Polly Shellaker


A wedding in Grantham

In the 1891 Census Returns, taken on Sunday 5th April 1891, Polly is recorded as residing at 8, Chapel Street, Grantham, Lincolnshire.  Polly was a housekeeper to Mr. Frederick Wardle, a Dairyman, who originated from Nottingham.

1891 Census - 8 Chapel Street Wardle Polly Shellaker

1891 Census – 8, Chapel Street, Grantham. Polly Shellaker in Grantham

Name of House Name Relationship Condition Age Occupation Where Born
8 Chapel Street Frederick Wardle Head Widower 58 Dairy Proprietor Nottingham
Mary A. Shellaker Servant Single 26 House-keeper Tugby, Leicestershire
Agnes Toyne Help Single 19 Servant/Mother’s Help Brant Broughton, Notts
Rebecca Clark Servant  Single 16 General Servant Farnborough, Hants
Thomas Hunt Border Single 73 Dispenser Grantham, Lincs

As there is significant disparity of events between the family stories relating to Polly’s life in Grantham and the recorded evidence, I carried out a vast amount of research, over the years attempting to get as close to the truth as is possible.

Central Grantham 1886In April 1999 I visited Grantham aiming to locate the house in Chapel Street where Polly was a housekeeper.

Although Chapel Street no longer exists in name, having been absorbed into Brook Street, two houses which were in the orginal Chapel Lane, still remain. One of these houses is 8, Chapel Street, the former home of Mr. Frederick Wardle and the house in which Polly was Housekeeper.

On the right is a detailed Ordnance Survey street map of central Grantham from the late Victorian era, which was produced from a survey made in 1886, only five years prior to the 1891 Census which records Polly as living at 8, Chapel Street. Upon this map I have marked four locations, to which I will refer shortly and later in this narrative.

  • 24, Manthorpe Road
  • 8, Chapel Street
  • 1, Browlow Street
  • Finkin Street Methodist Chapel


Chapel Street was a short narrow street located between the north end of “Swinegate” & “Watergate”. The street can be seen in greater detail in the larger scale map below right,  from the same year as the larger map, surveyed 1886.

I will explain how I concluded that the house known as “8, Chapel Street” in the 1890’s still exists; Chapel Street, as I have mentioned previously, was located between the north ends of Swinegate, to the east, and Watergate to the west. (See main map on the right). However, during my research into the town of Grantham I established Chapel Street was absorbed by Westgate & Brook Street, following demolition of the north side of that street in 1957.

I found two photographs taken just prior to the demolition that details the buildings on the north of the street. By comparing the photographs with the map on the below right, the Methodist Chapel can be identified in the centre of the north side of the street, together with the four small houses to the left of the chapel & the larger houses at the other end of the street.Chapel Street, Grantham and No.8 Chapel Street.If one studies the full details of all the relevant pages of the 1891 Census of Grantham which features numbers Chapel Street, one can work out the actual route taken by the Census Enumerator as he visited individual homes.

It should be understood that the collection of Census information one hundred years ago differs from how the information is collected now, i.e. by posting the Census Returns back to the address on the pre-paid envelope.

In 1891 Census the  Census Enumerator would walk along a specified route, and after knocking on each door, would complete the information actually inside the house during an ‘interview’ with the head of the household. This interview would probably take place in the front room or around the kitchen table.

By examining the order of the entries on the specific pages, and walking the route myself,  it can be clearly established the Census Enumerator walked north along ‘Swinegate’, finishing that side of the street with number ‘47’. He then turns left into Chapel Street, listing only two houses, numbers ‘8’ and ‘9’, which I have marked in Red on the 1886 Map.

He then continues into ‘Watergate’.

Numbers ‘8’ & ‘9’ must therefore be the two houses located on the south side of the street, they cannot be part of the now demolished north side as the  Census Enumerator would record six properties in addition to details of the chapel.

The details of the north side of the street are recorded on a different page of the Census Return.

My conclusion, which I believe to be irrefutable, is that the house, 8, Chapel Street, in which Polly was housekeeper to Mr. Frederick Wardle, is the house on the corner of Chapel Street & Swinegate.



