The name 'Bradley Stoke' was chosen in 1984, deriving from Bradley Brook and Stoke Brook that flow through the area. The word ‘Stoke’ originates from Stoche, which indicated a place of human settlement or dependent farmstead, a ‘stake’ in the land. Bradley Brook is the brook or bourne that gives its name to the neighbouring Winterbourne, indicating an intermittent stream that flows in winter but dries up in summer. However, Rudder, writing in his New History of Gloucestershire (1779) says there is no evidence of the brook running dry at any time of the year, so it is difficult to give a definitive derivation of the name.
Bradley Stoke is bounded by the straight lines of the M5 to the north and the M4 to the east, the more-or-less straight line of the B4057 in the south (known as the Winterbourne Road) where it borders Stoke Gifford, and by a meandering line along Orpheus and Braydon Avenues, various fields and bye-ways to the west where it borders Little Stoke and Patchway.
The neighbouring settlement of Over was in existence in 1005, with Almondsbury documented in 1086, Hempton in 1248, Patchway in 1276 and Woodlands in 1287.
Apart from a few isolated farms, however, it appears the area covered by present day Bradley Stoke largely escaped such settlement. Only a few pre-1987 dwellings still exist. Most of the area was low-grade farmland and many of the farmers preferred to concentrate on dairy cattle rather than till the heavy clay soil. A number of attractive natural features have been retained. These include Savage's Wood, Webb's Wood and Sherbourne's Brake, and four brooks where landscaped areas are being developed around them.
Bradley Stoke is virtually a 100% 'green field' development and therefore, unlike many other new housing areas, has been planned on a largely self-standing basis, rather than being tagged on to an existing community. In March 1987 Sir John Cope, then MP for Northavon, cut the first turf with a JCB excavator instead of the traditional spade. The first new home to be completed and occupied was on the John Mowlem Foxwood development (now part of the Stean Bridge Road area) on 16 October 1987. There was little publicity for this, but Ideal Homes organized a civic reception on 14 November 1987 for the first new residents in the north of the Town on the Branson Court development (now the Pye Croft area). Bradley Stoke really began to take shape in 1988, working towards some 8,500 houses, seven schools, playing fields, shops and social services.
Development began from the two ends of Bradley Stoke with the construction of major residential areas to the south near Stoke Gifford and to the north near Almondsbury. By starting to build from both ends it was possible to reach the new houses from existing roads, which obviated the need for all the infrastructure of roads to be in place before the housing developers could see a return on their investment. Bradley Stoke had been planned as one development around a single Centre so the two areas would gradually grow towards each other to meet in the middle. As a private sector development there was no money available to build an infrastructure before house building began.
From earliest days, Bradley Stoke Community Association lobbied for the formation of a Parish Council. In due course new parish boundaries were set to be effective from 1 April 1992. A Parish Council was elected on 19 March 1992 consisting of 13 parish councillors (there were 39 names on the ballot paper!) who then appointed a Clerk. Within a few months, at its meeting on 27 May 1992, the Parish Council decided to redesignate itself as a Town Council to reflect the projected size of the population and the rapid expansion of the town. This gave the Chair the option to call him or herself a Mayor – a choice not extended to Parish Councils for some unknown reason – but in all other respects there is no difference at all between parish and town councils. There are now 15 Town Councillors and five South Gloucestershire Councillors representing Bradley Stoke.
A precept of £100,000 was allocated to the new Town Council by Northavon District Council in the first year. In addition, a sum of £150,000 was transferred by agreement from Almondsbury Parish Council under the Northavon (Parishes) Order, 1991. About 150 acres of land now included in the north of Bradley Stoke, and more than half the residents of the Parish of Almondsbury, became part of the new Parish of Bradley Stoke at that time.