William Bradbury's Apprenticeship

When I was Bound Apprentice 1813-1821

Thursday 1 July 1813 saw fourteen year old William Bradbury embark upon a career that would lead to him being remembered as "the keenest man of business that ever trod the flags of Fleet Street". [1] As the eldest son William had been expected to follow in his father's agricultural footsteps, however William felt that his true vocation lay elsewhere. With his father's permission he was enrolled as an apprentice in the City of Lincoln, Lincolnshire to the richly experienced printer John Drury, and his son, John Wold Drury, for the term of seven years. [2]

The extended Drury family, who also spell their name Drewry, were quite a remarkable family with printing businesses in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and London, and with publishing links to the Northamptonshire poet John Clare and the poet John Keats, amongst others. The family had had a presence in the City of Lincoln since at least the early 1690s, when John Drury's great grandfather, also named John, his wife Mary and their young children, were resident in the parish of St Martin.

In order to fully appreciate the connections and influences that the extended Drury family provided William Bradbury with, I feel it is important to take a deeper look at this family. John Drury, the son of William Drury, a Grocer, and his wife Sarah Wilson, was born about 1757 in Newark, Nottinghamshire. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed in Lincoln to a firm of printers headed by a woman named Mary Rose. [3] John's apprenticeship commenced at what must have been a devastating period for her as she had just suffered a double bereavement. Her husband John Rose, who had run a printing and bookbinding business in the city for at least sixteen years, had died in November 1770 and their eldest son, Robert, had died less than three months later at the age of twenty-two. He had worked alongside his father in the printing business for twelve years. Just a month after her son's death, Mary spoke of her "irreparable loss in the death of her Husband and that of her late son Robert Rose", but stated her intention to carry on the printing, book selling and stationery business with the assistance of able Journeymen. She hoped her endeavours would meet with encouragement in the City, as "they are exerted for the benefit of her infant family". [4] Mary and John's youngest child, a daughter also named Mary, had been baptised a mere 8 months before her father's death. As so many women before her, Mary found herself in an extremely vulnerable position as a widow with very young dependent children. A sense of that vulnerability can be felt in her wishes for the patronage of the citizens of Lincoln.

Rose and Drury

Image showing the Stonebow, Lincoln from the south side. William Bradbury served his apprenticeship in premises above the Stonebow on the north side. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32406089

Mary Rose appears to have been a keen businesswoman and it would seem that the printing and bookselling business prospered and thrived under her direction. John Drury seems to have excelled in his apprenticeship and twelve years after she was widowed, Mary Rose and John Drury had entered into a partnership, establishing the printing firm of Rose and Drury. The business was conducted from premises described as being "opposite the Bank, near the Stonebow, Lincoln". [5] During William Bradbury's apprenticeship the business address was given as "above the Stonebow, adjoining the Bank, Lincoln". This bank was the first private bank in Lincoln established in 1775, the Smith, Ellison and Brown Bank situated on the corner of Mint Street and the High Street. This area of the City was well known to the wider Drury family; John Drury's great uncle Joshua was a Master Perukemaker at the Stonebow around the year 1740.

The Stonebow, standing on the site of the southern boundary of the old Roman city, is a late 15th century stone building which forms a striking gateway over the city's main High Street. The Lincoln City and County Gaol, described in 1802 by James Neild as "one of the worst prisons in the kingdom" [6] was housed on the eastern side of the Stonebow, with the west side being let out as private dwellings and shops. Conditions at the gaol make for rather grim reading. The gaol had two storeys, consisting of an upper floor and two lower dungeons. The upper floor was divided into two rooms, one measuring about thirteen feet square for male debtors and a smaller one of about eight feet square for the females. Each room had a fireplace. Down three steps were two dank dungeons for the criminals, one of which had a flagstone floor, the other just damp earth. One of the dungeons contained a cage, in which according to James Neild, a sickly woman felon was locked up at night. Each room had a small iron-grated window, letting in a meagre amount of light and air, through which passers-by would talk to the prisoners and pass beer and liquor. In July 1801, the gaoler, Samuel Tuke junior, was apparently nearly killed by four drunken felons to whom a soldiers musket had been passed through the grating. Following this incident Mr Tuke had placed a perforated tin-plate over the window, however he had soon had to remove it for fear of suffocating the prisoners. The gaol was finally abandoned in 1809 and a new gaol was built immediately behind the Sessions House, which fronted the New Road (now Lindum Hill). According to a contemporary source this new prison had "more of the appearance of a gentleman's house than of a prison, and the interior is as comfortable and convenient as is compatible with the safe custody of those who are confined there." The gaoler at the new prison was a Thomas Drewry, who received a salary of £40. [7]

