London; cabinet maker, upholder and ‘tapissier’ (fl.1728–d. 1775)
William Bradshaw was a descendant of the Bradshaws of Preesal and Scales. He was probably the son of James Bradshaw, who married Elizabeth Clark at Cockerham in 1696. William was baptised in 1700 at Cockerham. Nothing further is known of his early life and training, although he later became a freeman of Lancaster.
He had workshops in Frith Street (1728–32); the ‘Gr. House’, at 27 Soho Square and 59–60 Greek Street (1732–47); at 60 Greek Street (1748–51); at no. 59 (1752–55); and in Princes Street, Hanover Square (1756–62).
Recorded in Frith Street, at premises previously occupied by Joshua Morris (1730) with the artist Tobias Stranover. They were possibly partners at this time, since a tapestry on a settee from Belton House, Lincolnhire, supplied to Lord Brownlow, is signed by both of them. It is part of a suite of walnut furniture, c. 1720, with six chairs on cabriole legs with club feet, covered with Fulham tapestry. Bradshaw and Stranover may have worked together on the Watteau tapestries for the Cabal Room at Ham House, Richmond, London, but as they are signed by W. Bradshaw only, the two craftsmen appear to have separated by 1732.
On the separation, Bradshaw moved to 27 Soho Square, with back premises at 59–60 Greek Street, probably workshops. In 1735 William Bradshaw, ‘upholder’ bound an apprentice through the Joiners’ Company for a premium of £100, a considerable amount at the time. In the same year, however, he indentured another apprentice for only £30.
He may have been the ‘Mr. Bradshaw tapestry weaver in Soho Square’ mentioned in the notebooks of John, brother of Robert Adam, on his visit to London in 1748; but it possibly refers rather to George Smith Bradshaw, since in 1747 William gave up his house in Soho Square, although retaining the premises at 60 Greek Street (1748–51), and no. 59 (1752–54). In 1755 no. 59 was taken over by George Smith Bradshaw & Co. with his partner, Paul Saunders. Both George Smith and Saunders may have been partners with William before this date. He was probably the ‘William Bradshaw Esq.’ who subscribed to Chippendale's Director, 1754.
Bradshow retired to Halton, Lancashire, which he purchased in 1743. George Smith Bradshaw was named as one of his executors, and trustee of his several estates, which included Damyns Hall, Upminster, Essex; but he and William were probably not closely related since the estate was left in trust to the son of William's niece, Sarah Fletcher. His heir, William Bradshaw Fletcher, was a minor of about fifteen years of age on his great-uncle's death. He changed his name by deed poll to ‘William Bradshaw Bradshaw’ when he inherited. He eventually built a mausoleum in Halton Churchyard (illus. Stuart (2008), pl. C2) in remembrance of his great-uncle, complete with classical urns. William Bradshaw's one-time partner and successor in the upholstery business was George Smith Bradshaw of London who was almost certainly a relative.
In a lawsuit in the 1740s William Bradshaw was described as being ‘in a large way of Trade as an upholsterer’, and several important commissions are documented:
- CHEVENING, Kent, for the 2nd Earl of Stanhope. In 1736–37 Bradshaw's bill for furniture, totalling £1,200, included joiner's, painter's and japanner's work, subcontracted. It possibly includes the gilt chairs, settees and other furniture still at the house. Bradshaw received a further £38 3s on 19 October 1737, and was supplying items in 1751.
- CLIVEDEN, Buckinghamshire, accounts, for the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall's London house in St James's Sq. In 1737 Bradshaw received £1,312 for carrying out repairs, alterations and furnishings.
- EARL OF BRISTOL's Expense Book records small payments to Bradshaw, 1738–39; and the Earl's diary, p. 156, mentions a table, bed and lining carpet bought from him.
- LONGFORD CASTLE, Wiltshire, for Lord Folkestone. From 1737–50 Bradshaw co-operated with Benjamin Goodison, providing furniture and carpets, and hanging tapestries. In 1737 he supplied a tapestry carpet for £26, and in 1750 was paid £12 15s for putting up a tapestry made by ‘Monsieur Neprune à Bruxelles’.
