Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Nouveau Riche of Ripponden - a glimpse into the early life of Rex Ryan

The contemporary newspaper reports shown here relate to Walter Arnold Grosvenor Bradley, the father of Evelyn Bradley, who later adopted the stage name Rex Ryan and wrote a series of bizarre thriller novels in the 1930s under the byline R.R. Ryan.  Walter Bradley had been arrested for company fraud and was to spend some time in prison.  The reports provide some curious insights into the early life of Rex Ryan and the actor, playwright and writer he was to become.

The Nouveau Riche of Ripponden (The Yorkshire Post, 23 October 1901)

We do not know why the loss of a princely and pious benefactor is not bewailed at Ripponden; for Mr. Walter Arnold Bradley, who last week sold up his establishment and does not contemplate residing there again, seems entitled to the regrets of its inhabitants. They have known him for five years, have found him open-handed beyond all experience, have admired the usage of family prayers in a twenty roomed villa, the softness of disposition in a man who drove a pair of match bays and chartered saloon carriages, and have elected him people's warden. Mr. Bradley was as liberal as Monte Christo, and innocent of revengeful purposes. If not a selfish impulse of regret, then consternation and sympathy, would seem to be emotions proper to the spectacle of his arrest under a charge of vulgar fraud which has not been proved. The arrest, however, is regarded as rounding off a mystery. Mr. Bradley did not tell the astonished villages where he came from. They feel that they accepted him on trust, and therefore on probation. There is a disposition to regard this disastrous close as, natural, perhaps fitting; and it would instruct a story-writer given to the study of social comedy to be upon the scene.

Nothing inconsistent with Mr. Bradley's innocence of the charge is to be heard in all this gossip, and the true interest of it is merely picturesque. He came from nobody knew where to the little place five years ago, took Ryburn House and furnished it palatially, and told nobody his business. He may be supposed to have felt that he owed nobody an explanation. It was not as if he meant to hide his light under a bushel; Mr. Bradley lived from the first in the public eye--constituted himself, indeed, a sort of Ripponden windfall. There was just a spice of ostentation in it, for he made it a point of etiquette that letters should not be addressed to Mr. W. A. Bradley, but to W. A. Grosvenor Bradley. The name “Grosvenor” was one in which he took a certain family pride, it seemed; he had acquired it by some remote but honourable connection with a well-known aristocratic family. Otherwise Mr. Bradley's manners were exemplary. He gave to troublesome people on several occasions the soft answer which turneth away wrath—and envious disesteem. He was a regular worshipper at Ripponden Church, a generous donor to its funds, and a warm admirer of Evangelical doctrine and methods. It appeared that his costly taste an matters, appertaining to domestic art had not perverted a sturdy Protestantism; he had not, and never could have, the least sort of sympathy with ecclesiastical high ritual. The family prayers at Ryburn edified a large establishment, including a coachman, a groom, gardeners, and a liberal complement of female servants. It was reported that he led their devotions with unusual fervour. He wished his coachman and groom to be at liberty on Sundays to attend a place of worship, and gave a weekly rest to his pair of bays. That he should not escape calumny was inevitable. Village gossip made much of the fact that, his servants never stayed long, and the servants, or some of them, may be supposed to have talked resentfully. There were quarters in which opinion presently went against him, and where it was conjectured shrewdly that Mr. Bradley was either a pawnbroker or a money lender. Bet all these detractors could learn about the source of his apparently boundless wealth was that he did business in Manchester.

 Ryburn House, Ripponden

“Light come, light go," was a proverb quoted against him with headshakings; for he tipped the railway porters  handsomely, tipped any man who did him service and would take his money, tipped the disaffected servants most of all—with an occasional bonus of a sovereign added to their monthly wages, or of half-a-sovereign supplementing a visitor's vails. His visitors themselves were royally entertained. It was for their comfort and exclusiveness, not his own, that he sometimes nut a saloon carriage. He made no close inquiry as to the merits of "deserving objects," but was to every one alike a cheerful giver.  Is it, or is it not, creditable to the charity and common sense of Ripponden that, by way augment the mystery of a liberal man’s resourcefulness, a story went the rounds that he had one secret room at Ryburn, which none but he was allowed to enter, and that, if the contents and what he did there could be known, the whole truth about Mr Grosvenor Bradley would be manifest?  Gossip named the room Bluebeard’s Chamber. It seems to have been a writing room – simply furnished with a desk, a couch, a nest of pigeon holes, a few bentwood chairs, and a screen to ward the draughts off.

But Mr Bradley’s reticence was taken as a challenge. In a Yorkshire village reticence is a mistake. There were bets about him in the public-houses, and more than once he was followed to Manchester. The mystery remained a mystery, nevertheless, until the other day.

