Bradley Village

The area round Bradley has been inhabited since pre-Roman times, when it was the held by the Cornovii.

Bradley Village

Bradley ( or as it has been written in the past as Bradlely or Braidlie) owes its name from its origins as a “broad lea” or meadow, a clearing made in the surrounding woodlands. By the early years of the 11th century the area , known by then as the ‘Great Manor of Bradley’, was part of the kingdom of Mercia and was in the hands of Earl Edwin. By the Domesday ownership of the village was in the hands of Robert de Stafford, formerly known as Robert de Tonei, who had been William’s standard bearer at the Battle of Hastings.

Bradley’s parish church of St Mary’s and All Saints has existed since pre-Norman times. In Earl Edwin’s time it would have been a simple wooden building. This original building has long since disappeared, but parts of the existing building do date back to Norman times. The dedication of “All Saints” suggests that the church was constructed on a previous pagan religious site.

In addition to the church, the village did for some years possess the Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Chapel, built in the 1830s. In 1900, however, services ceased to be held here, although in the early years of the 20th century the building was used as a Reading Room. The Religious Census of 1851 indicated no disharmony between these two places of worship as service times did not clash, allowing villagers to attend both if they so wished.

In the past the village possessed two pubs. The smaller of the two, the Horse and Jockey, is believed to have served ale from the 17th century onwards. This establishment closed in 1927 and became a post office. Today it is a private residence. The more prominent of the pubs was the Red Lion (though, possibly, it was known as The Bell before 1818), which is still in existence today. This grade II listed timber framed building is believed to have served the village for 500 years or more. Besides its role as a hostelry it has fulfilled many other functions over the years, such as a meeting place for the Vestry and other village associations, such as the Bradley Association for the Prosecution of Felons. In the 19th century, particularly, it was a place where auctions were frequently held. There also existed an associated malthouse, a timber framed building which was demolished around 1933.

In 1827 the Vestry of Bradley leased a building which was to become a workhouse to accommodate the needs of the poor of the village. By an agreement between the Vestry and Joseph Lees, the latter was to appointed governor at a salary of £5 per annum. He was charged “to provide sufficient and wholesome maintenance for all such poor in the House at 3 shillings per head per week”. This system survived until the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 came into force, whereby a national network of workhouses was to be set up. By the end of the 1820s Lees had purchased the workhouse building. After the Stafford workhouse was set up in 1836 this building became a private residence.

The poor of Bradley also benefited from a variety of charities, the most notable of which is the Bradley Trust, which survives to the present day. The Trust originated from the endowment of Humphrey de Hastang in 1344. Initially it was intended to support a priest to say mass in the Lady Chapel, and supply education to the children of Bradley. After the Reformation the Lady Chapel endowments were transferred to the school, resulting in the establishment of a free school. In later centuries the Trust received further donations in the form of both property and land. Also, its responsibilities were widened to include other charitable purposes within the village.

Although for centuries support was provided for the education of Bradley children, it is uncertain where the school was situated. However, it is thought that after the establishment of the free school in 1553 the children were most likely taught in the parish church. By the 1720s it is probable that children were taught in the building adjacent to the present building, now known as the Old Schoolhouse. A new schoolroom was opened in 1858. The school closed down in 1988 and this building is now used as the Village Hall.

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