Polly Shellaker


A Family Grows and a change in a Will

Brownlow StreetPolly’s first child, a girl named MAY was born in May 1893, the year following Polly’s wedding to Frank on October 10th 1892. At present I do not know the date of May’s birth but even if she was born at the end of May that would only 7 months after her parent’s wedding.

Anecdotal evidence supports the assumption Polly was pregnant on her wedding day. However pregnancy was not the reason behind the advertisement for a replacement Housekeeper placed in the local newspaper as that was a good 14 months before May’s birth.

May was born at 1, Brownlow Street, Little Gonerly, Grantham, which is where Polly and Frank lived after their wedding  on the 10th October 1892. I cannot locate any pictures of Brownlow Street, Little Gonerly, Grantham which are contemporary to the 1890’s.

However the house still stands and is pictured above right in a photograph taken by myself in 1999. The house is diagonally opposite the house 8, Chapel Street where Polly was housekeeper to Mr. Frederick Wardle.

It is the corner house directly behind the Red traffic light. I could not establish, when I visited Grantham what proportion of this building is ‘number 1’ or whether there had been any structural changes to the building since the time Polly & Frank lived there. Brownlow Street can also be seen on the Grantham maps on page 3. On the smaller map the house, 1 Brownlow Street, is directly to the right of the ‘Weighing Machine’ which can be seen marked on the map.

The following year a second child was born on 25th October 1894, a boy who Frank & Polly named JOHN RICHARD. He was also born at 1, Brownlow Street, Little Gonerly, Grantham. Polly had reached her thirtieth birthday at the time of the birth of her first son. Frank was thirty-four.

John Richard Brown Birth 25 Oct1894

The Birth Certificate of John Richard Brown – 25th October 1894

A third child, another daughter, was named ELIZABETH and was born in Grantham 15th Feb 1896 and, as with her sister and brother was born at 1, Brownlow Street, Little Gonerly, Grantham. Elizabeth was to be known as ‘BERTHA’.

Some time after their third child was born, Polly, Frank and there three children; May, John Richard and Elizabeth, move to Bournmouth on the south coast of England. The time of the family move from Grantham to Bournemouth was probably the second half of 1886, in 1897 or the first half of 1898.

During the second half of 1898 Polly’s sister Emma Shellaker, who was 32 years old and unmarried, became pregnant and was ‘sent away’ from the family home in Billesdon to hide her condition. The father of Emma’s baby was a local man named Sam Abell Geary however marriage between Sam & pregnant Emma was not permitted by Sam’s mother as he was only around 20 years old.

With marriage ruled out, Emma’s family agreed that the baby, once born, would be adopted by Polly. So Emma stayed with sister Polly at her home in Bournemouth until the baby was born thereby avoiding the disgrace which pregnancy would bring to the family and in particular, to evade the wrath of the local the Baptist Minister. So in the following year on Thursday the 16th of April 1899, Emma gave birth to a daughter. She registered her child’s birth during the following month on the May 17th 1899 at Christchurch in Dorset. Christchurch is around five miles from Bournemouth. The place of birth is recorded as ‘174, Holdenhurst Road’, the home of her sister Polly.

However the arranged adoption of Emma’s daughter by Polly did not take place as intended as Polly herself became pregnant with her fourth child during the time Emma moved down to the south coast for her own confinement. Polly already had three children under the age of six, and with another baby on the way, it now became impractical for Polly to adopt Emma’s baby. So Emma returned to Leicestershire with her baby who was eventually adopted by her Aunt – Mary Curtis – her mother’s sister.

EDITH the 4th child was born in Bournemouth 14th April 1898

DAISY the 5th child was born in Bournemouth 30th Aug 1899

I do not consider Polly would have entered into her marriage with Frank in 1892 had she known he was already married. However unsubstantiated family anecdotal evidence (to follow shortly) suggests Polly found out, probably while they were still living in Grantham, that her husband Frank was already married and their own marriage in October 1892 at Finkin Street Methodist Chapel was not valid but was bigamous.

On Tuesday 17th August 1880 FRANCIS CABLE (since known as Frank Brown) married CATHERINE SARAH FREDERICK FELTHAM at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Peckham, Surrey.

At the time of his wedding, Frank’s occupation was recorded ‘Dairyman’ he was living at 25 Evelina Road in Nunhead, between Peckham and Camberwell. On this wedding certificate (see below) Frank’s surname is ‘Cable’ and his age was given, falsely, as 25 years old. Frank was born in July 1860 his correct age in August 1880 was therefore 20 years (and about three weeks) and not 25 years. In all possibility he falsified his age in order to reduce the age difference between himself and his bride, Catherine Feltham, whose age appears from this certificate, to be 39 years but I believe she had her 40th birthday two months prior to this wedding.


The Wedding Certificate of Frank Cable and Catherine Sarah Frederick Feltham – 17th August 1880

Catherine Sarah Frederick Feltham was born on 13th June 1840 as CATHERINE SARAH FREDERICK BATH. Her birth is recorded at St John, Westminster, Middlesex. When she was born her father was 39 years old, her mother 37 years. At the time of her marriage to Frank, nether of Catherine’s parents were alive. Her marriage to Frank Cable was Catherine’s second marriage. Her first marriage, 19 years prior to her marriage to Frank, was on the 21st October 1861 when she married WILLIAM FELTHAM at Hampstead Parish Church, Hampstead. At this time Catherine was 21 years old, her husband William Feltham was 24 years old.

