George Bradshaw (29 July 1801 - 6 September 1853) was born at Windsor Bridge, Pendleton, Lancashire, on the 29th of July 1801. 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 in that city as an engraver and printer—principally of maps.
His name was already known as the publisher of Bradshaw’s Maps of Inland Navigation, when in 1839, soon after the introduction of railways, he published, at sixpence, Bradshaw’s Railway Time Tables, the title being changed in 1840 to Bradshaw’s Railway Companion, and the price raised to one shilling. A new volume was issued at occasional intervals, a supplementary monthly timesheet serving to keep the book up to date.
In December 1841, acting on a suggestion made by his London agent, Mr. W. J. Adams, Bradshaw reduced the price of his timetables to the original sixpence, and began to issue them monthly under the title Bradshaw’s Monthly Railway Guide. In June 1847 was issued the first number of Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide, giving the timetables of the Continental railways just as Bradshaw’s Monthly Railway Guide gave the time-tables of the railways of the United Kingdom.
Bradshaw’s guides brought order to an otherwise chaotic and rapidly expanding network, the result of Railway Mania. 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.
Bradshaw was a well-known member of the Society of Friends, and gave considerable time to philanthropic work. While touring Norway in 1853 he contracted cholera and died in September of that year, unable to return to England. He is interred in the cemetery adjoining the cathedral in Oslo.
Following the popularity of Michael Portillo’s television series, the 1863 edition of Bradshaw’s Descriptive Railway Hand-Book of Great Britain & Ireland was republished, and copies of this and other publications by Bradshaw are available from Old House Books & Maps.
A tome of considerable size, the historical insights into the places we pass everyday remain difficult to access when exploring Britain’s railways, or enduring the daily commute. Now Bradshaw’s work can be read on any device, anytime. You can also follow George Bradshaw on Foursquare and Twitter.
The first of four sections covering London and South East England is currently available. The remaining sections will be added over the coming year alongside new features and improvements; offline access and geolocation are high on the list.