Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bradley - Building on a Name

During the 1930s building contractor E.H. Bradley was averaging more than 300 houses a year - and they also built Avebury stone circle as well!

In 1939 when marmalade millionaire Alexander Keiller, owner of Avebury Manor, set about renovating the henge, he employed Swindon builder Edwin Bradley to reconstruct the Neolithic stone circle.

Not the biggest project the firm would ever undertake but arguably the most prestigious. Apparently Keiller was to complain that he paid the bill while Bradley's enjoyed the glory.

Edwin Henry Bradley was born at Iffley Road, Cowley in Oxford in 1865, the youngest of William and Helen Bradley's three sons. The son of a bricklayer, Edwin followed his father into the construction, but it was his marriage to milliner Caroline Hubert in 1894 that was to kick start his ambition.

Edwin recognised the building opportunities in neighbouring Swindon and in 1896 moved his growing young family to a small terrace house in Quarry Road where he began work as a foreman for Joseph Williams.

It was his employer's bankruptcy in 1901 that proved to be the catalyst for the Bradley empire when Edwin made the decision to go into business for himself.

In 1902 the family moved into 71 Goddard Avenue where he built 21 terraced houses in a matter of twelve months, followed by 101 houses in Ferndale Road.

Edwin submitted building applications for 24 houses in Kingshill Road in 1914 and a further on Wroughton Road in 1915 before the First World War called a halt to his operations.

Hubert Bradley, Edwin's eldest son, enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps on September 7, 1914 returning to Swindon upon discharge from the army nearly five years later.

Edwin celebrated his safe return by changing the company name. Edwin H. Bradley & Son, proudly boasted that they were 'Builders & Contractors, Quarrymen, Lime Burners & Builders Merchants, Contractors to the Swindon Corporation & Royal Engineers, Chisledon Camp.

Bradley's survived the post war depression and the 1930s saw the firm at the top of their trade, and things could only get better.

In the 1950s Bradley homes were built on post war Swindon developments at Greenmeadow and Nythe. And in 1980 Princess Anne opened the Westlea Down Show Village, a 600 acre site to the west of the developing town. The area comprised 288 acres residential, 71 acres industrial and commercial, a 36 acre District Centre and 44 acres for schooling with a further 95 acres designated for open space.

Edwin Bradley was the archetypal self made man, whose work was his hobby and who never lost interest in the firm. He died on November 5, 1956 aged 91. The previous day he had been out with son Lionel, touring some of the company's building sites.

images - E.H. Bradley; men at work reconstructing the Avebury stone circle courtesy of 'Bradley - Building on a Name' the History of Edwin H. Bradley and Sons Ltd.,

1 comment:

  1. I wondered if there are any articles or pictures of Stratton, particularly the Victorian houses on Highworth Road, formerly Hill Top View, built in 1904.