On Monday 27 May 1782 at the church of St Peter at Arches, Lincoln which was said to have been "a monument of the good taste of the city", [8] John Drury married Jane Wold, a twenty-one year old local woman. Jane quickly became pregnant and their first child, a son whom they named Edward Wilson Drury was born in March the following year. Over the next fourteen years Jane gave birth to a further nine children, four girls and five boys, although sadly one of their sons, Samuel, died in infancy in March 1795. Two years later in June 1797 a particularly dreadful blow struck the family. Their first born child, Edward, died aged only fourteen; Jane was about seven months pregnant at the time. Just two months after his funeral Jane and John returned to the church to have their new baby son baptised, giving him the name Edward after his older brother and the middle name of Bell. He was to be the last of their children.

Early 18th century Lincoln was a small and isolated city. Daniel Defoe, speaking of the city around 1722 described it thus: "an antient, ragged, decay'd and still decaying city.....The situation of the city is very particular; one part is in a flat and in a bottom, so that the Wittham, a little river that runs through the town, flows sometimes into the street, the other part lies upon the top of a high hill, where the cathedral stands, and the very steepest part of the ascent of the hill is the best part of the city for trade and business. Nothing is more troublesome than the communication of the upper and lower town, the street is so steep and so strait, the coaches and horse are oblig'd to fetch a compass another way, as well on one hand as on the other." Travel to other parts of the country was slow and difficult and London was a lengthy and dangerous journey of three days on horseback. In 1733 the Lincoln stage coach would set out for London from the Angel Inn, in the Bail, on a Monday and a Thursday, and would arrive in London every Wednesday and Saturday. The return journey would also take three days. There was no local newspaper; in the year 1728 the first Lincoln printer, a man by the name of William Wood, [9] printed a newspaper called the Lincoln Gazette or Weekly Intelligencer, but this venture was to be a short-lived exercise and it ceased publication the following year. At this time the news that Lincoln received was from London and came via the Stamford Mercury newspaper, which was later renamed the Lincoln Rutland and Stamford Mercury. This paper first appeared in 1695 and together with Berrow's Worcester Journal, claims to be the oldest British weekly newspaper still in publication today. It was only towards the latter part of the century that Lincoln's communication networks began to really open up with the rest of the country, and stage coaches began to operate to faster, more regular schedules. One such stage coach was the Lincoln Flyer, with its dark blue bodywork and bright yellow upper section, which operated between Lincoln and London reducing the journey time to the capital from three days to around ten hours.

Lincoln Gazetteer

It was around this period in Lincoln's history, 1784, that Mary Rose and John Drury decided to address the lack of a newspaper printed specifically for the citizens of Lincoln. Their resulting publication, the Lincoln Gazetteer; Or Public Advertiser was printed and sold by Rose and Drury, and was available for the public to purchase every Friday at the price of three pence. Advertisements, not exceeding twenty lines, were inserted at a cost of four shillings per time, with an additional one penny for every extra line thereafter. The masthead consisted of a line drawing of Lincoln Cathedral, showing the spires on the two west towers which were removed in 1807 for safety reasons; an image of Mercury the Winged Messenger holding a banner proclaiming The Earliest Intelligence in the centre of the paper's title; and towards the right hand side of the page, the cross of St George with a fleur-de-lys at its centre, this being the city's emblem, surrounded by a heart-shaped garland. The fleur-de-lys represented the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of both the city and the cathedral. The paper was primarily made up of extracts from the London newspapers with some additional local material. It was however not a commercial success, and sadly ceased production the following year. Writing in 1810 historian Adam Stark said that the paper "did not meet with sufficient encouragement". Indeed, the Stamford Mercury of May 1786 carried an article requesting all who stood indebted to the proprietors of the Lincoln Gazette to pay their respective debts before the 12th of June otherwise "Actions will be forthwith after commenced for the Recovery thereof, without further Notice".

