BRADSHAW, Thomas (1733-74), of Hampton Court, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



30 Nov. 1767 - 1768
1768 - May 1772
8 June 1772 - 6 Nov. 1774

Family and Education

b. 25 Jan. 1733. m. Nov. 1757, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Robert Wilson, London merchant, of Woodford, Essex, 4s. 2da. Her sis. m. Anthony Chamier.

Offices Held

Clerk in the War Office c.1757-59, first clerk 1759-61; chief clerk at Treasury Dec. 1761-Feb. 1763; commr. of taxes Feb. 1763-Aug 1767; sec. to Treasury Aug. 1767-Aug. 1770; ld. of Admiralty Apr. 1772- d.


Bradshaw began life in humble circumstances (according to Junius he was a ‘clerk to a contractor for forage’1). His first patron was Lord Barrington, his chief at the War Office, who, on becoming chancellor of the Exchequer in 1761, brought Bradshaw to the Treasury. During the following six years Bradshaw was an important civil servant, and formed connexions with several influential politicians, including the Duke of Grafton. It was Grafton who, as first lord of the Treasury, appointed Bradshaw its secretary,2and brought him into Parliament for the Government borough of Harwich.

Despite his experience in Government administration, Bradshaw henceforth regarded himself primarily as Grafton’s confidential man of business for both public and private affairs. He assisted Grafton with the general election of 1768, and came to occupy a key post in Government as Grafton’s link with North. He aided and encouraged Grafton in his wish to be rid of Shelburne; and in the summer of 1768, when Grafton wanted to divorce his duchess, he sent Bradshaw to obtain evidence of her adultery.

When Grafton resigned in January 1770 he obtained for Bradshaw the reversion for two lives of the office of auditor general of the plantations (‘worth upwards of £2500 a year, and which may, and possibly will, be worth double that sum’3), and a pension of £1500 a year until it became vacant. Bradshaw remained at the Treasury, at Grafton’s and North’s request,4 only to induct John Robinson into his new duties. He wrote to Grafton on 23 Aug. 1770:5

You say, my Lord, that you wish me to remain in the Treasury for my own sake, for that of my family, and even for yours. Your bounty has made the two first reasons of no weight ... All your Grace’s friends, as well as mine, know from me that I leave the Treasury because you are no longer at the head of it. I have a high esteem for Lord North, but I cannot transfer that warmth of attachment which is necessary for my situation to whoever sits at that Board ... I wish for no office but under you; and under you there is no employment, however trifling in value, of which I shall not be ambitious, whenever you return to the King’s service.

Bradshaw remained in close touch with Government circles, and acted as Grafton’s agent with Administration. In July 1770 he hinted to North, with Grafton’s approval, that Grafton would like to go to the Admiralty; and he continued to watch over Grafton’s interests in this matter.6 In April 1772 he was made a lord of the Admiralty, and on standing for re-election at Saltash was defeated but returned on petition. He is not known to have spoken in debate.

William Hickey, who knew the family, wrote of Bradshaw’s ‘gay and social disposition’ and his ‘unbounded extravagance’.7 And Bradshaw wrote to Robert Murray Keith on 11 Mar. 1773:8 ‘Some acts of friendship, and some of extravagancy, have distressed me for some months in money matters; but, I am growing a little fatter in the purse, and will soon pay my debt.’

He died 6 Nov. 1774. C. W. Cornwall wrote to Charles Jenkinson on 7 Nov.:9 ‘Poor Bradshaw died of a fever in town yesterday morning ... His affairs, as you will easily imagine, are in a sad condition, and the distress of his family not to be described.’ But according to Horace Walpole Bradshaw committed suicide,10 and the story is repeated in the Last Journals:11 ‘His vanity had carried him to great excesses of profusion, and, being overwhelmed with debts, he shot himself.’

His will,12 dated 19 May 1773, is a curious document. There is no mention of any real property, and all his personal property he left to his wife. The greater part of the will deals with the disposal of the profits of the auditorship-general of the plantations, an office he held only in reversion and to which he never succeeded. Trustees (one of whom was Anthony Chamier) were to pay allowances of £200 a year to Bradshaw’s wife, his three younger sons, and his daughter; Elizabeth Worsley (probably an illegitimate daughter) was to receive £50 a year; and the remainder was to go to his eldest son. Shortly after his death his widow was given a secret service pension of £500 a year, and his two younger sons and daughter were given pensions of £100 a year.

Bradshaw left his papers to Anthony Chamier: their present location is unknown. A box of papers was to be delivered to the Duke of Grafton: there are letters from Bradshaw to Grafton in the Grafton manuscripts, but none of Bradshaw’s papers.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Junius to Grafton, 14 Feb. 1770.
  • 2. Grafton to Chatham, 8 Jan. 1767, Chatham mss.
  • 3. Bradshaw to R. M. Keith, 16 Apr. 1773, Add. 35505, f. 171.
  • 4. Grafton, Autobiog. 257.
  • 5. Grafton mss.
  • 6. Bradshaw to Grafton, 24 July 1770, ibid. See also Autobiog. 260-3.
  • 7. Mems. i. 319.
  • 8. Add. 35505, f. 83.
  • 9. Add. 38470, f. 146.
  • 10. See Walpole’s letters to Lord Strafford, 11 Nov. 1774, to Mann, 14 Nov., and to Lady Upper Ossory, 14 Nov.
  • 11. Vol. i. 407.
  • 12. PCC 387 Bargrave.