John Pearl Bradley was born in Buxhall in Suffolk on the 3rd November 1844. His family had lived in the village from before 1760. His great grandfather was William Bradley (c1740-1801) who with his wife Sarah had at least eight children, among them James Bradley (1776-1845) who married Christian Otterwell in Buxhall on the 10th October 1798. Their son John Bradley (1817-1870) married Sarah Pearl on the 12th April 1842 an event which was announced thus in the Bury and Norwich Postof Wednesday 20 April 1842: “On Tuesday last, at the Baptist Chapel, Rattlesden, Mr John Bradley, shoe-maker, of Buxhall, to Miss Sarah Pearl, of Hitcham”.Sarah Pearl's father, John, was also a shoemaker, as was her nephew George Pearl, the illegitimate son of her sister, Jemima. George appears to have been brought up by his grandparents, and remained close to his aunt Sarah, moving with her and her family to West Ham shortly after the 1851 census. John Bradley's brother Thomas was already living in Church Street, West Ham in 1851. He had left Buxhall with his wife Ann and son William some time after 1831, and in 1841 he is a Groom in Mucking in Essex, where they had had another son, Thomas, born in about 1835. In 1851 Thomas senior is trading as a Greengrocer, while his son William is married and living in Plaistow Grove, West Ham and trading as a Fishmonger. John and Sarah Bradley with their son John Pearl Bradley moved to 3 Church Street North, probably initially with George Pearl, to live next door to Thomas where they worked as shoemakers, and this is where the 1861 census finds them, literally next to the parish church of All Saints.When John Pearl Bradley married Mary Ann Butler at St Mary's in Plaistow on the 28th June 1869 he gives his address as Plaistow Road, and he is no longer a shoemaker, but is now a sorter at the Post Office; he had been appointed Supply Lr Cr [Letter Carrier] in April 1867. George Pearl was one of the witnesses. In 1871 the Bradleys are living at 21 Newbold Street, Mile End Old Town with a baby son Alfred, and John Pearl Bradley is a Sub-sorter General Post Office. He would spend the rest of his working life in the Post Office progressing to Sorter, First Class. In 1881 the family, now with four children, is living at 5, Bromehead Rd, Mile End Old Town. His wife Mary died on the 8th November 1882 in the London Hospital in Whitechapel from a strangulated hernia and peritonitis, and her home address on the death certificate is given as 15 Antcliff Street, Commercial Road. On the 25th August 1883 John Pearl Bradley married Annie Eliza Griesel at St Mary's in Plaistow, and gives his address as West Ham. He had probably moved back to West Ham after Mary's death as he still had family living there who could help with the young children. His cousin Thomas Bradley (son of Thomas) had adopted Joseph Turner, the illegitimate son born to his wife Eleanor Turner before her marriage to him. As Joseph Bradley he had married Sarah Ann Smart on the 16th December 1877 in Stratford in Essex and they were living in West Ham with their young family in the 1880s. Annie Eliza Griesel was her recently widowed sister with two young children, and she had also, probably, gone to her family for support; Joseph and Sarah Ann Bradley are witnesses at her marriage to John Pearl Bradley.In 1891 the extended Bradley/Griesel family is living at 7 Cecil Road, West Ham. The family consists of John Pearl Bradley and Annie Eliza his wife, her two sons from her short marriage to Adam Griesel, four children from John Pearl Bradley’s first marriage and three children from this second marriage. In 1901 they are at 24 Amity Road; some of the older children have left home and are married with children of their own, and John Pearl and Annie Eliza have a further four children. Shortly after 1901 they moved further out into Essex settling at 1 Chadwell Avenue, Chadwell Heath. Anne Eliza died here on the 8th April 1912. John Pearl Bradley died at 41 Priory Road, Barking on the 26th April 1915.Anne Eliza and John Pearl Bradley were buried in separate plots in the Buckingham Road Cemetery behind St Mary’s Church in Ilford: Anne Eliza in plot no. 309 on 13th April 1912 and her husband in plot no. 366 on the 1st May 1915. Presumably from the wording on his headstone the whole extended family gathered to say farewell, and his youngest daughter, Nance, recalled that at the graveside a peal of his own composition was rung on handbells. The graveside handbells are a clue to another aspect of John Pearl Bradley’s life: he was an accomplished bell-ringer. This interest must have sprung from his taking up residence at a young age next to the church in West Ham, where the Chelmsford Chronicle of the 25th February 1859 reports: On the 12th instant, ten of the Society of College Youths rang on All Saint's bells, West Ham, 5000 Kent treble Bob Royals, in three hours and 35 minutes. The above peal of Kent treble Bob Royals is the first rung in this country, and was much admired by the friends of campanology.Was he inspired by this event?In 1868, when he was 24, he became a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths. A John P. Bradley is listed in their website history section for that date, member number 2443, and as West Ham is a highly regarded “heavy 10” (a peal of 10 bells with a heavy tenor bell), as a serious bell-ringer, he kept his connection there even when he had moved away from the immediate area.The Essex Association of Change Ringers was founded in 1879 and J. B. Bradley is given as a member at West Ham in the 1882-83 report, which would tie in with his move back to West Ham. He continues as a member until 1905 when he becomes J. P. Bradley and disappears altogether in 1906. The local Essex newspapers report on all the meetings of the Association but some in more detail than others as regards names of those attending so he is probably present on more occasions than I have found. A further complication is that he seems to have been known as both John P. and John B. Bradley.His first naming in the press is however as a member of the East London Handbell Band Ringers.THE EAST LONDON HANDBELL BAND