Mary Rose and John Drury continued in business together until April 1787 when they mutually dissolved their partnership, with John taking over the sole running of the business. [10] At the time of Mary's death at the age of seventy-eight in November 1802, she had ninety-seven pounds eleven shillings ten pence and three farthings in the hands of John Drury, secured to her by an article of agreement dated 29 March 1787. She decreed that this money should be divided equally between her son Thomas Rose and her other son John Rose who she described as being "now in distant parts beyond the sea". A carpenter by trade, he had joined the British Army and served in the 17th Regiment of Foot between 1799 and 1805 followed by the 1st Battalion of Royal Veterans between 1805 and 1814, before being discharged at the age of about forty-nine years on medical grounds. The distant parts beyond the sea referred to by Mary would most probably have been the Netherlands or Minorca, where the 17th Regiment of Foot were fighting in the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1805 John Drury printed a recruitment poster for the Queen's Dragoon Guards which stated:"Now is the opportunity for Lincolnshire Lads of good character, and handsome appearance, to fill their pockets with guineas and to have a noble horse to ride". [11] Mary Rose was buried at the church of St Peter at Arches, Lincoln on 7 November 1802. The newspaper announcement of her death mentioned her as previously being a printer and bookseller near the Stonebow, her burial entry reads simply "Mary Rose Widow".

Three of John and Jane Drury's four surviving sons joined the family printing business. At some time during the first two years of William Bradbury's apprenticeship, John added the names of his sons John Wold and James as partners in the business. However, he stated that he did this merely to "make them appear more respectable in the Town". They had not given any money towards being admitted as partners and his will stated that they were not to expect any "more Part of the Property on that account." [12] The youngest son, Edward Bell Drury, known as Ned, also joined the family trade, setting up as a bookseller and printer in the market town of Stamford Lincolnshire. The only son not to become a printer was their son Michael Drury, who at the age of twenty-six, set sail from Liverpool bound for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There he became a merchant, trading in goods such as linens, cottons, muslins and shawls, in conjunction with his business partner and soon to be brother-in-law, James Tallant.

Retford Town Hall in the Market Square, Retford where James and Sarah Taylor ran their bookselling and printing business. Photograph by By Tghe-retford (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

John Drury had a younger sister, Sarah who married a bookseller and printer by the name of James Taylor. They ran their business from the Market Square in East Retford, Nottinghamshire. Sarah Drury and James Taylor had nine children, one of whom, John Taylor, was born in East Retford in 1781. By 1806 he had formed a publishing house with his friend James Augustus Hessey at 93 Fleet Street, London, and over twenty years of business the firm of Taylor and Hessey were to publish for some of the greatest writers and poets of their time; people such as John Keats, William Hazlitt, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb and John Clare. [13]

The Drurys had a history of serving Lincoln in a civic capacity, something that William Bradbury would similarly undertake when he became one of the four City Chamberlains alongside Edward Bell Drury in 1822. [14] In 1795 John Drury put himself forward as a candidate for the office of Coroner for the County. The post had become vacant following the resignation of the previous coroner, a gentleman with the rather splendid name of Butter Hunnings, who went on to serve as mayor in 1796. John was duly elected by the freemen of the county to the post, a position that he held for some nineteen years. The role of the coroner was to preside over an inquest into the circumstances of a suspicious or sudden death. Unlike today 18th and 19th century inquests were usually held in the upstairs or back room of a public house or inn, with the body of the deceased present. At least twelve men would be chosen as Coroner's Jurors: it was not until 23 December 1919 that women were eligible to become jurors in the United Kingdom. The sex disqualification (removal) act stated: "A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function, or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation." The jury and the coroner would view the deceased and would be allowed to question witnesses. Contemporary reports say that sometimes inn keepers and beer sellers, on the discovery of a body, would be almost falling over themselves to be the first to report the finding to the coroner so that their establishment would host the inquest, with the hope that they would profit monetarily from the `guttling and guzzling' that the increase in customers would bring. Amongst the many sad and distressing cases that he presided over, John Drury was the coroner at a rather infamous murder case, the murder of Mary Kirkham.

Drury and Sons Lincoln, Stamford and London

Sadly two years after becoming William Bradbury's Master, John Drury died at the age of fifty-seven. He had been ill for several months, and had resigned his position as Coroner two months before his death. He was remembered as "a man who passed through the relations of life in a way that has implanted his memory in the affection and friendship of all who knew him."

