Abel Prescott Bradshaw, 1859 - 1956

by Brian Stevenson
last updated December, 2020

A.P. Bradshaw was a long-time member of the Mounting Section of the Manchester Microscopical Society, a group that was dedicated to developing each other’s techniques in the preparation of microscope slides. Bradshaw’s slides exhibit his fine skills as a mounter, especially those with multi-color ringing that appear to be his later preparations (Figure 1).

Bradshaw managed a cotton-weaving plant in Manchester, England. He joined the MMS in 1894, when in his mid 30s. Later in life he also became a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society and a member of the Quekett Microscopical Club.

Figure 1. Microscope slides by Abel P. Bradshaw. The two on the left, with custom-printed labels, were probably made later than the other two. The significance of “my first” on the leftmost slide is not known, although the handwriting is likely to be Bradshaw’s.


Figure 21. A bookplate from a 1946 donation by A.P. Bradshaw to the Manchester Microscopical Society. The handwriting is very similar to “my first” on the leftmost slide in Figure 1. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from J.G. Delly, https://www.mccrone.com/mm/microscopical-bookplates-ex-libris


The middle name and surname of our microscopist has a curious history. The 1858 marriage records of his parents list his father’s name as Thomas Bradshaw Prescott. The 1861 census lists the parents as Thomas B. Prescott and Mary A. B. Prescott, and their child as Abel P. Bradshaw. The 1871 census lists the parents’ names as Thomas Prescott Bradshaw and Mary Ann Prescott Bradshaw. Abel’s younger brother, born in 1862, was named John Prescott Bradshaw. Over time, the family’s surname evolved into simply “Bradshaw”, with the official record of the father’s probated will giving his name as simply Thomas Bradshaw.

Abel’s mother had previously been married, and had two children, so he grew up with an elder half brother and sister, in addition to his younger brother. All of the family, except Abel, worked as weavers or piecers in cotton fabric mills near Dukinfield, Cheshire. Abel evidently had a good head for numbers, and became a clerk in a cotton mill. By the time of the 1891 census, he had been promoted to “overlooker” (manager).

During the summer of 1882, Abel married Mary Ann Ormerod. The pair had three children, all boys.

Abel Bradshaw joined the Manchester Microscopical Society in 1894, and soon became a member of the Executive Council, and a member and officer of both the Mounting Section and the Extension Section. The latter was described as, “The objects of the section (Extension Section) shall be the extension of the knowledge of Microscopy and Natural History to outside associations by means of lectures and demonstrations. In pursuance of the objects set forth, this Society has prepared a list of fifty-four lectures and demonstrations of various microscopical subjects, some of which are illustrated by diagrams, others by magic lantern, the microscope, or by actual specimens, while in some instances two or more of these are combined. The work of lecturing and demonstrating is entirely gratuitous on the part of the members, the only charge made being for the hire of slides, travelling and out-of-pocket expenses, and in some cases an additional small fee for the lecture. This is specially intended to present scientific knowledge in a popular form before societies which are unable to pay large fees to professional lecturers. This is a step which it is hoped will meet with great appreciation, for it is undoubtedly in the right direction, and should increase the popularity of the microscope”. During the early 1900s, Bradshaw was the contact person for the Extension Section, and is recorded as having given numerous presentations around the country. 

During his many years in the M.M.S., Bradshaw exhibited and donated a large number of microscope slides on an enormous variety of subjects. He also served for many years as Curator of the Society’s collection of instruments and specimens. 

Abel’s wife, Mary Ann, died in 1930. Around that time, he retired from the mills and moved to Marple, Cheshire.

A 1931 issue of Watson's Microscope Record listed A.P. Bradshaw as an expert who “offered to assist beginners with advice and actual demonstrations”. 

On March 18, 1931, Bradshaw was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society. He joined the Quekett Microscopical Club on August 14, 1945. 

Thus, it is clear that Bradshaw was an active microscopist from the mid-1890s through the middle of the twentieth century. Some of his mounts bear dates of their production, but most do not. 

A.P. Bradshaw passed away on October 6, 1956. 



Annual Report and Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society (1900) Committees and Officers 

Annual Report and Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society (1902) Committees and Officers 

Annual Report and Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society (1905) Committees and Officers 

Bradshaw, A.P. (1901) The distribution of fruits and seeds, Annual Report and Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society, pages 65-75 

Bradshaw (1908) Notes on the development of the male fern, Annual Report and Transactions of the Manchester Microscopical Society 

Delly, John G. (accessed December, 2020) Microscopical bookplates (ex libris), https://www.mccrone.com/mm/microscopical-bookplates-ex-libris/ 

England census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com 

Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1948) List of members, Vol 3, series 3, 

Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society (1931) New Fellows, Series 3, Vol. 51, page 211 

Knowledge (1903) Lectures and demonstrations in microscopy, Vol. 26, page 238 

Marriage record of Thomas Bradshaw Prescott and Mary Ann Tattersall (1858) accessed through ancestry.com 

Marriage record of Abel Prescott Bradshaw and Mary Ann Ormerod (1882) accessed through ancestry.com 

Probate of the will of Thomas Bradshaw (1891) “The will of Thomas Bradshaw late of 42 Sett-street Stalybridge in the County of Chester Weaver who died 30 July 1891 at the Infirmary Ashton-under-Lyne in the County of Lancaster was proved at Chester by Abel Prescott Bradshaw of 88 Lowe-street Miles Platting in the County of Lancaster Overlooker the Son and Edwin Collins of 18 Booth-street Stalybridge Cotton Grinder the Executors. Personal Estate £89 10s”, accessed through ancestry.com

Probate of the will of Mary Ann Bradshaw (1930) “Bradshaw Mary Ann of 277 New Brook-road Westhoughton Lancashire (wife of Abel Prescott Bradshaw) died 26 July 1930 Probate Manchester 11 August to the said Abel Prescott Bradshaw formerly cotton mill manager. Effects £126 13s”, accessed through ancestry.com

Probate of the will of A.P. Bradshaw (1956) “Bradshaw Abel Prescott of The Café 44 Dale-road Rose Hill Marple Cheshire died 6 October 1956 Probate Manchester 24 January to District Bank Limited and Percy Bradshaw retired traffic manager. Effects £1661 17s 5d”, accessed through ancestry.com

Watson's Microscope Record (1931) page 11