Catherine and William Feltham had at least four children together. Catherine’s first husband, William Feltham died on 9th January 1878 at the age of 41,  leaving Catherine a widow. This was her status when she married Frank Cable around two and a half years later in August 1880. One additional and important fact – on her wedding day to Frank Cable in August 1880 – Catherine Feltham was around four months pregnant.

Less than 7 months after his wedding to Catherine, on the night of the 1881 Census on 3rd April, Frank is not in the same house as his wife Catherine.  She is recorded as living at 75 Culmore Road and is recorded as being 39 years old. Also with Catherine Cable are her five children – four of whom have the surname ‘Feltham’ and self-evidently are the product of Catherine’s first marriage to the late Mr. Feltham; William, aged 18 years, Frederick aged 15 years, Emily aged 12 and a James 7 years old.

Her fifth child recorded on this Census is a three-month-old boy named as ‘FRANCIS H. CABLE’. This boy is Frank’s son and is presumably the explanation for their marriage seven months previously. As the Census was recorded at the beginning of April the birth of young Francis H. Cable occurred around January of that year which was around four/five months after the marriage of his parents.  This baby boy is recorded as being born in Peckham, Surrey.

Interestingly the Census record show that Catherine’s oldest son, William, was born in-between April 3rd 1862 and April 4th 1863. As Frank was born in July 1860, it is evident that Frank was, at most, only two years and eight months older than his wife’s eldest son. His age could have been even within twenty months of his eldest stepson, William Feltham

Some years ago Olive Swift passed on a story onto me which was told to her by her mother Nellie (Shellaker) one of Polly’s younger sisters…..

Nellie said…. At some point after her wedding Polly walked out on Frank and returned to the family home at Billesdon Lodge Farm in a pony & trap, together with all her luggage. However, upon her return to the farm she was told (presumably by one or both of her parents) that as she had married Frank she now had to live with the consequences of her decision. Consequently she was either sent back to Frank or he came after her, persuading her to come back with him.

I speculate the reason for her flight may well have been learning of the existence of his real wife and therefore his bigamy and maybe Polly even found out he had a young son by his real wife. If this story is authentic and I would deem Nellie Shellaker to be a ‘reliable witness’, I offer the possible scenario…

  • Sometime after her wedding in 1892 Polly discovers Frank was already married (and possibly has a son). If bigamy and a child was not a just reason for Polly to walk-out I cannot think what else it could be.
  • It was known Frank’s wife – Catherine Cable was in contact with him after his marriage to Polly, for financial support for her son (and maybe also herself).
  • Fear of discovery by Catherine and the fact he was a bigamist, was presumably the reason for changing his surname from ‘CABLE’ to ‘BROWN’.
  • Probably Catherine Cable was looking for Frank and discovered him in Grantham, married to Polly Shellaker and possibly she knocked on the door of 1, Brownlow Street which was opened by Polly!
  • Polly confronts Frank, there is a big argument resulting in Polly leaving Frank and heading back to Billesdon Lodge Farm.
  • The timing of this event, even if it actually occurred, is not known. It may have been during the time Polly & Frank lived as man and wife in Grantham, between 1892 and around 1897. Grantham is only around thirty-four miles distance from Billesdon Lodge Farm; the village of Billesdon was one in which horse and carriages regularly passed through and also stopped.
  • However I believe it is more likely to have occurred in 1899 after Polly & Frank and their children had moved to Bournemouth. Polly could have travelled from Bournemouth by train, and after a few changes, arrived at Ingesby Station, less than three miles from Billesdon Lodge Farm completing those final miles with her luggage in a pony & trap. Obviously all of this is speculation, but one fact is known…

On 1st March 1900 Polly’s father wrote (or more likely revised) his Last Will & Testament – to the detriment of his ‘son-in-law’ Frank Brown. This Last Will, sections of which are below, do add credence to the story that Polly left Frank and supports a theory it was because she found out he was already married.

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 that caused Polly to return home to Billesdon Lodge. In Richard Shellaker’s Will written on the 1st March 1900 Polly is singled out for a different treatment from Richard’s other five children, clearly I believe, to keep his daughter’s inheritance away from her husband Frank. The two relevant paragraphs of the Will are as follows…

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.

From my reading of Richard Shellaker’s Will I do not believe Richard had an issue with his daughter Polly; the Will make provision for Polly to receive money from the trust fund for her own use. Her father appears to be protecting Polly’s share of his capital from husband Frank. Richard also shows no antagonism towards his grandchildren – Polly & Frank’s children, as he instructs, in the event of Polly’s death, her adult children receive all the capital inn equal shares. It is clear his discord is only with Frank.

Within the family it was said Richard was trying to prevent Frank using Polly’s inheritance on one of his various business ventures. Although this explanation is plausible we will never know the true reason.


Next Page: Grandchildren arrive