William Bradley was born into a family of Leamington basket makers, who grew their own osiers on a small island in the River Leam, adjoining Welch’s Meadow. Both Kit Smith and Eva Sabin remember a smallish, kindly man, working on his little patch in the river.
Kit’s father, the boot-maker from Bath Street, had a small boat which cost him 2/6d a year to use on the river, and they used it to visit Mr Bradley occasionally at work. The Smiths were one of a few families accorded this privilege, but Eva Sabin, née Kilby, was also one of his visitors, walking gingerly with her school-friend along a series of planks over the water to the osier beds where they were allowed to help Mr Bradley strip the willow.
Mr Bradley carried on his basket-making business until the end of WW2, when he diversified rather dramatically into Antiques and Collectibles. He became a regular at Locke and England’s auction sales, and towards the end of the day, if items failed to sell, the auctioneer would call out, “Come along, Mr Bradley, make me an offer!” – and he invariably did, amassing an eclectic collection of furniture, paintings and bric-a-brac. He died in 1964, at the ripe old age of ninety-one.
Extracted from The Leamington Omnibus, LHG Newsletter, Summer 2014