RINGERS. On Monday the bellringers held their annual dinner at the Plume of Feathers Inn, Loughton, accompanied by a numerous party of their friends. At intervals throughout the morning and afternoon parties of the ringers were told off to practice bellringing changes at the parish church, where they were kindly permitted to display their talents. In the evening they gave one of their admirable entertainments at the commodious clubroom of the hotel, which was gratuitously opened for the admission of the public. The band played various selections of bell-music, comprising waltzes, marches, polkas, schottisches, together with operatics and popular airs. About 200 persons attended the concert, and they were highly gratified with the programme. The band was under the leadership of Mr. J. P. Bradley, of Commercial-road, London. The leading performers were the three Brothers Linstead and Mr. O. White.Chelmsford Chronicle: Friday 9 September 1881.The handbell ringers are obviously all church bellringers as well. The three Brothers Linstead have a link to the Bradley family: they are probably Charles, Alfred and Herbert. Alfred’s daughter Sarah was to marry John Pearl Bradley’s son Frank, while his daughter Minnie married John Pearl Bradley’s stepson George Adam Griesel. Their sister Emma Linstead’s daughter Alice Edith Bull married John Pearl Bradley’s son Arthur Frederick Bradley. There was a grand day out on Thursday 3rd November 1881 when the Essex Association gathered in Chelmsford. “The bells of St. Mary's, Chelmsford, having been re-hung by J. Warner and Sons, were opened on Thursday morning, November 3rd, by a band of the Essex Association of Change Ringers, with two touches of Grandsire triples”. J.B. Bradley was one of the ringers and is listed as a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths. They then moved on to St. Michael's at Galleywood, where again J.B. Bradley was one of the ringers. “At two o'clock a company of about 40 sat down to a substantial dinner in the schoolroom provided by the Galleywood ringers. Full justice having been done to the repast, the Rev. J.B. Seaman, hon. sec. of the association, rose to propose the toast of the Queen, one dear to all ringers.” In the afternoon the company divided, some to handbell ringing, others back to the church. “In the evening the ringers sat down to a meat tea, which was kindly provided by Mrs. de Lisle at the vicarage, and at eight o'clock the party broke up, after a day which, in spite of the bad weather, had proved most enjoyable both to the entertainers and the visitors. In the course of the afternoon and evening two courses of Grandsire caters were rung on the handbells, two in hand […] J.B. Bradley, 3 and 4; […]. Among those who sat down to dinner were [...] J.B. Bradley (London) [...]”On Saturday 23rd February 1884, a district meeting of the Association was held at West Ham, “the fine ring of ten bells at the parish church, being kindly put at the service of the members by Canon Scott and his churchwardens. The six bell tower of St. John's, Leytonstone, was also open to members by kind permission of the Vicar. The principal touches were […] four courses of Stedman triples […] J. Bradley, 2nd. […] Towards the close of the evening the members adjourned from the tower to a neighbouring room, where they were entertained by Mr. J. B. Bradley and his band of handbell ringers with several selections on their fine peal of about 60 handbells. The following are some of the pieces played : March from "Norma", "Huntsmen's chorus" from "Der Freischütz", "Merry bells of England”, “Sailing”, “Bluebells of Scotland”, “Danish march” and the National Anthem.”On Saturday 18th April 1885 a district meeting of the Association was held at Romford, when the company mustered about 40. “Ringing commenced about one pm at St. Edward's Church and was continued at frequent intervals during the afternoon and early part of the evening [...] In the evening the East London Handbell Ringers paid a visit to Romford and gave a charming selection of music in the large room at the Swan Hotel before a large company upon their fine-toned and magnificent ring of 70 bells.” The Association minutes reported: “On April 18th 1885 at Romford a great treat was given in the evening in the shape of some beautiful handbell ringing by Mr T. [sic] B. Bradley's band, The East London Handbell Ringers”.The first mention that I have discovered of role as a composer comes in 1889 when a “date-touch” (1,889 changes) of Grandsire Caters, the composition of Mr. J.B. Bradley of West Ham, was rung on Saturday 10th August on the bells of St. Mary's in Chelmsford (now Chelmsford Cathedral). There's a similar report in 1892, and from 1895 his compositions are being published in the campanological periodicals and performed all around London.There are consistent family stories that John Pearl Bradley took part in ringing a special peal at St Paul’s Cathedral that was commemorated on a plaque in the bell tower there, possibly for Queen Victoria’s jubilee. No actual proof of this has yet turned up. Dickon Love, Librarian of the College Youths, sent me this in reply to an email:“The only record of ringing for special occasions at St Paul's is the Peal Record, which is indexed at http://eee.stpcgor.org.uk/viewPeals.asp. I have looked for J P Bradley's name in this list and can't see him anywhere. That is not to say that he didn't ring at St Paul's, nor that the occasion wasn't a special one, but of those recorded here, his name doesn't figure. Peals were not as frequent at St Paul's as they are now”. As so far the bell-ringing stories have all turned out to be true I suspect he did at least ring at St. Paul's Cathedral. As Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper of Sunday 17 April 1881 reported:ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL. The City Press states that the Dean and Chapter have made arrangements with the “Ancient Society of College Youths” for the bells to be rung every Sunday throughout the year before the morning and afternoon services on and after Easter Day, in addition to the days on which they have hitherto been rung.