Simon Bradstreet was born in Horbling, Lincolnshire. His father was the rector of the parish church. Prior to his emigration to America, Bradstreet attended Emmanuel College at Cambridge for two years. Bradstreet married the future poet Anne Dudley while still in England. She was the daughter of Puritan leader Thomas Dudley. Dudley and others recognized Bradstreet's administrative abilities, and he was persuaded to leave for the fledgling Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.
Bradstreet was chosen to fill several important positions in colonial affairs, and he served as an assistant in the upper house of the General Court for most of his life. During his first twenty years in the colony, he was heavily involved in business pursuits, as well as the founding of new towns. In 1661, he was chosen as an envoy to the court of Charles II, that monarch having recently been restored to power. In 1679 Bradstreet was chosen governor of the colony. He would turn out to be the last governor under the original charter. In 1686, the colony was denied its right to self-rule, and Sir Edmund Andros was installed as governor. Bradstreet served briefly as governor again after Andros was overthrown, but England replaced him with Sir William Phips in 1692. Bradstreet continued to serve in government until his death in 1697, in Salem, Massachusetts.
Simon Bradstreet built his first home in America at the present location of Harvard Square at Brattle Street and John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge Massachusetts. That location is at 42°22'24.78"N and 71° 7'9.12"W.
His first wife Anne Dudley died in 1672; they had had eight children, of whom seven survived infancy. Bradstreet then married Ann Gardner, the widow of Captain Joseph Gardner of Salem. In June 1659, Bradstreet's daughter Hannah Bradstreet (by first wife Anne Dudley) married Andrew Wiggin, son of Governor Thomas Wiggin, governor of the Upper Plantation of New Hampshire.