For some time past Mr Bradley had reduced his expenditure without abating it. He kept fewer servants. He was not as often seen at church either; and business at Manchester engaged him rather more closely. Finally, like a bombshell, came the announcement: “Mr Thomas Arnold, instructed by a gentleman who is leaving the neighbourhood, will sell by auction the very handsome and costly appointments” at Ryburn. The sale took place on Tuesday and Wednesday last week.  The whole village was at liberty to go and look at Bluebeard’s Chamber, and wonder at the old oak in the hall and dining-room, the gilt and the inlaid furniture, the rich carpets, the elctro-plate, the pictures, the handsome ornaments, the six writing tables, and the “first-class match pair of bay carriage horses (with black points)” in their stable, “well known in the district as fast good movers” – like their owner, it was jocularly said.  Mr Grosvenor Bradley had taken a new office in Manchester, where, by strict attention to business – But his arrest forbids the conjecture.  Mr Bradley’s attention to business now engages the help of a solicitor, and gives him, doubtless, a certain new anxiety.

Mr Grosvenor Bardley: Leading Figure in the Novelties Trial (The Lancashire Daily Post, 30 April 1902)

Mr Grosvenor Bradley, upon whom the curtain rang down at Manchester Assizes on Tuesday night, resided up the time of his arrest in connection with the Patent Novelties case at Ripponden, a hamlet on the border line which divides Lancashire from Yorkshire.  He has lived at Ripponden for the past five or six years, but Ripponden has none the more known anything definite about Mr Bradley.  It confesses that Mr Bradley has “done the heavy,” but there its knowledge of the gentleman ends.  Curiosity to know something more about him led certain enterprising amateurs in the Sherlock Holmes line to follow him occasionally to Manchester; but these seekers after knowledge invariably confessed that on reaching the chambers which Mr Bradley entered they found themselves baffled.  There were a lot of names at the entrance – names of occupiers of offices in the building – but Ripponden not being used to this perplexing multifariousness, confessed itself at a loss.  It reminded one, in fact, of the remark made in regard to clearances of familiar property in the metropolis – how that their chambers being dissolving views the occupants themselves became mysterious disappearances. 

Undoubtedly, Mr Bradley has remained for Ripponden the “man of mystery.”  Stress is laid upon his “aristocratic bearing” – he had a liberal hand, as the porters who are said to have almost fought with each other at Sowerby Bridge Station for the privilege of serving can testify.  It is told with awe that he once gave a porter at Victoria Station, Manchester, a half-sovereign “tip,” which the porter thought a mistake for sixpence, and dutifully drawing the donor’s attention to the fact, was reassured in quite lordly style that no error had been committed.

About a week before the Patent Novelties trial began Mr Bradley’s household furniture and other effects, to say nothing of his fine pair of bays and carriage, were sold by auction.  The amount realized from the sale is locally estimated at £1,200, and there were “high jinks” at the local hostelries while the sale was “on.”  Much is thought of what the men from Manchester who attended the sale did not say, and it is sagely observed by the wiseacres of Ripponden that these gentry knew a lot.

Of the coming and going of servants during Mr Bradley’s tenancy of Ryburn, there would seem to have been almost literally no end.  Mr Bradley does not appear to have taken anybody in the village into his confidence, and (no doubt, necessarily) least of all his servants.  Butr, as has been the role of servants from early times, some of his menials were afflicted with an undue thirst for knowledge.  As a ruke, this thirst was seldom appeased.  A rough calculation puts the number of domestics who have enjoyed a fitful stay at Ryburn at 200!  It is in the memory of the village fathers that a servant has been known to be cashiered on the very day of arrival.  But even this was not regarded as betokening a harsh disposition.  With princely liberality the dismissed one was handed a month’s salary, and sometimes even given an extra sovereign.  Dismissal under such circumstances was regarded as an exceedingly pleasant experience.  Once, it is said, there were three sent off in one day.

Whatever may have been the fate of a prophet, it is made clear enough at Ripponden that Mr Bradley was not without honour among the people with whom he had made his home.  Apart from that irritating barrier of reticence, they had no fault to find with him.  At Sowerby Bridge Station he will be much missed.  It was the custom there to keep a carriage reserved for his sole accommodation.

