I understand your frustration and that PhD funding is extremely competitive. However, it's important to note that Northern Bridge will not be the only partnership fund that will offer studentships. It is worth contacting these institutions that were interested in you and investigating their funding opportunities if they were so keen to take on your research; my PhD scholarship is actually from the university itself and I know of other students at different universities who have received similar opportunities.
Moreover, I am unsure of your specific subject area, but it is worth investigating the research council associated with your subject pathway. For example, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) offers studentships at a range of universities. This studentship covers a variety of subject pathways (Business and Management; Linguistics; Politics and International studies; Psychology; Science; Technology and Sustainability Studies; Social Anthropology; Social Work and Social Policy; Socio-Legal Studies; and Sociology). There are similar research councils which also offer studentships for other subjects, such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which covers Natural Sciences, Computing, Engineering and Mathematics.
Again, if you contact specific universities, they should be able to direct you to their available funding opportunities. Funding is extremely competitive, which I'm aware can be very frustrating, however it is, unfortunately, part of the PhD application process. I'm sure it has nothing to do with your age and that your life/career experience would be looked on favourably, so please do not give up!
Best of luck with everything!
University of Kent Student Rep (2nd year PhD Psychology)