Select Bradshaw Surname Genealogy

The Bradshaw surname comes from the place-name Bradshaw primarily found in Lancashire.  Its original spelling was Bradeshaghe, from the Old English brad meaning “broad” and sceaga meaning “thicket” or “grove.”  It was first recorded in 1246 for the William de Bradeshaghe who lived in a township of that name within the parish of Bolton-le-Moors (now part of Bolton) in Lancashire.

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England.  The Bradshaw name has been mainly concentrated in Lancashire, but has also occurred from an early time in Derbyshire and Cheshire. 

Lancashire.  The Bradshaw line in Bradshaw, a district of Bolton-le-Moors in Lancashire, dates back to the 13th century. 
In 1298 William de Bradshagh and his wife Mabel took possession of Haigh Hall near Wigan which was to remain with their family for the next five hundred years.

“According to legend, Sir William Bradshaigh returned from the wars in Scotland in 1324 after having been away for ten years, promptly killed his wife's new husband and made her walk barefoot and dressed in sackcloth to their home at Haigh Hall once a week for the rest of her life.“

This account was made into a novel by Sir Walter Scott and the event is still marked by Mab's Cross on Wigan Lane.  In reality his absence from Haigh was due to his banishment by King Edward II for taking part in a rebellion against the Earl of Lancaster.

There were later two lines of Bradshaws derived from these earlier Bradshaws:
  • one, sometimes Bradshaw but styled Bradshaigh from the early 1500’s, held Haigh Hall.  They were Catholic and Royalist in sympathy but managed to survive the Civil War.  Three generations of the family were Wigan MP’s and baronets.  Their Haigh estate proved to be extremely profitable for its coal mining.  However, the last of these Bradshaighs died in 1787.   
  • the other, Bradshaw, held Bradshaw Hall in Bradshaw.  In the 17th century these Bradshaws were remarkable for their Puritanism in an area which was strongly Puritan.  However, around this time their fortunes began to decline and their manor was purchased in 1694 by Henry Bradshaw of Marple Hall in Cheshire, a nephew of the regicide John Bradshaw.  Bradshaw Hall itself survived until 1948.
Derbyshire.  Bradshawes were Foresters of Fee at Duffield Frith in Derbyshire from the early 1400’s, as the following verse by Anthony Bradshawe described:

“This forest hath foresters of fee which partly hold their land
By services therein to do, as I do understand;
Their names be Bradborne, Bradshaw, Bruckshaw, and the heirs of stone,
All which at forest courts must be with others many a one.”

Francis Bradshaw built Bradshaw Hall at Eyam around the year 1611.  His son George was a merchant in Ireland.  After his death in 1646, the story goes that his widow and daughter
fled the village at the onset of the plague in 1665 and never returned.  The Bradshaw line in Derbyshire died out in the next century.

.  Henry Bradshaw migrated from Derbyshire to Cheshire in the early 1600’s and acquired Marple Hall.  His grandson John Bradshaw
was the High Court judge who presided over the trial of Charles 1 in 1649; his great grandson Henry Bradshaw purchased the Bradshaw estate in Lancashire.

Marple Hall was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a Cavalier who wooed the daughter of a Roundhead Bradshaw.  The Cavalier drowned in the river below the Hall in sight of her window.  The Hall ended up with Henry Bradshaw-Isherwood and later with the writer Christopher Isherwood in the 20th century before being demolished.

The 1881 Census.
  This census showed that the county of Lancashire accounted for almost 40% of all the Bradshaws in England.  The name was particularly concentrated in townships around Manchester such as Pendleton.  Bradshaws have been there since the 17th century and George Bradshaw of the Bradshaw railway timetables was born there.

Ireland.  Some Bradshaws crossed the Irish Sea to Ireland.  Robert Bradshaw from Haigh Hall came to Tipperary in 1662 and his family settled in Cullen.  A recent book,Bob Bradshaw’s Wall describing the Bradshaws who lived on Goat’s Lane in Tipperary, indicates that the name has not died out there.

There were a number of Bradshaws in Ulster, starting with Captain James Bradshaw and his wife Anne in Drumnakelly, Armagh in the 1660’s.

  Richard Bradshaw arrived as a servant in Virginia on the Temperance in 1621 and survived the Indian attack a year later.  However, Giles Bradshaw and his family were killed at that time.  Richard apparently married twice and Bradshaw lines via Zachariah Bradshaw in Stafford county, Virginia and Charles Bradshaw in Madison county, Kentucky were said to have been descended from him.

Meanwhile John Bradshaw, an indentured servant, came to Virginia in 1687 and worked and lived in Henrico county.  Bradshaws of this line were to be found along the James river in what became Goochland county and later spread across the South.

Bill Bradshaw, born in Tennessee in 1826, came west at an early age and was in California by the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1846.  He later caught the gold bug, first in California and then, together with his brother Isaac, as a pioneer in Arizona.  A contemporary described him in somewhat florid terms as follows:

“He was one of nature's most polished gentlemen and the brightest jewel in America's collection of true born chivalry. He was brave, generous, eccentric, and in simple truth a natural lunatic; in manly form and physical beauty, perfect; in muscular strength, a giant; in fleetness of foot and endurance, unequaled.”

He died by his own hand in 1864.  But he left his name to the Bradshaw Trail in Arizona and Bradshaw City and the Bradshaw Mountains.

  Abraham Bradshaw, a descendant of the early Massachusetts settler Humphrey Bradshaw, came to Nova Scotia in 1759 and made his home in Lunenburg county.  James Bradshaw, a Loyalist from Connecticut, arrived with his three sons in 1783 and eventually got a land settlement in Fredericksburgh (now Delhi), Ontario.

John Bradshaw, originally from Ulster, also crossed from America to Canada but not voluntarily.  He
was taken prisoner by Indians and brought there and kept prisoner for some time.  He was freed after taking an oath of allegiance and becoming a British subject.  He settled in Osnabruck (now South Stormont) in eastern Ontario.

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Bradshaw Names

John Bradshaw was the High Court judge who presided over the trial of Charles I in 1648.
George Bradshaw
was the 19th century English printer and publisher best known for his series of railway timetables.
Bill Bradshaw was a pioneer of the American Southwest in the 1850’s and 1860’s.
Terry Bradshaw was the quarterback who won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1970’s.

Select Bradshaws Today
  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 14,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 10,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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