Of Mr Bradley’s daily life Ripponden had no exact idea.  He drove in his carriage and pair to the railway station about ten every morning, and returned about four o’clock in the afternoon; but beyond these somewhat unsatisfying details Ripponden was at a loss.  It did once say he might be “my uncle,” but only a discredited minority held for long to that view.  Against this theory was opposed the knowledge of the luxury of life at Ryburn.  Velvet pile was talked about in reference to carpets, and amazing references were made to jewelry and champagne – gossip even went so far as to enlarge on the fittings of the gymnasium, and to hint at the setting up of a “theatre” at Mr Bradley’s residence.  Through it all, however, Mr Bradley himself, to the great regret of Ripponden, kept outside the radius.

Also revealing is a speech made by Walter Bradley during the trial:

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Thursday 24 April 1902

Bradley opens his Defence
At half-past five in the afternoon Bradley commenced to address the jury in his own defence.  The question at issue, he said, seemed to be chiefly one of motive, and with a view to establishing the probity of his past career he entered into a long autobiographical narrative, in which he mentioned that he was born in the county of Lancaster 55 years ago and had never up to the time of the present proceedings had any charge laid against him either public or private.  After making allusion to what he called the atrocious attack which had been made upon him, he said: “If you had looked into the said face of loved ones which were once bright and bonny, and if you had the knowledge I have of ruined [?] which have resulted from this attack made upon me I think everybody would feel as I do.” No one, he continued, could voice forth the indignation he felt at the charges brought against him, and at the misconduct of those who had used the press, the courts, and the Treasury for their own evil purposes.  Continuing his family history, Bradley described how, having been brought up without a tr[?] in any business or profession, and finding himself on the death of his father, 30 years ago, left in a responsible position as a land and mine [c?] he turned his attention to other branches of enterprise.  For a short time he was engaged as an African merchant, but the vessel in which he was interested became a wreck, and he gave that business up.  At the time he was living as a mine owner in Derbyshire he had certain business transactions with Mr J. Cunliffe, who was a mill owner residing at Chorley. Cunliffe owed him £20,000, and following the settlement of that account they became mutually interested in certain inventions and patents, including a ball game, which was being manufactured in Birmingham, London, and other places.

Fortunes Made Easily
Whilst in London some of the wholesale houses represented to him that great fortunes were being made out of monopolies of that kind, and they said that if he (Bradley) could supply the ball game with superior finish they could take them in such quantities that £10,000 a year could be made out of them.  That statement, added Bradley, might appear to those who had not studied the question to be a somewhat extravagant one, but to those who had studied the profits to be derived from these apparently small things it was not extravagant in any shape or form.  He came down to confer with the joint owner, Mr Cunliffe, and they arranged to use Mr Tomlinson’s office as a meeting place.  In 1890 Cunliffe and he arranged to form a company with a view to acquiring and dealing with the inventions and patents of which they were joint owners. To embark, Breadley explained, into an ordinary trade was to lose money from over competition and inexperience.  This consideration led him to a closer study of investments and to the conclusion that for men who had not been Educated to any other occupation undoubtedly the best opening lay in the direction of monopolies.  After making exhaustive investigations he found existing all around him a series of interesting and surprising facts. He found a vast network of liberal incomes, which were being enjoyed by the possessors of interest in monopolies, and that, in the majority of instances, these incomes were derived from small and apparently trivial inventions.

Having thus partially accounted for his connection with the company, Bradley commented in severe terms on the manner in which he had been treated by the prosecution.

Complaint Against the Prosecution

Such treatment, he said, was unworthy of the King in whose name the Crown counsel acted, and he believed the King would bow his head in shame if he knew if he knew that his advocate behaved in such a way.  Did the court think, he asked, that he should stand in the midst of them that day in all the disadvantage and inequality of the fight which had been forced upon him if he did not feel that One was with him who would justify him?  What was the cause, he asked, why he, in the name of his King and country, should be surrounded by enemies and every species of wrong done to him.  Various attacks, he continued, had been levelled against him in regard to his name.  The explanation was very simple.  His father had lived and died beloved and honoured by all who knew him.  His grandfather was a member of one of the noble families of England.  He married into the Grosvenor family, and the descendants of his issue were the Grosvenor Bradleys.  This simple fact, which did not concern anyone but the family, had been made the most malignant use of in these proceedings, Bradley added that his conduct in life had been guided largely by the dying counsel of his father, who sent for him at his bed side and said, “You may make mistakes and lose money, but do your best for all and I shall be satisfied.”  “Since then,” Bradley continued, “I have made mistakes and lost money, but one thing I have lost money, but one thing I have not lost, and that is the knowledge that I have done my best for all.”  He did not, he proceeded, claim to have made no mistakes, but if anyone accused him at any time of having acted from corrupt motives, he could with a clear conscience deny it.  Those who accused him of paltry aims or selfish inclinations were those who did not know him.

No comments:

Post a Comment