The start of a great enterprise

In childhood days, the world was centred on our small corner of Somerset. What place could be more important than one that claimed Arthur and Alfred? What shire of England could be more sacred than the green and pleasant land trod by Joseph of Arimathea and the young Jesus of Nazareth?

Of course, the passing years brought a realization that childhood imaginings bore little relation to reality. Yet the odd notion remained, one of which was that Bradfords, now one of the country’s largest building supplies companies were local, and local as being from Langport.

My mother was so certain that my notion was correct that I decided an online search was in order. The Bradford Group will hopefully not mind the text of their “History and Background” page being reproduced:

16th Century

The story about the Bradford family and the company they founded can be traced back to the mid-16th Century. The Bradfords were Yeoman and Freeholders in Kingsbury Episcopi, Somerset. The first to appear in the parish register was of one Nicholas Bradford who was born during the reign of Henry VIII and died in 1586 in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Probably the first Bradford to have started trading other than purely as a result of farming, was one William Bradford, born 1750, who lived at Thorney. William Bradford owned quarries at Pibsbury, which produced lime for fertiliser, and chartered small vessels to carry Welsh coal to Bridgwater.


During the reign of George III, William Bradford married Ann Richards, who was the granddaughter of William Richards, the Lord of the Manor of Stapleton in 1650. She joined her husband in the running of the business and took over from him when he died in 1806. Shortly after this she was joined by her son Job.

In 1819, Ann died, and in the following six or seven years barge traffic became more and more profitable along canals which were being built on a large scale, prior to the advent of the railway.


By this time, the Great Western Railway line had been opened from Taunton to Yeovil, and Jabez started the Yeovil branch of the business in 1853. His brother William Theophilus Bradford joined him in the business, whilst their brother, John Wesley Bradford remained with his father at Thorney.

There was a moment of delight that a childhood perception was confirmed.  The land at Pibsbury on which William Bradford owned limestone quarries in 1750 was land that became part of the Crossman family farm in the Nineteenth Century. In the 1960s, a small boy wandering the fields at the back of the farm would have known not to wander too near the quarries. It would never have occurred to him that a major company began among these pastures.

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2 Responses to The start of a great enterprise

  1. Lucy Bradford says:

    Just came across this Ian, thank you! This is my family and I live just down the road from Thorney in Stembridge 🙌

  2. Ian says:

    It’s lovely to know the local presence continues.

    There was a story that the farmhouse at Pibsbury was owned by Palmer of Huntley and Palmer, the biscuit company, but I remember as a child being far more impressed by the thought of Bradfords coming from our community.

    My great great grandfather, Thomas Crossman of Pibsbury, worked as a haulier for Bradfords in the 1880s. Sadly, he died in a chance accident.

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