Before his death he had given two-hundred pounds each to his daughters Elizabeth and Jane, and also to his son Michael. Elizabeth Drury had married a farmer John Tallant two years previously. They lived and farmed at North Rauceby in Lincolnshire, where Elizabeth gave birth to thirteen children over a fourteen year period. Jane Drury had married William Tallant, a Maltster who was the brother of Elizabeth's husband John Tallant. After having children in Lincoln they moved to Nottingham, where William Tallant died in December 1826. Their children all emigrated to America and Jane was to join them, living out her life in Ohio, where she died at the age of seventy-six. Another of John Drury's daughters, Mary, also married a Tallant. She married James Tallant in 1818, and they too moved to Ohio, where James became a business partner of Mary's brother Michael Drury.

John Drury left his estate to his wife Jane, giving her the discretion to reward their sons John Wold and James financially for their day to day management of the printing business if she felt it was appropriate to do so, and also to give two-hundred pounds to their other children if she felt that their behaviour and conduct towards her were satisfactory. [15] Jane ran the printing business in Lincoln under the name of Drury & Sons and William Bradbury continued in his apprenticeship developing his craft and business acumen under their care. The following year they wrote and printed a local history book, which was published on Wednesday 31 July 1816 under the title "The History of Lincoln; containing an account of the Antiquities, Edifices, Trade and Customs of that Ancient City". It had quite a radical sentiment about it.

Sometime around 1817 a decision was made for James Drury to leave Lincoln and set up a branch of the family business in London. In 1819 James took a lease out on a substantial five storey, brick built premises at 36 Lombard Street, London, which was situated about a mile away from his cousin John Taylor at 93 Fleet Street. As well as a residence the building had an attractive modern shop, from which James conducted his printing and bookselling business. Lombard Street was at the heart of the capital's banking and money lending industry, and from 1678 until 1829 was home to the headquarters of the Royal Mail. The street would have been a cacophony of noise and bustle, with mail coaches and wagons clattering along the muddy road and the continual to and fro of members of the public and letter carriers arriving and departing with post to be sorted and delivered. Three years later James moved to 76 Fleet Street. This property was owned by James Swan, a former printer and paper merchant, and consisted of two adjacent buildings. Although the address was 76 Fleet Street, the property was actually situated in White Lion Court, which was a narrow court running from Fleet Street to Salisbury Square accessed between numbers 75 and 77 Fleet Street. Several different printing offices were running at the same time from 76 Fleet Street, with different printers occupying the various floors of the building. James was at 76 Fleet Street until 1824. Interestingly after he moved out William Bradbury and his future brother-in-law William Dent, who had just moved from Lincoln to London, moved in to the same premises. I wonder if James recommended the premises to them.

The view from Stamford Bridge looking up the hill towards the George Hotel, Stamford, Lincolnshire. Photograph by SmileyRose (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

In 1818, aged just twenty-one, Edward Bell Drury moved to the Lincolnshire market town of Stamford where he became the proprietor of the New Public Library, which was both a bookshop and lending library, taking over from the previous owner Mr Thompson. Books could purchased, or could be borrowed for a small charge by the year, half year, quarter, or month. The then unknown and unpublished poet John Clare, resident in the nearby village of Helpston, owed the former owner Mr Thompson fifteen shillings which he was unable to pay. A friend of John Clare's called at the Stamford bookshop taking with him three copies of a prospectus for a volume of Clare's poetry that was in the planning stages of publication, under the guidance of a Market Deeping printer named Mr Henson. The friend hoped to be able to delay the payment of the fifteen shillings owed to Mr Thompson until Clare was in a better financial position, however Thompson was insistent upon immediate settlement of the debt. Edward Drury happened to see the prospectus, and despite knowing nothing of the poet, he saw something of worth in the writings. Edward settled the fifteen shillings debt himself, and a few days later went with a friend of his to Helpston to visit with John Clare. Edward Drury and his friend Richard Newcomb spent some time with Clare, reading his manuscripts and talking over the arrangements that he had with Mr Henson for the publication of his first volume of poetry. These arrangements were not proceeding well with Henson frequently changing his mind over printing times, runs and money, and Edward Drury offered to print Clare's work himself if the manuscripts could be obtained from Mr Henson. A short time later Clare's mother Ann delivered a letter from her son to Mr Henson cancelling their agreement, and managed to secure the return of his manuscripts. Thus an association began between Edward Drury and John Clare. Clare's parents Parker and Ann Clare were in a desperate financial position at this time and on the cusp of eviction from their Helpston cottage, and the monetary advances that Edward Drury gave to their son kept them all from imminent destitution.

