Born in Washington, County Durham, he was educated at the Royal Grammar School and Lincoln College, Oxford. Initially apprenticed as a cordwainer, he obtained a degree from Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1775 and was appointed perpetual curate of Cramlington. Brand was appointed Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1784 and was annually re-elected until his death.
He was buried in the nearby churchyard of St Mary-at-Hill. When this churchyard was cleared, his remains were moved to West Norwood Cemetery within the enclosure that the church acquired there in 1847.
Brand wrote Observations on the popular antiquities of Great Britain: Including the Whole of Mr. Bourne's Antiquitates Vulgares (1777), generally referred to as Popular Antiquities. (The incorporated work was the Popular Antiquities of Henry Bourne, published 1725, with Brand's own extensive annotations). Material from it was afterwards broadly incorporated into William Hone's Every Day Book, Year Book, etc., and in Chambers' Book of Days, which had wide popular circulation. The Popular Antiquities were further revised and enlarged by Sir Henry Ellis. The expression "popular antiquities" was overtaken in the 19th century by "folklore".
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.
- Short biography", St Andrew's Church", British History Online (see footnote 33)
- Observations on Popular Antiquities, Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of our Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies and Superstitions by John Brand: A New Edition with the additions of Sir Henry Ellis (Chatto and Windus, London 1900). (This pre-dates the alphabetical extension, revision and correction accessed below.)
- R. H. Sweet, ‘Brand, John (1744–1806)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
- The Popular Antiquities of Great Britain By Brand and Ellis, Largely Extended, Corrected, Brought Down To The Present Time, and Now First Alphabetically Arranged. London: Reeves and Turner, 1905.
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