family business. Born in Newcastle on 23 December 1845 and educated at Wesley College, Sheffield, he studied mathematics and mining engineering at Durham University and had a highly successful career in colliery and railway management. From 1895 to 1900 he was Liberal MP for Gainsborough. A lifelong Methodist, he was chairman of the Federation of Free Churches, built a miners' orphanage and the model village of New Bolsover, Derbyshire and a home for waifs and strays in Sheffield, besides supporting the West London Mission, the YMCA and the Salvation Army. He died in London on 12 May 1911 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery.