William & Sarah Shellaker

CHAPTER I

A  new life at risk and a girl born in Spittlegates

WILLIAM SHELLAKER was born in the year 1788 in the village of Lyndon in the County of Rutland in the English Midlands during the twenty-eighth year of the reign of King George III.

But it is evident, from the very first historical document in which he is mentioned, that William’s existence was in peril at the very outset of his life as the records show that he received a ‘private baptism’ on Friday 12th September 1788. 

A record of a private baptism, which customarily took place within the home of the child, was usually an indication it was considered highly unlikely the child were expected to live. So it is reasonable to conclude William Shellaker’s own survival was uncertain at birth.

The Book of Common Prayer states a baptism is to take place on either the first or second Sunday after the birth or on the religious festival nearest to them, or if not the nearest convenient date.

The Book goes on to state, in regards to private baptisms,….

If a Child which hath been privately baptized do afterward live, it is expedient that it be brought into the Church, and be received into the Congregation.

So William survived whatever danger befell him and consequently, three weeks after his birth, as per the convention stated in The Book of Common Prayer, he was publicly baptised on Sunday 5th October 1788 in the village church of St Martin in Lyndon, which is pictured above right and reproduced by permission of LeicesterPhoto).

Below is a copy of that first historical document from 1788 in the Lyndon parish records showing the dates of William’s private and public baptisms.

1788 - Sept&Oct - Baptism William Shellaker

William, Son of Richard & Mary
Shellaker was baptized, privately Sept 12th.
Publicly Oct 5th

Reproduced by permission of Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

WILLIAM’S FATHER
William was, insofar as parish records indicate, the first child and only son of RICHARD & MARY SHELLAKER and he was the fifth generation of the Shellaker family to live in the small Rutland village of Lyndon. At the time of William’s birth, his father RICHARD was around 26 years old as as records show he was baptised on Sunday 11th October 1761, also in church of St Martin in Lyndon. It is extremey probable Richard Shellaker was farmer as in a book entitled ‘The Place Names of Rutland’ I found a record of a field name in Lyndon of a ‘Shelakers Close’ and an indication the field given that name belonged to a ‘Mr. R. Shelakers’ who was a resident in Lyndon in 1794. This man was undoubtedly William’s father. The original document listing this field name is in a manuscript in the Lincolnshire Archive Office.

WILLIAM’S MOTHER
At the time of William’s birth his mother was also 26 years old. She was born on Thursday 3rd June 1762 in the Leicestershire village of HALLATON – her maiden name was MARY GIBBONS. Hallaton is a village approximately 13 miles south west of Lyndon.  William’s parents, Mary Gibbons and Richard Shellaker, married on Monday 19th November 1787, again in the village church of St Martin, Lyndon. To date I have found 38 records – baptisms, marriages and funerals – of  people carrying the ‘Shellaker’ name  which took place in this church. This is far more than in any other church or chapel in the last four hundred years. Three such events have already been mentioned in this narrative so far; William’s own baptism in 1788 and that of his own father Richard in 1761 and also the marriage of his parents in 1787. Two further baptisms now follow….

TWO SISTERS 
Based upon the Church of England baptism convention, I estimate William was born in the second week in September 1788. His birth may have been the 12th of that month, the date of his private baptism and if not the 12th probably only a few days prior to that date. A  birth date for William of early September is around 9 months after the date of the wedding of his parents in November 1787 – so that all fits very nicely. Two years later, in 1790 Richard & Mary Shellaker have a second child, a sister for William who was now approaching his second birthday. She was named KATHERINE and was baptised on Sunday 10th October 1790.

Over two years pass until February 1793 when another girl arrives. She was named SARAH and was baptised on Friday 15th February 1793.   William was over four years old at the time of the birth of his second sister. His younger sister Katherine was two years and four months old. Both of this children lived into adulthood. William’s  youngest sister Sarah married a man named BARSBY and need to undertake further research on this marriage.

William other sister Katherine also marries when he was around 24 years old. There is a record of a ‘Catherine Shellaker’ marrying on Monday 30th May 1814 in the village of WING in Rutland. This ‘Catherine’ is same girl who was baptised as ‘Katherine’ in October 1790. Wing is less than two miles from Lyndon. Her husband, JOHN PARTRIDGE, was from the nearby village of PRESTON in Rutland. Records show this marriage produced at least two children born a few years after the wedding; ANN born around 1829 and THOMAS born around 1832. These four people; William Shellaker’s sister Catherine, brother-in-law John, niece Ann and nephew Thomas were recorded on the 1841 Census as living in MANTON, a village two miles from Lyndon. John’s occupation is that of a Miller and Baker. Catherine Partridge (née Shellaker) died in the spring of 1848 at the aged of 58 years old.

