BRADSHAW, Robert Haldane (1759-1835), of Worsley Hall, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



14 Dec. 1802 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 23 Aug. 1759, 1st s. of Thomas Bradshaw of Hampton Court, Mdx. by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Robert Wilson, corn merchant, of Woodford, Essex. educ. ?Harrow.1 m. Cornelia Thornhill Rowe, 2s. suc. fa. 1774.

Offices Held

Clerk, Pay Office c.1777; dep. paymaster, W.I. c.1780; auditor-gen. of plantations.


Bradshaw’s father, the Duke of Grafton’s factotum, left his affairs in disarray and his family became state pensioners, except for Robert, who inherited the reversion of the lucrative auditorship of plantations and was meanwhile placed in the Pay Office. By 1800 he was the canal-building 3rd Duke of Bridgwater’s man of business, in much the same way as his father had attached himself to Grafton. By Bridgwater’s will in 1803 he was appointed one of the three trustees of the estate and sole superintendent at a salary of £2,000 p.a. plus expenses, with power to name his successor. He was provided with residences at Worsley and Runcorn. In 1810 he doubled canal tolls, the average profit from 1806 to 1826 being £45,000 p.a. (about 13 per cent). He also prospered on his own account, investing in the sale of coal in Lancashire, in East India stock and in a country estate at Woodmans, Hertfordshire. When he was manoeuvred into resignation of his position in 1834, he contracted to sell his properties near the Bridgwater canal for £47,000, as well as another estate near Brackley.2

Shortly before the duke died, he returned Bradshaw for his pocket borough of Brackley, intending that he should be attentive to his canal interest and shield its monopoly. Bradshaw retained the seat and a say in the choice of his colleague (under the Marquess of Stafford’s patronage) for 30 years, unopposed. He is not known to have spoken in debate before 1820 and made little mark at Westminster, where he followed his patron’s line intermittently. He voted for Pitt’s question for the orders of the day, 3 June 1803, and his motion for naval inquiry, 15 Mar. 1804. He was listed a supporter of Pitt then and during his second administration.

He went on to support Grenville’s ministry, voting for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, 9 Apr. 1807. In February he had asked the prime minister for promotion for his son James in the navy.3 He was in 1810 listed a government supporter and paired on their side on the Scheldt inquiry, 30 Mar. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. He was a member of the select committee on the cotton trade depression appointed on 5 June 1811. He was listed a Treasury supporter after the election of 1812. He paired against Catholic relief, 24 May 1813. In the summer of 1814 he visited France. On 18 Mar. 1816 he paired against government on the property tax, and he voted against the leather tax, 9 May; but he was in the majorities on the army estimates, 8 Mar., and the civil list, 6 May. He again showed up to vote against Catholic relief, 9 May 1817. He supported government employment of informers, 5 Mar. 1818, and voted against investigation of the education of the poor, 3 June. He voted with ministers against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819; for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June; and stayed in town until 23 Dec. to support government legislation against radicalism. In August the prime minister had found a place for his son William Rigby Bradshaw on the board of taxes.4

Bradshaw died 8 Jan. 1835, ‘beyond all doubt’, his precondition for the fastening down of his coffin.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 77. Bradshaw certainly had three brothers at Harrow.
  • 2. B. Falk, The Bridgwater Millions, 118; F. C. Mather, After the Canal Duke (1970), 2, 6, 7, 9, 12.
  • 3. Fortescue mss, Bradshaw to Grenville, 21 Mar. 1807.
  • 4. Add. 38279, f. 47.
  • 5. PCC 62 Gloucester.