- HOLKHAM HALL, Norfolk, for the 1st Earl of Leicester. In 1740 Bradshaw received £185 for furniture made for the attic and rustic floors; and £85 for ‘mending tables, cabinet work and furnishing Mr. Coke's apartment in the London House’ (Thanet House). Furniture provided between 1740–47 included a Dutch tea chest, two large leather chairs, a mahogany dining table, and eighteen chairs with leather seats for the library and dining room at London. In 1742 he received £429 14s for furniture supplied to Holkham. Bradshaw is recorded as late as 1773 by M. Brettingham, completing an unfinished series of tapestries ‘hung in Mr. Coke's bedchamber’, executed by Vanderbank, from designs by F. Albini, ‘excepting the 2 door pieces (Venus, Vulcan & Cupids) which additions were manufactured by the late Mr. Bradshaw’. This refers to William, d. 1775, and not George Smith, who also worked at Holkham, d. 1812.
- DEENE PARK, Northamptonshire and DOVER HOUSE, London, for the 4th Earl of Cardigan (or Cadogan). Bradshaw's bill of 1741, totalling £70 9s 5d includes ‘making up a sett of blue Damask hangings 2 pair of Window Curtains, 14 chairs and a safoy sofa with all materials except Damask as p. estimate £63.2.10.’
- DUKE OF GORDON paid Bradshaw £50 in 1741–42 for furniture including two bedsteads on castors, and a mahogany couch ‘stuffed in linen with squabb crimson damask and linen’.
- ALSCOT PARK, Warwickshire, for Mr James West. Bradshaw submitted a bill on 28 September 1745 for ‘6 Manchineel pembroke chairs with Check Cases’, costing £7 10s. In July 1748 he was paid £29 for furniture supplied the previous year, including ‘12 Pembroke Chairs with Check Cases’, £14 8s and ‘6 Wallnuttree Library stools wth carved roses and painted’, £3 15s.
- BROOK STREET, London house of George Bowes. Bradshaw was responsible for hiring out and supplying furniture from January 1746–June 1751, including on 10 February 1748, ‘a blue and mixt Damask bed with quilt etc. and a Bed Carpet’, costing £64.
- MOULSHAM HALL, Chelmsford, Essex or SCHOMBERG HOUSE, Pall Mall, London, for Benjamin Mildmay, Earl Fitzwalter. Bradshaw is recorded in the accounts receiving a total of £529 11s 8½d between 1746–51. On 15 May 1753 he provided ‘an easie-chair and 6 matted ones’, costing £3 18s, and on 16 November a Turkey carpet, £10.
- ROBERT GILLOW, of Lancaster sent £30 to ‘William Bradshaw Esqr. in Soho Square London’ on 6 February 1746–47.
- NEWBY PARK, Yorkshire, for William Robinson. Bradshaw's bills, 1749–50, total £272, and include bedsteads and bedding, curtains, ‘2 neat Mahogany Dressing Tables’, £2 12s; ‘2 Mahogany Streight Legged Elbow Chairs on Castors’, £4 8s and ‘Mosaick Carpeting’, £9 15s for the Dining Room; and ‘8 Mahogany Fann Back Chairs Covered with black leather and Brass Nail'd’, £8 8s, with a matching elbow chair, £2 15s.
- CHISWICK VILLA and BURLINGTON HOUSE, London, for the 3rd Earl of Burlington. Bradshaw provided three couch beds on 15 December 1750 for £13; on 15 January 1751 for £12; and on 5 August 1751 for £17.
- CLEVELAND HOUSE, London. Listed in the accounts 1750–52, as an upholsterer.
- HAM HOUSE; a set of tapestries signed ‘Bradshaw’ were supplied in 1743 for the former Queen’s Bedchamber. He might also have been responsible for the upholstered seat furniture in the same room.
Source: DEFM; Kirkham, ‘London Furniture Trade’, Furniture History (1988); Stuart ‘Was William Bradshaw of Halton Hall Robert Gillow’s First London Connection?’ Quarto (1994); Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840 (2008), II, pp 307-08.