George Bradshaw

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George Bradshaw
G Bradshaw.jpg
George Bradshaw (1800–1853),
by Richard Evans, 1841
Born (1801-07-29)29 July 1801
Windsor Bridge, Pendleton, Lancashire, England
Died 6 September 1853(1853-09-06) (aged 52)
Oslo, Norway
Cause of death Cholera
Known for Bradshaw's guides and timetables
Children 2

George Bradshaw (29 July 1801 – 6 September 1853) was an English cartographer, printer and publisher. He developed Bradshaw's Guide, a widely sold series of combined railway guides and timetables.


Bradshaw was born at Windsor Bridge, Pendleton, in Salford, Lancashire. On leaving school he was apprenticed to an engraver named Beale in Manchester, and in 1820 he set up his own engraving business in Belfast, returning to Manchester in 1822 to set up as an engraver and printer, principally of maps. [1]

He was a religious man. Although his parents were not exceptionally wealthy, when he was young they enabled him to take lessons from a minister devoted to the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. He joined the Society of Friends (the Quakers) and gave a considerable part of his time to philanthropic work. [1] He worked a great deal with radical reformers such as Richard Cobden in organising peace conferences and in setting up schools and soup kitchens for the poor of Manchester. [2]

It is his belief as a Quaker that is quoted as causing the early editions of Bradshaw's guides to have avoided using the names of months based upon Roman deities which was seen as "pagan" usage. Quaker usage was, and sometimes still is, "First month" for January, "Second month" for February and so on. Days of the week were "First day" for Sunday and so on.

In 1841, he founded a high-quality weekly magazine, edited by George Falkner, called Bradshaw's Manchester Journal, described as "a 16-page miscellany of art, science and literature, to sell at the cheap price of a penny-halfpenny a week. ... After the first six months, it was renamed Bradshaw’s Journal: A Miscellany of Literature, Science and Art, and the place of publication moved to London, where the title was taken on by William Strange", but the journal survived only until 1843.[3]

He married on 15 May 1839. While touring Norway in 1853 he contracted cholera and died in September of that year without being able to return to England. He is interred in the Gamlebyen cemetery about a mile from the cathedral in Oslo. His gravestone is on the left as you enter the gate near Oslo hospital [2][4][5]

Bradshaw's railway guides

Early history

Bradshaw's name was already known as the publisher of Bradshaw's Maps of Inland Navigation, which detailed the canals of Lancashire and Yorkshire, when, on 19 October 1839, soon after the introduction of railways, his Manchester company published the world's first compilation of railway timetables. The cloth-bound book was entitled Bradshaw's Railway Time Tables and Assistant to Railway Travelling and cost sixpence (2½p). In 1840 the title was changed to Bradshaw's Railway Companion, and the price raised to one shilling.[1] A new volume was issued at occasional intervals and from time to time a supplement kept this up to date. The original Bradshaw publications were published before the limited introduction of standardised Railway time in November 1840, and its subsequent development into standard time. The accompanying map of all lines in operation (and some "in progress") in England and Wales, is cited as being the world's first national railway map.[6]

In December 1841, acting on a suggestion made by his London agent, William Jones Adams, Bradshaw reduced the price to the original sixpence, and began to issue the guides monthly under the title Bradshaw's Monthly Railway Guide. [1] Many railway companies were unhappy with Bradshaw's timetable, but Bradshaw was able to circumvent this by becoming a railway shareholder and by putting his case at company AGMs.[7] Soon the book, in the familiar yellow wrapper,[2] became synonymous with its publisher: for Victorians and Edwardians alike, a railway timetable was "a Bradshaw", no matter by which railway company it had been issued, or whether Bradshaw had been responsible for its production or not.

Timetable for York, Scarborough, Pickering & Whitby. Timetable shows times for both weekdays and Sundays, distances in miles, and fares.
Timetable from the 1850 Bradshaw

The eight-page edition of 1841 had grown to 32 pages by 1845 and to 946 pages by 1898 and now included maps, illustrations and descriptions of the main features and historic buildings of the towns served by the railways.[8] In April 1845, the issue number jumped from 40 to 141:[7] the publisher claimed this was an innocent mistake, although it has been speculated as a commercial ploy, where more advertising revenue could be generated by making it look longer-established than it really was. Whatever the reason for the change, the numbering continued from 141.

When in 1865 Punch praised Bradshaw's publications, it stated that "seldom has the gigantic intellect of man been employed upon a work of greater utility." At last, some order had been imposed on the chaos that had been created by some 150 rail companies whose tracks criss-crossed the country and whose largely uncoordinated network was rapidly expanding. Bradshaw minutely recorded all changes and became the standard manual for rail travel well into the 20th century.

