Francis Cable


Francis Cable – Now known as Frank Brown – 1933 to 1953

Frank’s wife, Catherine (‘Catherine Sarah Frederick Feltham’) dies on 13th December 1933. Her address at the time of her death was 57 King Henry’s Road, New Malden, a suburb in south-west London, in the boroughs of Kingston and Merton. She was 93 years old. She is buried in Kingston where a gravestone bears her name – I understand with the name ‘Catherine Cable’.

A little over 70 days pass and the marriage mentioned at the start of this narrative, takes place on 27th February 1934  in Kingston. FRANK BROWN (FRANCIS CABLE), at the aged of 73 years, and after raising six children together; May, John Richard, Elizabeth, Edith, Daisy and Francis Joseph, all of whom were officially born out of wedlock as it appears was Frank himself, marries MARY JANE SHELLAKER (POLLY), aged 69 years, legally for the first, and only occasion.



It was rumoured Frank’s first wife would not agree to a divorce as she was a Catholic. It is said Frank desired to ‘make an honest woman of Polly as soon as he could but had to wait after Catherine’s death.  Although this does suggest she did not comply with any request for a divorce there is no evidence to suggest Catherine was a Catholic. On the contrary, neither of the churches in which she was married was a Catholic church.

Did Polly know Frank was married when she ‘married’ him in Grantham in 1892? I personally do not think so but she may have discovered the fact shortly afterwards. An unsubstantiated family story exists…. ‘she left him soon after the marriage and returned to the family home at Billesdon Lodge Farm’ but ‘Frank came after her in a pony & trap and persuaded her to come back with him.’ The reason for her initial flight may well have been learning of his bigamy Bigamy in late Victorian England was, (and still is), a crime under “The Offences against the Person Act 1861” which states “This offence will be committed by one who being married, shall marry any person during the life of the former husband or wife, whether the second marriage shall have taken place in England or Ireland or elsewhere.” The offence of Bigamy carried maximum of seven years imprisonment but in practice sentences are often very lenient. However if Bigamy is committed for the purpose of obtaining property or is the purposes of seduction, the punishment may be severe.

The Act also states that; “A bigamous ceremony does not create a marriage.” Therefore Polly was not legally married at Grantham on the 10th of October 1892 and subsequently all her children were all born out of wedlock and were illegitimate. Technicality & legally she actually remained “Polly Shellaker” until 1934.

On a number of occasions Elizabeth Brown (Bertha) mentioned that ‘Dad’, ( Francis Cable/Brown) had a friend ‘Harry’ with whom he spent a lot of time.  She thought he might be related but wasn’t sure (or wasn’t telling). We now have not one but two likely candidates for this ‘friend’ Harry; firstly his younger brother Henry was known as ‘Harry’ but also his son, Francis Henry Cable, could also have been known as ‘Harry’.

Polly’s father, Richard Shellaker, was one of the witnesses at his daughter’s ‘marriage’ to Frank Brown (picture left in his old age) in 1892 at Grantham.

However a few years later, less than eight years after Polly’s ‘marriage’ to Frank, it is evident relations between Richard Shellaker and his ‘son-in-law’ Frank Brown were strained.

One could speculate it was due to the event, mentioned above, that caused Polly to return home to Billesdon Lodge,  if indeed that were true.

In Richard Shellaker’s Will written on the 1st March 1900 Polly (MARY JANE BROWN) is singled out for different treatment from Richard’s other five children, clearly I believe, to keep his daughter’s inheritance away from her husband Frank. Two paragraphs of the Will read…

6. From and after the decease of my said Wife I direct that my Trustees shall stand possessed of the Residuary Trust funds in trust for all of my children who shall attain the age of twenty-one years in equal shares absolutely but subject as to my daughter MARY JANE BROWN to the directions herein after container.

7. I hereby expressly direct and declare that my Trustees shall hold the share of the Residuary Trust fund to which my daughter MARY JANE BROWN the wife of FRANCIS BROWN would be titled under my Will upon trust to invest the same and to pay the income therefore unto my said daughter during her life for her separate use and without power for her to anticipate the same and after death of my said daughter I direct my Trustees to pay and divide the capital of such mentioned share unto and equally against the children of my said daughter who shall attain the age of twenty-one years absolutely.

I never knew Frank Brown, he died a few years before I was born but I have spoken to those who knew him and all caution to take his various stories ‘with a large pinch of salt’. Evidence clearly denotes he was deceptive and a liar. But despite his duplicitous behavior, which undoubtedly was greatly influenced by his upbringing in the area in which he lived; there is, from those who knew him, overwhelming consensuses for his total devotion to Polly.  They were together as man and wife for around 60 years, albeit only 17 of which legally.

A few years ago, in one of my many conversations with Olive Swift, the daughter of Polly’s sister Nellie, Olive smiled when she spoke of Frank and commented “he was a rogue no doubt…. but a loveable rogue.”

Frank Brown (Francis Cable) died in December 1953 at the age of 93 years. Polly died around six months later in the following year on the 8th of July 1854.


And so this narrative ends with many questions answered, indeed with the invaluable help of the direct descendants, I have written near to 13,000 words in this story of the Cable Family. However many questions remain unanswered and gaps are inviting left open for others to fill.

I would love to hear from those who have researched or are researching the family history of the members of the Cable family who appear in this narrative. So are you a descendant of Frank’s brother HARRY and his wife ROSE? Are you related to one of his half-brothers SAMUEL OR EDWIN?

Does your research contain information or photographs of CATHERINE SARAH FREDERICK FELTHAM, the first wife of Francis Cable? Can you supply further information regarding the mother of Francis Cable –  SARAH COLLINSON?

Are you able to take this story further back in time with information on Francis Cable’s father HENRY ISSAC CABLE? Or his grandparents JOHN CABLE and ANN MARIA BARWOOD?

And probably of  most interest, is one of your antecedents, FRANCIS HENRY CABLE, the son of Francis Cable (Frank Brown) ? He married ALICE LOUISA SMITH on June 7th 1905, FRANCIS HARRY CABLE at St. Peter’s Church, West Hackney, London and together they had at least two sons; FRANK NEVILL CABLE and HARRIS CABLE.

I believe FRANK NEVILL CABLE married MABEL EDITH OSMOND, who was born on 2nd February 1909 in Hartley Wintney or Fleet, both in Hampshire and around 3 miles apart. Her father was HENRY WALTER OSMOND her mother’s name was EMMA.

And it appears that FRANK NEVILL CABLE lived to a good age, dying only 13 years ago in January 2003  in Worthing, West Sussex at the age of 96 years. This man was Francis Cable’s (Frank Brown) grandson are you his son or daughter or grandchild?

Over to you……