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Henry Burton Bradley (1815–1894)

by B. G. Burton-Bradley

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Henry Burton Bradley (1815-1894), by unknown photographer

Henry Burton Bradley (1815-1894), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 17607

Henry Burton Bradley (1815-1894), solicitor and notary, was born in London, son of Henry Bradley, merchant, and his wife Annie Singer, née Burton, of Daventry, Northamptonshire. He was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School, London. On the death of his father he was sent to live with his uncle (Sir) William Burton, second puisne judge in the Supreme Court at the Cape of Good Hope. When Burton was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in New South Wales on 1 March 1832, Bradley sailed with him and his wife from Cape Town to Sydney in the Leda, 150 tons, which Burton chose because she carried a surgeon and no other person, and 'to avoid the greater evils of a convict or emigrant ship'.

At a loss to know what to do with Bradley in Sydney, Burton first thought of putting him into a business house, then favoured farming where he would be less exposed to the 'temptations of Sydney', and finally decided on the law because it had served him well. All this had little effect on Bradley whose quiet disposition made him, in Burton's words, 'willing poor boy to do anything I recommend'. Bradley was appointed third clerk of the Supreme Court on 8 February 1834 with a salary of £160; the Australian, 10 February, while refraining from criticism of the fitness of the appointment, declared that opportunity should have been afforded to a younger man born in the colony. Evidently one could then be too old at 19. In 1837 he was promoted second clerk at £330 a year. In 1838 he was granted eighteen months sick leave on half pay to return to England. Again the Australian, 20 August, protested saying that they had 'had the pleasure daily of seeing this young gentleman, and certainly as far as outward and visible signs can be an index to the inward man, he does not appear to be in need of a sea voyage as a renovator'. Apparently he regained his youth and later his health, for on 21 February 1840 he returned to Sydney in the Hope with his wife Charlotte Sarah, née Spedding, a niece of Lady Burton; they had been married in London on 28 August 1839.

On 3 November 1840 Bradley was admitted to practice as a solicitor with 'marks of approbation from the Court for his diligence, ability and zeal in the discharge of his public functions'. He resigned as chief clerk of the Supreme Court on 3 December 1841 and went into practice at first in partnership with D. O'Reilly. This partnership was dissolved in May 1844 and Bradley was appointed a commissioner of the Supreme Court in July. Later he had other partners including his son. In addition to his regular work as a solicitor Bradley gave evidence on behalf of his clients at several parliamentary inquiries, including the select committee on Blandford Proprietary School of which he was secretary. On 5 March 1879 he was allowed to appear at the bar of the Legislative Assembly with a petition from Chinese residents of Sydney against the Chinese immigration regulation bill; despite his erudite appeal to history, economics, health and morality, the petition had no effect. At the time of his death he was the oldest solicitor on the roll of the Supreme Court.

Bradley lived for many years at The Terraces, Paddington. In 1875 he built Llewellyn at Five Dock and lived there until his death on 22 December 1894. By his first wife he had eleven children. After she died he married on 29 March 1873 at St Luke's Church, Burwood, Louise Portia, daughter of Major Rolla O'Ferrall and Louisa, née Macnamara. She survived him, with six of their eight children, and eight children by his first marriage.

Bradley had been an ardent horticulturist and was well known to amateur gardeners of Sydney and suburbs for his improvement of bulbous plants. This enthusiasm he transmitted to many including his son Henry of the first marriage and his son Alan of the second. He founded the Model Lodging House Co. of Sydney Ltd from motives of philanthropy and was secretary in an honorary capacity until his death. For an outlay of £6000 it provided lodging at 6d. a bed each night for five hundred men who could not find other suitable accommodation. Although by nature a quiet and retiring man who wrote much verse but published little, he nevertheless participated in the social life of the city, attending concerts, levees and balls. His vital interest in the subject of sanitation is testified by his many letters on this and other health matters to the Sydney Morning Herald and by his close association with the Health Society of New South Wales, of which he was honorary secretary from its foundation. Four publications of this society are credited to him: Health (1877), House Poison (1878), Life & Death (1879), and Domestic Economy (1881). By strange coincidence he and his youngest son Alan suffered mild attacks of typhoid fever against which he had lectured and written so much. After three weeks of this illness Bradley had almost recovered, when he succumbed suddenly to pulmonary embolism. He had lived up to the family motto Aliis serviendo consumor.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian, 3 Nov 1840
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Dec 1894
  • manuscript catalogue under Bradley (State Library of New South Wales)
  • research notes (Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

B. G. Burton-Bradley, 'Bradley, Henry Burton (1815–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 22 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Henry Burton Bradley (1815-1894), by unknown photographer

Henry Burton Bradley (1815-1894), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 17607

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


1894 (aged ~ 79)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.