By 1918 Bradshaw's guide had risen in price to two shillings (10p) and by 1937 to half a crown (12½p). Although historic money values are difficult to calculate, this would have been equivalent to perhaps £6.00 at 2009 values.

Later history

Bradshaw's timetables became less necessary from 1923, when more than 100 surviving companies were "grouped" into the Big Four. This change reduced dramatically the range and number of individual timetables produced by the companies themselves. They now published a much smaller number of substantial compilations which between them covered the country.

Between 1923 and 1939 three of the Big Four transferred their timetable production to Bradshaw's publisher Henry Blacklock & Co., and most of the official company timetables therefore became reprints of the relevant pages from Bradshaw. Only the Great Western Railway retained its own format.

Between the two world wars, the verb 'to Bradshaw' was a derogatory term used in the Royal Air Force to refer to pilots who could not navigate well, perhaps related to a perceived lack of ability shown by those who navigated by following railway lines.

When the railways were nationalised in 1948, five of the six British Railways Regions followed the companies' example by using Blacklock to produce their timetable books, but production was eventually moved to other publishers. This change must have reduced Blacklock's revenue substantially. Parts of Bradshaw's guide began to be reset in the newer British Railways style from 1955, but modernisation of the whole volume was never completed. By 1961 Bradshaw cost 12s 6d (62½p), and a complete set of BR Regional timetables could be bought for 6s (30p).

The conclusion was inevitable, and the last edition, No. 1521, was dated May 1961. The Railway Magazine of that month printed a valedictory article by Charles E. Lee.

Reprints of various Bradshaw's guides have been produced.

References in literature

19th-century and early 20th-century novelists make frequent references to a character's "Bradshaw". Dickens refers it in his short story The Portrait-Painter's Story (1861). In Around the World in 80 Days, Phileas Fogg carries a Bradshaw.

Crime writers were fascinated with trains and timetables, especially as a new source of alibis. Examples are Ronald Knox's The Footsteps at the Lock (1928) and novels by Freeman Wills Crofts. Perhaps the most famous mention is by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the Sherlock Holmes story The Valley of Fear: "the vocabulary of Bradshaw is nervous and terse, but limited." Other references include another Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches; Lewis Carroll's long poem Phantasmagoria; and Bram Stoker's Dracula, which makes note of Count Dracula reading an "English Bradshaw's Guide" as part of his planning for his voyage to England. In the 1866 comic opera Cox and Box, the following exchange takes place:

BOX: Have you read this month's Bradshaw, sir?
COX: No, sir. My wife wouldn’t let me.[9]

There is also a reference in Death in the Clouds (1935) by Agatha Christie: "Mr Clancy, writer of detective stories ... extracted a Continental Bradshaw from his raincoat pocket ... to work out a complicated alibi." Bradshaw is also mentioned in her The Secret Adversary. In Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (1938), the second Mrs de Winter observes that "Some people have a vice of reading Bradshaws. They plan innumerable journeys across country for the fun of linking up impossible connections." (chapter 2). Another reference is in an aside in Riddle of the Sands (1903) by Erskine Childers: "... an extraordinary book, Bradshaw, turned to from habit, even when least wanted, as men fondle guns and rods in the close season."

In G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, the protagonist Gabriel Syme praises Bradshaw as a poet of order: "No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!" In Max Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson (1911), a satirical fantasy of Oxford undergraduates, a Bradshaw is listed as one of the two books in the "library" of the irresistible Zuleika.

Bradshaw is mentioned in modern novels with a period setting, and in Philip Pullman's The Shadow in the North (Sally Lockhart Quartet).

Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide

In June 1847 the first number of Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide was issued, giving the timetables of the Continental railways. It grew to over 1,000 pages, including timetables, guidebook and hotel directory. It was discontinued in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. Briefly resurrected in the interwar years, it saw its final edition in 1939. The 1913 edition was republished in September 2012.[10]

Bradshaw's and other printed timetables today

In December 2007, the Middleton Press[11] took advantage of Network Rail's willingness to grant third-party publishers the right to print paper versions of the National Rail timetable. Network Rail had discontinued official hard copies in favour of PDF editions, which could be downloaded without charge.

As a tribute to Bradshaw, Middleton Press named its timetables the Bradshaw-Mitchell's Rail Times. A competing edition reproduced from Network Rail's artwork, is published by TSO,[12] This is a same-size reproduction of the Network Rail artwork, although the size is only about 70% in the Middleton Press versions to reduce the page count. A third publisher, UK Rail Timetables,[13] The main timetable for Indian Railways is still known as the Newman Indian Bradshaw.[14]

Great British Railway Journeys/Great Continental Railway Journeys

Former British politician Michael Portillo used a copy of what was described as a Bradshaw's guide (the 1863 edition of Bradshaw's Descriptive Railway Hand-Book of Great Britain and Ireland) for Great British Railway Journeys, a BBC Two television series in which he travelled across Britain, visiting recommended points of interest noted in Bradshaw's guide book, and where possible staying in recommended hotels.

