John Bradshaw 1602-1659

From Book Owners Online

John BRADSHAW or BRADSHAWE 1602-1659

Biographical Note

Born in Wibersley, Cheshire, son of Henry Bradshaw of Marple Hall; the family rose from yeoman to gentry status during the 16th century. Entered Gray’s Inn 1620, called to the Bar 1627. He developed a legal practice in Cheshire and held municipal offices there during the later 1630s. He was appointed a judge in the City of London in 1643 and rapidly gained prominence as a parliamentarian lawyer, involved in high profile cases such as the appeal of John Lilburne in 1646. In 1649 he was appointed Lord President of the court established to try Charles I, and subsequently chaired the court to try and condemn royalist delinquents. He was the first chair of the council of state set up by the Rump parliament. He remained a significant political and legal figure throughout the 1650s, despite tensions with Oliver Cromwell, and during this time acquired extensive property, granted him by parliament from the estates of dispossessed royalists. He was a member of the council of state set up in May 1659 and was active in the period of constitutional uncertainty immediately preceding the Restoration, during which he died. A year later his body was exhumed and hung alongside Cromwell and Henry Ireton.


Bradshaw bequeathed all his law books, and a selection of his “divinitie, history and other books” to his nephew Henry Bradshaw (1633-98). The extent of his library is not known; Henry also inherited books from his father in 1662 and the family library continued to be developed until sold at the end of the 18th century. Many books were acquired by James Crossley (1800-83); at his sale in 1874, a significant buyer was Adolph Sutro (1830-98) of San Francisco, and although part of his library was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, part of it was saved and is now in San Francisco State University Library. Over 100 volumes survive there today, including ca.40 volumes of bound pamphlets running to ca.1400 items; other Bradshaw family books are now in other libraries around the world.