During the following year Edward Drury sent John Clare's poems to his cousin John Taylor in Fleet Street, seeking his counsel and advice as Taylor had become publisher to the poet Keats a few years previously. Taylor set about editing, transcribing and critiquing Clare's poems. Together Drury, Clare and Taylor worked on this first volume of Clare's poetry, with Clare making comments on the edited poems that were sent to him, and Drury undertaking an extensive advertising campaign in the local newspapers. On 15 January 1820 John Clare's first volume of poetry was published jointly by Taylor and Hessey, London and E Drury Stamford under the title "Poems, Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery". The book was a huge success with the book buying public taking the 'peasant poet' to their hearts, and by March 1820 1000 copies had been sold. Sadly all was not well with the two cousins. An argument had arisen between Edward Drury and John Taylor over money, which was eventually settled by an agreement which appointed Taylor and Hessey as the sole publishers of John Clare, with Edward Drury being given "a half share in all residual profits after the deduction of expenses and of sums given to the author". [16]

William Bradbury - Freeman

The rich layers of experience provided by John Drury and the influence and connections of the wider Drury family must have been invaluable to the young William Bradbury as he developed the knowledge of his craft. Connections were established with the London printing and publishing world; books that were printed for Taylor and Hessey in Fleet Street London were sold by Drury and Sons in Lincoln, James Drury in London and Edward Bell Drury in Stamford. Works such as those published for Joseph Swan, Surgeon to Lincoln County Hospital, were printed in Lincoln for Jane Drury and John Wold Drury, and in London for James Drury and Taylor and Hessey. James Drury was working in London between 1819 and 1825, and would have been an extremely useful point of contact for Bradbury when he and William Dent arrived in 1824.

In December 1819, towards the latter stages of William Bradbury's apprenticeship, he was joined by his younger brother Orlando who was also apprenticed to John Wold Drury. Distressingly, four months later on 26 April 1820 William and Orlando's mother Elizabeth died following a long and severe illness; she was just forty-five years old. Orlando was fifteen years old when she died; he had been born in Bakewell, Derbyshire in 1805. As far as I can determine after completing his apprenticeship Orlando's calling led him away from print and in to the world of music. Together with his father and uncle he sang in the Choir of Lincoln Cathedral, and was appointed organist at St Peter at Arches church, Lincoln in July 1826. [17] Ten years later Orlando, who had made the move to London like his brother William, was appointed as one of the Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace by the Bishop of London. [18] He would also become a Lay Vicar at Westminster Abbey.

William completed his apprenticeship under the supervision of Jane and John Wold Drury and at a common council at the Guildhall, Lincoln on Thursday 21 June 1821, he was made a Freeman of the City of Lincoln. Five months later, in November 1821 a small advertisement appeared on page three of the Stamford Mercury newspaper, [19] announcing the commencement of William's printing, bookbinding and stationery business in Castle Hill, Lincoln, a business that would take him from the City of Lincoln to the nation's capital London and into the very heart of Victorian England's printing and publishing industry.


  1. ^ The history of Punch (1895) M. H. Spielmann
  2. ^ see Lincolnshire Archives Apprenticeship Records 1813
  3. ^ Britain, country apprentices 1710-1808: The National Archives reference (IR 1 series) 57 f 163
  4. ^ Stamford Mercury 21 March 1771
  5. ^ Lincoln Gazetter; or Public Advertiser 22 October 1784
  6. ^ see Neild's letter to Dr Lettsom, Newark upon Trent, August 1802
  7. ^ see Georgian Lincoln (1966) Sir Francis Hill pg 187
  8. ^ The History of Lincoln (1810) Adam Stark
  9. ^ Georgian Lincoln (1966) Sir Francis Hill pg 61
  10. ^ Stamford Mercury 6 April 1787
  11. ^ Lincolnshire Archives: Reference Name LCM/13/8 Recruitment Poster
  12. ^ Will, Drury John, Lincolnshire Archives Reference Name LCC WILLS/1815/84
  13. ^ A Publisher and his Circle: The Life and Work of John Taylor, Keats' Publisher Tim Chilcott
  14. ^ Stamford Mercury 4 October 1822
  15. ^ Will - Drury, John Reference Name LCC WILLS/1815/84
  16. ^ John Clare a Biography Jonathan Bate
  17. ^ Stamford Mercury 28 July 1826
  18. ^ London Evening Standard 5 November 1836
  19. ^ Stamford Mercury 30 November 1821