Edward J[ohn] Broadfield was born 1831 in Manchester, the elder son of John Broadfield of Cheetwood, one of the Police Commissioners which preceded the Manchester Corporation. John Broadfield was keenly interested in elementary education, and this interest was shared by his son.
Edward J Broadfield was educated privately at a school near Accrington, and later attended the Friends' School in Mount Street. He then studied at Owens College in Manchester, and graduated BA (awarded by the University of London) in the first class. During his time at College he took first prizes in English language and literature, history, political economy, logic, and mental and moral philosophy.
This was the beginning of Broadfield's long association with Owens College: aged 40 he was elected by the Associates of Owens College to the Court of Governors (with Professor Jack and Dr John Hopkinson he was the first member of the Court thus elected following Act of Parliament). In 1876 he was elected a life governor of the College, becoming a Council member in 1874. In 1880 he saw the work on the foundation of the Victoria University come to fruition with the grant of its charter, and he was a member of both the Court and Council of the University. During this period Broadfield did some teaching work in English (standing in for the Rev William Gaskell after the death of Mrs Gaskell) and in philosophy (standing in for Professor Jevons).
As well as higher education, Broadfield was also interested in elementary education, in particular the Peter Street School where his father was a governor for 50 years, and his brother-in-law William Hughes the Hon Secretary of its committee. This school was managed by the Swedenborgian church (being later transferred to Manchester School Board); before completing his studies at Owens College the Accrington Swedenborgian Society invited Edward to undertake ministerial work in Accrington, including directing education at the school (although Broadfield remained a layman).
Broadfield declined nomination to the second Manchester School Board (1873) but accepted nomination to the third (1876), and was re-elected at every successive triennial election. He was not a partisan member, but aimed for the best preliminary education in the Board Schools. With Herbert Birley, William Hughes and Dr John Watts he helped to found one of the first Higher Grade Schools in England. As a School Board member he also established the Day Industrial School (against fierce opposition), originated the Pupil Teachers' Centre Classes of the Board (where young teachers themselves received instruction), and helped to found the Day Training College at the Owens College, becoming a long-serving member of its committee.
Broadfield was also involved in the extension of the Board's Evening Continuation School system, and the establishment of Evening Commercial Schools and Evening Institutes for Women and Girls. He also organised the Board's Free Meals Fund, acting as its treasurer for a long period. From c.1882 he was Chairman of the Finance Committee, and c.1891 as elected Chairman of the Board, holding both positions until at least 1898.
In addition to his work as a member of the School Board, Broadfield served as a Governor of both Manchester Grammar School and Manchester High School for Girls and was a Trustee for a number of educational funds including the Mynshull and Simpson-Fay Trusts. He was also a Governor of the Whitworth Institute (later the Schools of Technology and Art). He travelled extensively on the Continent (1847-1870) and North America (1880), meeting educationalists in Boston and visiting schools where black and native American children were taught.
In addition to education, Broadfield's other main interest was music. He was a Director of the Gentlemen's Concerts Society for many years, and its Vice-Chairman. He played a prominent part in the foundation of the Royal Manchester College of Music (f.1893), and was Vice-Chairman of the Council of the Royal Manchester College of Music until his death. On the death of Sir Charles Hall in 1895 Broadfield was one of the subscribers of the Society founded to continue the Hall concerts, and was chairman of this Hall Concerts Society from 1899 until his death.
A man of some independent means, Broadfield also derived an income from his work as a newspaper manager and writer (his description in the 1881 census). From 1857 he was a frequent contributor to the Manchester Examiner and Times, and helped in the paper's management. He was also on the staff of the Manchester Guardian and contributed numerous articles to the Manchester Weekly Times including biographical notices of Hall subsequently published in book form. He also published several religious pamphlets during the 1880s relating to the Peter Street Society (the Swedenborgians). Broadfield also served as a JP.
Edward J. Broadfield died in 1913, having never married.