Revd. EDWARD BRADLEY alias CUTHBERT BEDE
Though not of our village, he was the father of our most noted villager Cuthbert Bradley, artist and writer who had inherited his father’s artistic flair.
Edward Bradley was born at Swan Street, Kidderminster on March 25th 1827, the second son of Thomas Bradley, a surgeon. His brother, Thomas Waldron Bradley, was also a writer whose two novels, ‘Grantley Grange’ and ‘Nelly Hamilton’ were published in 1874 and 1875. Pseudonyms were popular in the Bradley family. Edward Bradley almost always used the pseudonym of ‘Cuthbert Bede’ and his bother that of ‘Shelsley Beauchamp’. Their uncle, William Bradley (to whom Edward Bradley dedicated one of his novels, ‘Nearer and Dearer’), was the author of ‘Sketches of the Poor by a retired Guardian.’
Edward was educated at Kidderminster Grammar School, and University College, Durham where he graduated with a B.A. in 1848. He had decided on a career in the church and took his licentiate of theology in the following year. He was only 21 years old and too young to be accepted as a minister in the Church of England. While waiting for a year to be ordained, he studied at Oxford University. Though he never matriculated the experiences gained were to provide much of the material for his first book. He was to become one of the earliest and best caricaturists and humorous writers of the 19th Century. It was during his stay at Oxford that Edward Bradley adopted the pseudonym ‘Cuthbert Bede’, a combination of the two patron saints of Durham – St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne and the Venerable Bede.
Cuthbert Bede's first published works appeared in ‘Bentley's Miscellany’ in 1846 but his best known work was ‘Verdant Green’ - the story of a naive freshman at Oxford. Cuthbert Bede had great difficulty in finding a publisher for ‘The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green’ and as a result the three parts were first published separately: ‘The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford Freshman,’ (1853); ‘The Further Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green, an Oxford undergraduate,’ (1854); and ‘Mr. Verdant Green, Married and Done for,’ (1857). The three parts were subsequently issued in one volume. 100,000 copies were sold by 1870. The total payment Cuthbert Bede received for the work was just £350. ‘Verdant Green’ is well illustrated with Cuthbert Bede's own drawings. ‘Little Mr. Bouncer and his friend, Verdant Green,’ a sequel to ‘Verdant Green’, was published in 1873.
In 1850 Edward Bradley started his career in the Church of England as curate of Glatton-with-Holme, Huntingdonshire. He stayed there 4 years during which time he wrote for the ‘Illustrated London News’ about the draining of Whittlesea Mere. Later he was curate at Leigh, Worcestershire in1854 and vicar of Bobbington, Staffordshire in 1857. He pursued his vocation as a country parson whilst making quite a name for himself as a writer. In December 1858 Edward married Harriet Amelia, the youngest daughter of Samuel Hancocks, an ironmaster of Wolverley, Worcester. There were two known sons in the village, Cuthbert Bradley who became an artist of horses and hounds and also did caricatures for ‘Vanity Fair’, and the Rev. Henry Waldron Bradley.
Edward Bradley was rector of Denton-with-Caldecote, Huntingdonshire 1859-71. Whilst rector of Stretton, Rutland 1871-1883, he raised over £2000 to restore the church by giving lectures in Midland towns on ‘Wit and Humour’, ‘Modern Humorists’, and ‘Light Literature’. From 1883 until his death in 1889, Edward Bradley was the vicar of Lenton, Lincolnshire where he established a free library, a school bank, winter entertainments and improvement societies. In 1887 at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria he gave to the church a new Reredos and hangings, a service book and a frontal for the reading desk. Edward died at the vicarage, Lenton, Lincolnshire on 12th December 1889 at the age of 62 years. He was buried at St. Nicholas Church Stretton, Rutland next to his second son? Inside the church, the west window of the nave is in memory of Rev. Edward Bailey (1871-84).
In the 1891 census Edward’s widow Harriett Amelia aged 58 years lived at the ‘Elms’ in Folkingham with her two sons Cuthbert aged 30 years and Henry Waldron aged 28 years, also her daughter in-law Alice nee Heathcote, wife of Cuthbert who was aged 31 years. Cuthbert’s occupation is given as Artist/Author and that of his brother as Clerk in Holy Orders. Harriet is said to be of ‘Independent Means’.
Edward Bradley was a practicing photographer. In a letter to Henry Peach Robinson he mentions taking lessons in photography in 1863. He became very adept at operating the camera and the processing chemicals to illustrate one of his own books with photographs (original prints) within a year or two. ‘Photographic Pleasures’ remains Cuthbert Bede's major contribution to the history of photography. His combination of wit and wisdom distinguishes it as a unique document, a comic masterpiece, providing both reading pleasure and historical information.
Other works of Cuthbert Bede – Loves Provocations 1855; Motley 1855; Medley 1856; Book of Beauty 1856; Nearer and Dearer 1857; Funny Figures 1858; Glencreggan 1861; The Curate of Cranston 1862; Mattins and Muttons 1866; Humour, Wit and Satire 1885; Fotheringay and Mary Queen of Scots1886.