THOSE who enter The Railway Hotel in Hinckley today in search of refreshment probably have little idea of the reputation held by one of the first licensees of that notable hostelry.
William Bradley was born in Leicester in 1835 and his early life and education took place in that city.
In 1862 he married and became "Licensed Victualler" at The King Richard III Hotel in Leicester. A little later, he decided to seek his fortune in the west of Leicestershire and accordingly became landlord of The Town Hall Arms. This was a public house which had previously enjoyed a rather dubious reputation as Cooper's Gin Shop. The building adjoined the Town Hall which is now occupied by Barclays Bank.
William became much involved in local politics, supporting the Conservative Party of Benjamin Disraeli. In 1868 William Bradley moved into the Town Hall as Mayor of Hinckley.
By the early 1870s he became the owner of a number of "celebrated racing ponies" and was soon a national sporting figure. His successful winners included Prince Arthur, Minting, Novice, Sea Breeze and Sunshade.
In 1879, flushed with success on the turf, William Bradley became landlord of the new prestigious premises of his recently built Railway Hotel. In the following year, his pony Prince Arthur won The Mayor of Chester's Cup and doubtless many a cup of cheer was downed by the regulars at The Railway Hotel who had backed the winner.
As the 1880s wore on, various trophies formed 'conspicuous ornaments' in the hotel bar. In 1891 Mr Bradley's horse won a new trophy, The Hinckley Cup.
Mr Bradley was engaged in various aspects of local politics in Hinckley, which at that time was still a town supporting the Conservatives. He served on the Hinckley Local Board in the days before the Urban District Council came into existence in the 1890s. He was also a Poor Law Guardian, sharing responsibility with others for the running of Hinckley Workhouse.
During a period of 33 years he was also a member of the Leicestershire Yeomanry Cavalry and became Quarter-Master Sergeant of the local troop. His expertise regarding horseflesh was matched by his knowledge of railway timetables.
In 1891 William Bradley features in a copy of the local Conservative magazine called "Clubland" and much of this biography is drawn from that account. For those who ventured into The Railway Hotel that year, it was worth noting that Mrs Bradley had "justly made herself famous for the piquant repasts which she knows so well to provide".
The Bradleys were clearly an asset to Victorian Hinckley in a variety of respects.
Author: Hugh Beavin
Written for: Hinckley-on-line