Born on 6 May 1857 in Sibsey, nr Boston, Lincolnshire (GRO), he studied at the Lincoln School of Art and Antwerp Academy, and spent a year in Venice before arriving in Newlyn during the winter of 1884. He was considered to be a leading figure of the Newlyn School along with Stanhope FORBES and Walter LANGLEY. Though he was a founder of New English Art Club, he resigned in 1890 following a scathing attack on his work by Walter Richard SICKERT.
Before marriage (1891), his home and studio were at the corner of the Rue des Beaux Arts in Newlyn. In 1886 he produced Domino using the square brush technique. This painting was Bramley's only exhibit at the Dowdeswell Exhibition of 1890, and regarded as the first substantial interior scene by a Newlyn artist. His work is know for its social realism, which Wood described as that 'of Courbet and Millet, combined with the plein air landscape of the Barbizon painters.'
From 1893-97 the Bramleys lived at Orchard Cottage (then Belle Vue Cottage), and then in 1889 at Belle Vue House. In 1895, he served on the provisional committee of artists supporting the Passmore Edwards Art Gallery at Newlyn, and in the Opening Exhibition exhibited three pieces, the sketch for his large painting Saved being purchased by Elizabeth FORBES.
The couple then moved to Droitwich that same year (1895) and on to Grasmere in 1900, spending the last years of their lives in London. His major painting A Hopeless Dawn was purchased for the nation by the Chantrey Bequest. He died on 10 August, 1915, age 58, at Chalford, near Stroud, Gloucestershire (GRO). Phryne comments that Bramley was 'Newlyn School's answer to Moore and Whistler'. His colour harmonies and adroit arrangements reflect the Cornish ambience strongly.