It is highly probable William Shellaker attended the weddings of both of his sisters but back to the subject of this narrative and a record of William’s own marriage….

WILLIAM’S MARRIAGE
I do not know how long William continued to live in Lyndon but it appears he lived in Uppingham at some point in his life as that was his stated residence at the time of his own marriage. His wedding took place on Monday 13th November 1815 in the grand parish church of St Peter & St Paul,  in the village of EXTON, the record of which can be seen in the parish records of that village

William & Sarah Shellaker - Marriage 1815“William Shellaker of the parish of Uppingham, Bachelor, and Sarah Hester of this Parish, Spinster were married in this church by Banns this thirteenth day of November in the year One thousand eight hundred and fifteen”.

By me: John Elliot – Vicar.    

This marriage was solemnised between us {Signed}  William Shellaker   Sarah Hester

In the presence of {Signed}  Mary Jane Ruff,  Sophie Rosillbridge, Elizabeth Roya.

I’m not sure if I have correctly identified the names of these witnesses as the writing in not clear.

Reproduced by permission of Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

Please note these are the actual signatures of William & Sarah on this record of their marriage. They have not used an ‘X’ to make their mark as was the practice if one or both of those marrying were unable to write. It is also interesting to note that William and both of his sisters were all married on a Monday – I have no idea if this is significant for any reason.

Although the present church originates from the 13th and 14th centuries it was extensively restored in Victorian times, a few decades after William & Sarah married there in 1815 consequently the whole external appearance is now very different and has a Victorian aesthetics which would not have been seen on William’s wedding day. The reason for the restoration was a violent hailstorm which took occurred on 25th April 1843, 18 years after William’s wedding, during when the original spire was struck by lightning sending masonry crashing through the roof of the nave and destroying much of the west end of the church. A recent picture of this church is below and reproduced by permission of LeicesterPhoto.

WHY DID WILLIAM & SARAH MARRY AT EXTON?
Simple answer – I don’t know.

The village of Exton was situated around five miles* north of William’s birthplace of Lyndon so it would not be so strange to find William marrying in that village, although his bride was not local by birth – Sarah Hester was born in Lincolnshire.

I cannot find any connection, other than their wedding, to link either the bride or groom to the village of Exton. I can only speculate both or at least Sarah worked for the Noel family, owners of the estate. Within Exton village is Exton Park a large country estate which had belonged to the Noel family (Earls of Gainsborough) for over four centuries.

At the time of William and Sarah’s wedding it was home to Sir Gerard Noel, the 2nd Baronet, who represented Rutland as a Member of Parliament for over forty years, initially as a supporter of William Pitt the Younger. He had inherited the estates of his uncle, Henry Noel, 6th Earl of Gainsborough, although not the peerage, which could not pass through the female line, at which point he changed his surname to Noel.

* The journey would now be around seven miles as the massive, and beautiful, expanse of Rutland Water is now a located between the two villages.

SARAH HESTER – THE WIFE OF WILLIAM SHELLAKER
As mentioned above William’s wife Sarah Hester did not originate from Rutland or Leicestershire but was born in the county of Lincolnshire – in the Spittlegate area of Grantham,  also spelt Spitalgate. (This information is revealed in a later Census record for Sarah). Her birthplace is described as ……..

SPITTLEGATE, a township, in the parish and union of Grantham, Wapentake of Winnibriggs and Threo, parts of Kesteven, county of Lincoln, 1 mile (S. by E.) from Grantham.

And as with the spelling of the Shellaker surname there are also inconsistencies in Sarah’s surname; on the record of her wedding it is written as ‘Hester’ and that is how she has signed her name. However, on what I believe is the record of her christening, the spelling is ‘ESTHER’.

There is a record in the Lincolnshire archive of a christening in Grantham on 7th June 1794 of a ‘SARAH ESTHER’. Her parents are ROBERT & ANN ESTHER. (Index ref Batch/Film No C011242 Serial/Sheet No. 2887). I believe this record is that of William’s wife as the year 1794 as this year is compatible as her birth year as recorded in later Census records which will be mentioned further on in this narrative. I also found an entry for one of Sarah’s sisters, SUSANNAH ESTHER, christened 30th Sept 1807.

[There are also entries on the IGI records for other christenings of children of Robert and Ann Hester in Abington, Berkshire; 1787 Ben, 1789 Hannah, 1791 Catherine and 1793 Martha.

I am not sure if these are part of the same family, although the dates do fit with Sarah’s birth in 1794 and Susannah birth in 1807 suggesting that the Esther/Hester family may have moved from Berkshire to Grantham shortly before Sarah’s birth – but this is not proven and is research I do not intend to pursue.]

Next Page: William and Sarah start a family