The first series was broadcast in early 2010, a second in early 2011, a third in early 2012, and a fourth in early 2013; series 5 was broadcast in January and February 2014. The success of the series sparked a new interest in the guides and facsimile copies of the 1863 edition became an unexpected best seller in the UK in 2011.[15]

At the end of 2012, a new series, Great Continental Railway Journeys, was broadcast with Portillo using the 1913 edition of Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide to make journeys through various European countries and territories, prompting two publishers to produce facsimiles of the handbook. A second series was broadcast in 2013.[16]

See also


  • Edward H. Milligan. British Quakers in Commerce & Industry 1775-1920. 2007. William Sessions of York. Page 61.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Chisholm 1911.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Boase & 1886 p. 175.
  3. Thomas, Trefor. "George Bradshaw and Bradshaw’s Manchester Journal: 1841–1843", Manchester Region History Review, Maidment, 17ii vol. qxd, 24 July 2006, p. 63
  4. Guardian. Manchester. 7 September 1903. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. The Railway Magazine, January 1950
  6. Page 6
  7. 7.0 7.1 Jones, Kevin P (26 November 2011). "Biographies of chairmen, managers & other senior railway officers". SteamIndex. Retrieved 7 January 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Anon. "Bradshaw's Guide 1866". Middleton Press. Middleton Press. Retrieved 2 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Burnand, F. C. Cox and Box, 1866, reprinted at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 21 August 2012
  10. "Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide: 9781908402479: Books". 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2013-08-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Bradshaw-Mitchell's Rail Times
  12. TSO Online Bookshop - Bookshop
  13. UK Rail Timetables Ltd
  14. Anon. "Newman Indian Bradshaw - A Guide for Railway Travellers in India". Jain Book Agency. Retrieved 3 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Anon (24 January 2012). "Railway to go: Thousands rush to buy Victorian guidebook". The Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Kerr, Michael (9 Nov 2012). "Bradshaw: the man behind the guide". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 2 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bradshaw, George". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBoase, George Clement (1886). "Bradshaw, George". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 174–175.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Endnotes:
  • Manchester Guardian, 17 Sept. 1853, p. 7
  • Minutes of Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers (1854), xiii. 145-9
  • Athenæum, 27 Dec. 1873, p. 872, 17 Jan. 1874, p. 95, 24 Jan. p. 126
  • Notes and Queries, 6th ser., viii. 45, 92, 338, xi, 15.


Place of publication is London, unless otherwise specified.

  • Fellows, Canon R. B., "Bradshaw", Railway Magazine, vol 76 (1935), 391-2
  • Fitzgerald, Percy, The Story of Bradshaw's Guide], The Leadenhall Press, 1890, 76 p., ill
  • Guilcher, G, "la restructuration du temps par les chemins de fer, le Railway Time", Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens (Montpellier, France), N° 51 (April 2000), p 61-86
  • Guilcher, G, "Les guides Bradshaw (Londres et Manchester 1844-1939), notes bibliographiques' in Lettre du Marché du livre, Paris, N° 79 ( 26-3-2001), p 6-9
  • Lee, Charles E, "The Centenary of Bradshaw", Railway Gazette, 1940, 48 p, ill
  • Lomax, E S, "Bradshaw, the Timetable Man", The Antiquarian Book Monthly Review, vol II, N° 9 and 10 (Sept-Oct 1975), p 2-10 and 13-16, ill (extremely well-researched, contains the fullest list of Brashaw publications)
  • Reach, Angus B, The Comic Bradshaw: or Bubbles from the Boiler, illustrated by H. G. Hine, D. Bogue, 1848, 64 p (an extremely funny period piece)
  • Rudolph, K H, "Fun on Bradshaw" Railway Magazine, vol 102 (1956), pp. 253–4
  • Simmons, Jack, The Express Train and Other Railway Studies, Nairn, David St John Thomas, 1994: "Chapter 12 - Bradshaw", pp. 173–193 (an authoritative study by the dean of railway historians)
  • Smith, G Royde, The History of Bradshaw, a Centenary Review of the Origin and Growth of the Most Famous Guide in the World, London/ Manchester, H. Blacklock, 1939, 76p, many illustrations & facsimile (the official history sponsored by Bradshaw)

The importance of advertisements in the Bradshaw Guides should be stressed. They are an invaluable source of information on all trades of the time, not unlike John Murray's Handbooks, but on a much larger scale (hundreds of pages in a single volume).

External links