Bradshaw Drive

Bradshaw Drive is named in honour of  J. L. Bradshaw 

J. L. Bradshaw and Bradshaw's China Hall

In 1885, J. L. Bradshaw (1855-1942) opened Bradshaw’s China Hall, a business that has had a history in Stratford to this day. It is a story that involves four generations of the Bradshaw family. The three men pictured here, John L. Bradshaw, Harold S. Bradshaw, and J. David Bradshaw,  were from the first three generations of the business. Now, Carole (Bradshaw) Rowe, a daughter of David Bradshaw, and her husband Todd Rowe, are the fourth generation, operating Watson's Chelsea Bazaar, named after the man from whom her great-grandfather  bought the original china stock and glassware for his china business, after Peter Watson's death.. 

John Leeming Bradshaw was born in Lancashire, in northwest England in September 1855, and came to Canada with his parents and a sister about 1862. They lived in Hamilton, where his parents are buried, but by 1881, John had married Alice Ann Field, and they were living in Ridgetown, where he worked as a cabinetmaker.

J. L. Bradshaw was in Stratford by 1887, but he could have been here as early as 1876, when he was 21. In Stratford he went into the furniture and undertaking business with a man named R. White.  According to Mary Jane Lennon in her book A Stratford Album, trade was slow at first and they often accepted chicken and goose feathers in exchange for the furniture they sold. Bradshaw then sold the feathers to pillow manufacturers for cash. They did virtually no undertaking until J. L., in a characteristic display of showmanship, laid out a local pauper with a funeral “fit for a king.” Needless to say, the town took notice.

In 1895, John Leeming Bradshaw got into the business for which he became best known—the china trade. He was asked to dispose of the stock in Peter Watson’s china shop after Watson had died but he became so interested that he decided to purchase the shop himself. He took over Peter Watson’s inventory of teas and housewares, and soon after opened his own store called Bradshaw’s China Hall on Ontario Street.  There was no number noted in the Stratford Directory for 1896 but it must have been 58 Ontario which was included in the Directory for the following year.  J.L. Bradshaw lived on Douglas Street, and again the next year, the number at 150 Douglas is noted by the Directory

Bradshaw’s lower floor, at 58 Ontario Street, circa 1900.  Photo: Carrie Schwartz Wreford, If you grew up in Stratford...FB

Barrels to be shipped with goods to Bradshaw's from England in 1895. Photo: Carrie Schwartz Wreford,  If you grew up in Stratford... FB

Souvenir from J. L. Bradshaw Limited 1896-1982. Photo:  Heather Schenck-Smith, If you grew up in Stratford...FB

Invoice from 1898 from J. L. Bradshaw with watermark of the Bradshaw building. Photo: Carrie Schwartz Wreford, If you grew up in Stratford...FB

The Bradshaw advertisement in the Stratford Directory for 1896 notes that J. L. Bradshaw China Hall carried China, Glassware, Crockery and Lamps as well as Teas, Coffees,  Cutlery and Silverware. That location at 58 Ontario Street was known as the Orr building and had once housed Wilson’s Hotel.

By 1907, J. l.  Bradshaw had moved his China Hall to 84 Ontario Street, the address most associated with the Bradshaw China business. Then J. L. Bradshaw began making buying trips abroad, and nothing, including the First World War, (1914-1918), and the Kaiser’s submarines, could keep him from the great English and European warehouses. He introduced group buying and became a major importer, wholesaler and retailer of china, mainly Staffordshire. He was also Canada’s leading importer of Limoge tableware. His store, which sold a variety of goods, was especially remembered, according to Mary Jane Lennon, for the delicious aroma of coffee wafting onto the street from within.

One of J. L.'s sons, Harold Struthers Bradshaw, (1891-1968), worked with his father in the business and took it over after his father’s death in April 1942. In 1920, Vernon's Stratford Directory notes that Harold is living at 149 Caledonia; his father remained at 150 Douglas. When Harold took over the business in 1942, he was married with children and living at 21 Britannia Street.  In that year, the Stratford Directory lists J.L. Bradshaw's residence as 21 Britannia as well. By 1961, Harold's son, 20 year-old John David Bradshaw, (1930-2009), is  already involved with the family business. David is married and living with his wife Joan at 219 Cambria. By 1967, he succeeds his father as president having been secretary-treasurer before that. The business remained in the Bradshaw family until it was sold to Gordon Wreford in 1975. 

After the sale in 1975, Gordon Wreford retained both the Bradshaw name and location at 84 Ontario Street. In 1985, the business moved across the street to 129 Ontario Street. The store at 84 Ontario was temporarily vacant until David Bradshaw, Harold’s son, and the father of Carole (Bradshaw) Rowe, opened a new china and glassware business at the original 84 Ontario St. location and named it Watson’s Chelsea Bazaar (see Ontario Street) after the original purveyor of china and crockery, Peter Watson. Across the street, the Wreford family opened a second Bradshaw's at 149 Ontario, both owned by Willian Wreford. In 2023, the present store at 129 Ontario Street that retains the Bradshaw name in part is called Bradshaws and Kitchen Detail. Bradshaws Stratford.  

In the years between the sale of the Bradshaw family business in 1975 and 1985, David Bradshaw had operated his own business. When he re-entered the china business again with Watson's Chelsea Bazaar, at 84 Ontario Street, he did so from his business location at 245 Downie Street. 

In this way, four generations of Bradshaws have been involved with the family china business and the Bradshaw name is still found on Stratford's main street.

David Bradshaw was also deeply involved in the life of Stratford as a city councillor/alderman and member of the public school board. One event is certainly worth mentioning. In the late 1960s, when a plan to tear down the city hall and replace it with a hotel complex, stirred controversy, Ald. Bradshaw almost single-handedly made certain the citizens of Stratford had a hearing to air their views.

Dean Robinson, in the chapter The saving of city hall, a 10-year odyssey, in his book Not the last waltz and other Stratford stories wrote this:

“Always colourful, Dave Bradshaw never shied away from an issue as an alderman, as a businessman, as a citizen. He often chose the trail less travelled because he saw it as a better way, or a less expensive way for the taxpayer, or just to hear the other side further explain and defend its position. Well travelled, especially in Europe, he appreciated the value of built heritage and how, if properly maintained, it could continue to well serve a community, especially in a city centre. While often a lone voice on council issues, he was a loud voice. He could be frank and funny, reasoned and respectful. He walked easily and boldly with those fighting to save their city hall from demolition. The bench bearing this plaque sits outside city hall, near the front steps."

Photo: Dean Robinson, Not the Last Waltz

Watson’s Chelsea’ Bazaar continues at 84 Ontario St., and the present owners, Carole  and Todd Rowe continue to offer tableware, houseware and gifts on the main street of Stratford in the Bradshaw tradition.

Sources: Carole (Bradshaw) Rowe and Todd Rowe About Watson's Chelsea Bazaar | The History From 1895 to Today; Mary Jane Lennon, A Stratford Album: Memories of the Festival City;  Adelaide Leitch, Floodtides of Fortune and Dean Robinson, Not the last waltz and other Stratford stories;  John Leeming Bradshaw (1855-1942) - Find a Grave Memorial.  Compiled by Gord Conroy