This house still remains and is situated on the corner of the road junction, the ground floor is currently a Post Office. On  the right is a photograph of the house which I took in April 1999.

The house can also be seen using Google ‘Street View’, typing in ‘Brook Street, Grantham’ and viewing from the junction of ‘Brook Street and Brownlow Street’.

Update December 2014 – the premises not longer houses a Post Office. It is now a shop, ‘Carlisle Blinds’, selling sunblinds.

So this is the house in which Polly was a Housekeeper – not very glamorous is it?

I will return to ‘No. 8, Chapel Street, Grantham’ later in this narrative but at this point I will move onto a date around 18 months after this census which is undoubtedly THE defining moment in the story of the life of Polly Shellaker.



Finkin Street Methodist Chapel, GranthamA marriage took place on 10th October 1892 at the Finkin Street Methodist Chapel in the Lincolnshire market town of Grantham, England.

The bride was the subject of this narrative, MARY JANE SHELLAKER, who as I’ve mentioned was known from an early age as POLLY’. At the time of her marriage Polly was recorded as a Spinster of twenty eight years residing at 8, Chapel Street, Grantham, where she was employed as a Housekeeper to Mr. Frederick Wardle, the owner of a Dairy Business and a widower, originally from Nottingham. The bridegroom was FRANK JAMES BROWN, a ‘bachelor of Grantham’, thirty-two years and living at 24, Manthorpe Road, Little Gonerby, Grantham.

Incidentally this was the same chapel in which the parents of former British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher married in May 1917. Her parents were local Grantham Grocer and Methodist preacher, Mr. Alfred Roberts and Beatrice Ethel Stephenson. The Roberts family was staunch Methodist; the young Margaret together with her parents and sister attended the Finkin Street chapel.

The respective fathers of Polly & Frank as recorded on the wedding certificate were RICHARD SHELLAKER, a Farmer and HENRY ISAAC BROWN, a Builder (deceased).

Certificate of Marriage 10th October 1892 - Francis James Brown & Mary Jane Shellaker (Polly)

Certificate of Marriage 10th October 1892 – Francis James Brown & Mary Jane Shellaker (Polly)

As can be seen on the Weding Certificate Polly’s father, Richard Shellaker, was one of the witnesses at his daughter’s marriage to Frank Brown in 1892 at Grantham as was her sister Emma. The other two witnesses were “J. H. Sanders” & “L. Curtis” the latter I believe is Polly’s cousin, Louis Curtis. (Polly’s mother’s sister’s daughter). It does not appear that any of Frank’s relatives were witnesses at his wedding. News of the wedding has announced in the local paper shortly after on 22nd October 1892.

Polly & Frank newspaper“BROWN – SHELLAKER – At the Wesleyan Chapel, Grantham, on the 10th inst. (by the Revd J. Jackson.) Mr. Francis James Brown, of Grantham to Mary Jane, daughter of Mr. Richard Shellaker, of The Lodge, Billesdon, Leicestershire.”


Manthorpe Road, GranthamFrank ‘Brown’ was living at 24, Manthorpe Road, Little Gonerby, (Grantham) at the time of his wedding to Polly Shellaker in 1892.

On the 1891 Census, the year before the wedding, this house was occupied by William & Mary Sanders and two boarders.

The “J. H. Sanders” on Polly & Frank’s wedding certificate could possibly be related to William & Mary Sanders, Frank’s landlord & landlady and was the person Frank took to his wedding to be as ‘his witness’.

William & Mary Sanders did have a daughter, Elizabeth H Sanders, who was born around 1862 and was therefore around the same age as Frank but, although the ‘H’ on the wedding certificate  matches this person, the ‘J’ certainly does relate to a name of  ‘Elizabeth’.

The picture on the right shows Manthorpe Road. House number 24 was near the trees on the right hand side at top end of the street.

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. On the next page Frank and Polly are pictured in a photograph probably taken around the time of their marriage in 1892 or maybe it is their actual wedding photograph.

Not much of a story so far?  Stay with me….. it gets interesting if we delve into the backgrounds of this happy couple.

Next Page: A ‘second marriage’