An important Manchester physician, Bardsley was born in Essex on 27 April 1764. He was apprenticed to a surgeon in Nottingham, before studying at London, Edinburgh and Leydon. After graduating from the Leyden University in 1789 Bardsley moved to Manchester and in 1790 was elected physician to MRI. He retained this position until August 1823 when he passed it onto his nephew James Lomax Bardsley. After his resignation from the MRI Bardsley was elected Physician Extraordinary.
In 1796, Bardsley joined Infirmary staff calling for the formation of the Board of Health for Manchester, establishment of fever hospitals and proper factory laws. In 1807 Bardsley published Medical Reports of Cases and Experiments, with Observations, Chiefly derived from Hospital Practice. This included important essays on rheumatism, diabetes and rabies. Bardsley was an active promoter of the Chorlton-on-Medlock Infirmary from its foundation in 1826. He was also vice-president of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society from 1797 to 1808. Bardsley died in Hastings on 29 May 1851 while visiting a friend, and was buried at St Saviour's Church Manchester.