Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


BRADSHAW, John Christopher


Organist and professor of music.

A new biography of Bradshaw, John Christopher appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Born at Adlington, Lancashire, England, on 23 June 1876, the son of a chemist, Bradshaw decided at an early age to devote himself to music, and at the age of 15 he became organist and choirmaster of Christ Church, Adlington. Later he became organist of Lee Congregational Church, Horwich, and in 1896 assistant organist of Manchester Cathedral. In 1898 he was appointed to the parish church of Llangollen and in 1900 to All Saints', Scarborough. He was one of the earliest students at the Royal Manchester College of Music, studying the organ under Dr James Kendrick Pyne and theory under Dr Henry Hiles. In 1899 he took his F.R.C.O. diploma, and at the age of 25 became the youngest doctor of music in the British Empire, the degree being awarded by the Manchester University.

For health reasons he accepted in 1902 the joint positions of organist and choirmaster at Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand, and lecturer in music at Canterbury University College, declining the position of organist at Ripon Cathedral which had been offered to him. For 35 years he maintained at Christchurch Cathedral a standard of choir and organ music that was fully up to the best English traditions. He was a tireless worker and a stern disciplinarian. Unsparing of himself, he made the same demands on his choristers. By his insistence on precision of rhythm, tone, intonation and diction, he built up a choir whose reputation extended far beyond its own city. He was equally accomplished as an organist. For many years he was city organist at Christchurch, giving regular recitals at His Majesty's and the Civic Theatres, as well as at the cathedral.

Other appointments held by Dr Bradshaw were conductor of the Christchurch Liedertafel (1905–17), Royal Christchurch Musical Society (1904–12 and 1916–21), Christchurch Male Voice Choir (1917–40), and Canterbury College Choral Society (1937–40).

Appointed originally as lecturer in music at Canterbury College in 1902, he became dean of the faculty and, on the creation of a chair in 1937, the first professor of music, holding this appointment until his retirement in 1941. Apart from music his particular interest was mountaineering. He was one of the first to join the Canterbury-Westland section of the New Zealand Alpine Club, and between the ages of 45 and 60 climbed some 16 major peaks.

Bradshaw married twice: first, in 1901 at Scarborough, Yorkshire, Edith Garrod by whom he had four sons and two daughters and, secondly, in 1946 at Christchurch, Muriel Agnes Innes. He died at Christchurch on 16 January 1950.

Brought up in an industrial Lancashire area, Dr Bradshaw brought its traditions of hard work with him to New Zealand. In his constant striving after perfection he showed a forbidding exterior to all except those who knew him intimately, but at heart he was deeply religious and humble. His contribution to New Zealand's musical life was significant for, although in each of the spheres in which he worked the foundations had already been laid by his predecessors, he greatly raised general artistic standards, especially those of church music.

by Linden Charles Mansell Saunders, M.A., MUS.B., Music Master, King's College, Auckland.

  • J. C. Bradshaw – A Memoir, Tucker, F. K. (1955)
  • Nelson Evening Mail, 18 Jan 1950 (Obit).


Linden Charles Mansell Saunders, M.A., MUS.B., Music Master, King's College, Auckland.