Antonio Brady (1811-1881) Civil Servant and Fossil Collector
Sir Antonio Brady (1811-1881), civil servant and fossil collector was born on
10th November 1811 at Deptford, Kent. He died suddenly on 12th December 1881 at
Stratford, Essex and was buried on 16th December in the graveyard of St.
John’s church, Stratford, Essex. Brady was knighted on 23rd June 1870. Brady
was a great philanthropist and was always ready to help the poor. He prided
himself on the simplicity of his tastes. In appearance Brady usually
sported long side whiskers or beard. He had penetrating clear blue eyes and
brown hair. Brady resided at Stratford from 1837. By 1851 he was living at 7
Forest Lane, Maryland Point, Stratford, Essex where he died aged 70, of
heart failure in 1881.
Brady’s parents were Anthony Brady (1777-1847), a navy storekeeper, and
Marianne Perigal (1780-1868). They married in 1810 in Devon. Antonio was the
first of their eight children of six sons and two daughters. Antonio married
Maria Kilner (1812-1897) at All Saints’ church West Ham in 1837. Antonio
and Maria Brady had two sons and two daughters. Their first child, Nicholas
Brady (1839-1911) became vicar of Wennington, Essex. Their second child, Fanny
Brady (1840-1917) married William Emery (1825-1910) who later became
Archdeacon of Ely.
Antonio Brady was a civil servant in the Admiralty. He steadily progressed and
eventually became Superintendent of Contracts shortly before he retired in
1870. Brady was knighted shortly after his retirement. He travelled widely.
Brady was a Conservative and active member of the Church of England. He
was educated at Colfe’s school Lewisham. Brady started to collect Pleistocene
mammalian fossils from Ilford about 1844. He devoted a large amount of his
spare time and money to search for and dig up fossil bones. Mrs. Mary
Curtis, the wife of the owner of an Ilford Brick Pit would send Brady a letter
when the quarrymen uncovered any bones. His finest specimen, found in 1864, was
a complete mammoth skull with both tusks. Brady relinquished his claim to
this specimen in favour of the British Museum. He spared no effort to excavate
the fragile fossil bones and used plaster of Paris, strong boards and nail bar
iron. Brady eventually sold his specimens for £525 to the British Museum in
1874. A catalogue of his specimens, compiled by William Davies
(1814-1891), was privately circulated in 1874. This listed 888 remains
including lion (2 items); fox (1); brown bear (8); mammoth (271); elephant
(13); rhinoceros – three types (86); horse (34); giant deer (7); red deer
(50); deer (13); extinct bison (32); aurochs (305); miscellaneous ruminant
remains (60); hippopotamus [erroneous] (1) and undetermined (5). Brady was
elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1862. He was elected to
membership of the Geologists’ Association in 1872. He was an original
member of the Essex Field Club which he attended and promoted. Brady published
little on geology. His lasting legacy is his magnificent collection of fossil
mammalian bones from the Pleistocene brick earth and gravels of Ilford,
Essex, about 210,000 years old, which are still housed in the Natural History
Brady, N. and Woodward, H. 1882. In Memoriam: Sir Antonio Brady, J.P., F.G.S.,
&c. Transactions of the Essex Field Club. Vol. 3 pp.94-101.
George, W. H. 1999. Sir Antonio Brady (1811-1881) civil servant,
fossil collector and philanthropist of West Ham, Essex. ISBN
0953409202. 36 pages.
Fossil Collection at Natural History Museum; Museum of London.
Archives: Some letters at Natural History Museum. Some Family Papers at Essex
Record Office, Chelmsford.
Likeness: Brady, N. and Woodward, H. 1882 p. 95.
Wealth at Death: Estate valued at £21,337.
Lithograph drawings of mammoth
mandibles collected by Sir Antonio Brady from Ilford Essex.
Largest jawbone is more than 80cm wide
Source: A. Leith Adams Monograph of the British Fossil Elephants Part 2
1879 plate 8. Palaeontographical Society
Fossil Rhinoceros Skull and
Collected by Antonio Brady
Length about 80cm
Line Drawing of Sir Antonio
Brady's Brass Memorial Plaque
St. John's Church, Stratford Broadway
Thomas Curtis was the owner of
some of the Ilford Brick Pits. When large bones were found Mrs. Curtis would
write to Antonio Brady. He would them arrange for the fossils to be removed and
compensate the labourers for any loss of wages.