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George Bradshaw (1800–1853),
by Richard Evans, 1841
29 July 1801|
Windsor Bridge, Pendleton, Lancashire, England
|Died||6 September 1853
Cause of death
|Known for||Bradshaw's guides and timetables|
|Religion||Society of Friends|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Bradshaw's railway guides
- 3 Great British Railway Journeys/Great Continental Railway Journeys
- 4 See also
- 5 Sources
- 6 References
- 7 External links
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. 
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.  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.  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.
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 cemetery adjoining the cathedral in Oslo.
Bradshaw's railway guides
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. 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.
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.  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. Soon the book, in the familiar yellow wrapper, 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.
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. In April 1845, the issue number jumped from 40 to 141: 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.
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.
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'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.
Bradshaw's and other printed timetables today
In December 2007, the Middleton Press 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 can 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, 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. It is said that even for those with keen eyesight the Middleton Press version is impossible to read with the naked eye.
A third publisher, UK Rail Timetables, has been set up to produce printed timetables, but announced publishing dates (or seasons) have been repeatedly missed.
The problem faced by such publishers is that all franchised train operating companies in Britain are obliged to produce free booklets for their own services, while many passengers also obtain timetable information from the website of National Rail Enquiries or third-party ticket retailers. It may well be that the majority of purchasers of hard-copy editions are railway enthusiasts rather than ordinary rail users, although the hard copies do continue to be bought by many reference libraries.[original research?]
Great British Railway Journeys/Great Continental Railway Journeys
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 is being 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.
At the end of 2012, a new series, Great Continental Railway Journeys, was broadcast featuring 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.
- Edward H. Milligan. British Quakers in Commerce & Industry 1775-1920. 2007. William Sessions of York. Page 61.
- Chisholm 1911.
- Boase & 1886 p. 175.
- Thomas, Trefor. "George Bradshaw and Bradshaw’s Manchester Journal: 1841–1843", Manchester Region History Review, Maidment, 17ii vol. qxd, 24 July 2006, p. 63
- Guardian (Manchester). 7 September 1903.
- The Railway Magazine, January 1950
- Jones, Kevin P (26 November 2011). "Biographies of chairmen, managers & other senior railway officers". SteamIndex. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
- Anon. "Bradshaw's Guide 1866". Middleton Press. Middleton Press. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
- Burnand, F. C. Cox and Box, 1866, reprinted at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 21 August 2012
- "Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide: 9781908402479: Amazon.com: Books". Amazon.com. 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2013-08-20.
- Bradshaw-Mitchell's Rail Times
- TSO Online Bookshop - Bookshop
- UK Rail Timetables Ltd
- Anon. "Newman Indian Bradshaw - A Guide for Railway Travellers in India". Jain Book Agency. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
- Anon (24 January 2012). "Railway to go: Thousands rush to buy Victorian guidebook". The Daily Mail (Associated Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 2 December 2013.
- Kerr, Michael (9 Nov 2012). "Bradshaw: the man behind the guide". The Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited). Retrieved 2 December 2013.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bradshaw, George". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Boase, George Clement (1886). "Bradshaw, George". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 6. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 174–175. 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bradshaw's Guide.|
- A digitalised version of the 1866 edition of Bradshaw's handbook for tourists in Great Britain & Ireland
- A single, comprehensive site introducing Bradshaw and the company named after him and the various facsimile editions currently available of Bradshaw publications.