A Wedding in Grantham……
The bride was MARY JANE SHELLAKER, who was born in Tugby, Leicestershire and who was known from an early age, and hereafter in this narrative, as ‘POLLY’.
At the time of her marriage Polly was recorded as a Spinster of twenty eight years residing at 8, Chapel Street, Grantham.
At the time of her marriage she was employed as a Housekeeper to Mr. Frederick Wardle, the owner of a Dairy Business who was a widower originating from Nottingham.
The bridegroom was FRANK JAMES BROWN, recorded as being a bachelor of Grantham, thirty-two years and living at 24, Manthorpe Road, Little Gonerby, Grantham.
As can be seen below, the respective fathers of Polly & Frank, as recorded on the wedding certificate, are RICHARD SHELLAKER, a Farmer and HENRY ISAAC BROWN, a Builder (deceased).
Certificate of Marriage 10th October 1892 – Francis James Brown & Mary Jane Shellaker (Polly)
News of the wedding has announced in the local paper shortly after on 22nd October 1892. After their marriage Polly and Frank initially lived at 1, Brownlow Street, Little Gonerby, Grantham. This house still remains and is diagonally opposite the house in Chapel Street where Polly was the housekeeper to Mr. Frederick Wardle. The picture below shows Frank and Polly and was possibly taken around the time of their wedding.
Over the subsequent decades POLLY & FRANK raised six children, remaining together as man and wife for around sixty years until Frank’s death in December 1953 with Polly dying on 18th July of the following year.
Not much of a story so far? Stay with me….. it gets interesting if we delve into the backgrounds of this happy couple.
Polly was born in twenty-ninth year of the reign of her majesty Queen Victoria on Friday 26th of August 1864, in TUGBY, a village of around 275 souls in East Leicestershire. Polly spent all of her childhood and adolescence years in this village, attending the local village school, as did her four sisters; SARAH, EMMA, ELIZABETH and HELENA (‘NELLIE’).
Polly also had two brothers, WILLIAM and JOHN who contrary to their sisters did not receiving formal schooling, working instead with their father Richard who was one of the local butchers in the village.
At around twenty-two years old Polly moved with her parents, Richard and MARY (née GROCOCK), and her siblings, a few short miles to Billesdon Lodge Farm located just over a mile north of the village of BILLESDON.
Within the Shellaker family was a long tradition of religious non-conformity. Polly’s Grandmother SARAH SHELLAKER was a member of the Wesleyan-Methodist Society and her Grandfather WILLIAM was, for some time, the leader of the non-conformist Chapel in Tugby. It was believed her father Richard may have played the violin as part of the musical accompaniment to the singing of Hymns.
After the move to Billesdon this conviction continued as the family became heavily involved in activities at the Baptist Chapel in Back Street, one of three chapels in that village. During this time Billesdon Lodge Farm, or ‘Shellaker Farm’ as it became known, also was the scene of many Chapel social events. Polly’s sister, Emma was the choir mistress at the Chapel, a position she subsequently held for decades.
As she grew up, Polly, who was acknowledged within the family as being the prettiest of the Shellaker sisters, was seemingly eager to move away from Billesdon. It was said she “got fed-up with getting up at the Lodge at half past four each morning in order to feed the animals”, so sought employment elsewhere and consequently moved to Grantham to work as a Housekeeper.
What is known of ‘FRANK JAMES BROWN, Bachelor of Grantham’?
‘Frank James Brown’ cannot be located living in Grantham within the 1891 Census, recorded only a year prior to his wedding to Polly, nor strangely as living anywhere else in the country. Curiously neither can his name be found on the Census Returns for 1881 or 1871 nor can this name be discovered in Army or Navy Records or amongst the registers of those incarcerated in Jail or travelling overseas.
Inexplicably his name is even missing as an infant on the Census of 1861. No record of his birth can be found nor any record of a Baptism of a child with that name c.1860.
A SECOND WEDDING
The single definitive clue which unlocked the mystery of Frank James Brown’s ancestry is an official document recorded over four decades after the marriage in Grantham in 1892. This document was a Wedding Certificate dated 27th February 1934 at Kingston upon Thames in the Counties of Surrey and Middlesex. The couple getting married on that Tuesday is recorded as being ….
MARY JANE SHELLAKER (POLLY) aged 69 years, a Spinster residing in Surbition, daughter of Richard Shellaker (deceased), Farmer and FRANK BROWN aged 73 years, a Widower also residing in Surbition, son of HENRY ISAAC CABLE (deceased), Builder.
The Certificate of Marriage 27th February 1934 – Francis James Brown & Mary Jane Shellaker (Polly)
The groom signs his name ‘Francis Brown’ although in the section on the certificate for ‘Name and Surname’ he writes ‘Francis Cable otherwise Brown’ It is clearly evident, from the information on this document, Polly and Frank went through a second wedding ceremony, not a blessing or a repeating of their vows but a bona fide second wedding ceremony, over 41 years after their first in Grantham in 1892.
Furthermore, the notation of ‘widower’ as Frank’s status as recorded on this document is unambiguous evidence he had been previously married to someone who had since died. It was also evident that back in 1892 the man walking down the aisle at Finkin Street Methodist Chapel to marry Polly Shellaker was not ‘Frank James Brown, Bachelor of Grantham’ , but was, in reality, FRANCIS JAMES CABLE. And when Frank made his vows to commit to stay with Polly… “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part” , Frank was also committing a crime….. the crime of BIGAMY.
And so begins a search for Frank Cable’s family………………
Next Page: The Search for the Cable Family