Date:January 06, 2013

Nellie Shellaker


Schooling continues

In the Spring of 1886 the family move from Tugby to their new home, Billesdon Lodge Farm, approximately one mile north of the village of Billesdon. The photograph below of Billesdon Lodge Farm, was taken by Frank Brown, a photographer from Bournemouth, possibly circa.1900.

Shellaker Lodge Farm Billesdon - Earliest Picture

Billesdon Lodge Farm (Nellie’s Home – 1886 – 1911)

In contemporary records Billesdon is described as being ….

“a large and well-built village, situated in a fertile and pleasant valley, nine miles east from Leicester and ten miles west-by-north from Uppingham, on the turnpike road from the former to the latter town. Its parish includes the townships and chapelries of Goadby and Rolleston and comprises about 4,300 acres. The soil varies from a cold clay to a rich red marl, and the ground is hilly”

Two years after the family moved to Billesdon Nellie’s sister ELIZABETH died suddenly from pneumonia on Sunday 5th February 1888. Elizabeth was twenty years old when she died, Nellie was eight years old at this time. Elizabeth was buried at the churchyard at Tugby.

Billesdon National SchoolNellie attended the local Billesdon National village school in, what is now known as Gaulby Road, but at that time was known as ‘Little Rolleston’. The school, which was a single storey red brick building, was surrounded on three sides by fields.

The school accommodated between sixty and one hundred pupils with an age range from three to fourteen. The National school, together with the schoolmaster’s house, had been built around ten years previously in 1875 at the cost of around £859.

At the time of Nellie’s attendance school fees of around four pence a week were payable, although this payment ceased around the time Nellie left the school.

The money for building the school was raised largely raised by voluntary contributions and local effort. In 1876 the village children were transferred to this school from the ‘Old School’, which was located near the church.

Billesdon School Group 1894The schoolteachers at Billesdon National School at the time of Nellie’s attendance were John Richardson from Boston in Lincolnshire and his wife Elizabeth, who originated from Aldershot in Hampshire. The couple lived at the schoolhouse adjoining the school land. In 1887, when Nellie started at the school, John Richardson was around thirty-two years old and his wife was around three years younger. Both were certified teachers.

The picture on the left shows Nellie’s teachers Mr. & Mrs. Richardson (and dog) and a class of children. Although this picture was taken around 1894, four years after Nellie had left the school, the teachers, the building and the clothing of the children are all contemporary with the time Nellie attended the school.

In September 1999 I visited the Leicestershire & Rutland Records Office to establish if any “Shellaker related” information is available relating to the Billesdon National School. However the information in the archive was disappointing; there were no attendance registers or any documents relating to pupils. The main item was a book of accounts that did not reveal anything tremendously interesting but did give details of expenditure on a garden that was being set-up for the children using land sold by Mr. Corner. With regards to this garden there are also entries for – “Pea Sticks for School Garden supplied by Mr. S. Geary – 3 Shillings” and “Plants supplied by Mr. Kupper – 8d”.

The accounts revealed the salary for Nellie’s teachers, an entry for 1886-87 indicates their joint salary was the sum of £20 per quarter. The archive also contained an undated letters from the Reverend J. B. Field written on “behalf of the Nonconformist of Billesdon and the neighbouring area” which begins by “protesting against the practice of taking our children from the National School to the Church on Saints Days and on other occasions.” The Reverend Field is to feature later in the life of Nellie Shellaker as does the supplier of the pea sticks – Mr. Sam Geary and also Mr. Kupper who ran a local plant nursery.

In a moment of speculation I will offer the following theory regarding the gap in Nellie schooling between the time she left Tugby school aged five and a half and the recommencement of her schooling at Billesdon aged around seven years old….

  • It is proven Richard Shellaker sent Nellie’s older sister, Emma Shellaker to Wyggeston Girls School in Leicester having already achieved highest academic standard achievable during her time at Tugby School – the ‘sixth standard’.
  • We know Emma spent between three to four years at Wyggeston Girls School from August 1880 to the summer of 1884 with the probable intention of achieving a level of education to the ‘seventh standard’, thereby providing the required qualifications for entry into the teaching profession.
  • It is probable Richard Shellaker went to an considerable expense in providing this education for Emma. The entrance fee for Wyggeston Girls School was £1, followed by yearly tuition fees of between £4 and £8. The school was a day school, resulting in further additional costs for Richard Shellaker such as the expenditure of boarding his daughter Emma in the centre of Leicester and travel costs when she returned to the family home at weekends and during school holidays.
  • After Emma had completed her schooling at Wyggeston in 1884 she returned to Tugby and attempts were made to secure a teaching position for Emma at her local school in Tugby.
  • However this was unsuccessful as the Church of England controlled the school and consequently they would not allow a teacher from a nonconformist family to teach at the school. Richard’s late mother, Sarah Shellaker, for a case in point, had been a paid member of the “Wesleyan-Methodist Society” and the family were very active members in the chapel congregation in the village, for example, Richard's father William was, at one time, the leader of the Methodist chapel in Tugby.
  • Considering the time and expense of Emma’s schooling it would be understandable for Richard Shellaker to be infuriated that his daughter Emma was not accepted for a teaching post at Tugby.
  • Consequently he may have took the view that if it was not acceptable for his daughter Emma to teach at the local school then he was not going to allow his youngest daughter, Nellie to be taught at that school, subsequently he may have removed Nellie from the school in some form of ‘reprisal’ for Emma’s rejection. This view was also that of Nellie's daughter, Olive, who undoubtedly heard the story from her mother.


The above is pure speculation but the dates and circumstances work.

After the family moved to Billesdon in the Spring of 1886 Nellie was enrolled into the school at Billesdon (Gaulby Road), at which time her ability was assessed and she was accepted into that school at the “Second Standard” level and she went on to achieve the ‘5th Standard’ at Billesdon School at the age of eleven in June 1890 at the age of eleven. Below is a copy of the certificate that she received. It is dated 4th June 1890 (which was a Wednesday) and is signed by ‘J. H. Richardson’ the headmaster of the school (as pictured above in the school group).

Nellie Shellaker – 5th Standard Certificate – Billesdon School - 1890

The original certificate was in the possession of Olive Swift and is around eight by eleven inches in size.

1891 – CENSUS
On Sunday 5th April 1891 another National Census was taken in England, the second in which Nellie Shellaker was recorded. In this Census the Shellaker family is recorded as living at Billesdon at “Shellaker Lodge”.


1881 Census – The Shellaker Family in Billesdon

Helena (Nellie) is listed just above her younger brother, John. Her age is recorded as ‘11’ but as with the previous Census, Nellie was only two weeks away from a birthday, on this occasion, her twelfth birthday. As can be seen, Nellie is living with her family; parents, Richard & Mary, her sisters Sarah & Emma, who were twenty-nine and twenty-four respectively and her bothers, William, who was twenty-eight and younger brother John who was nine years old. Unfortunately no occupations are listed for any of the family but it is probable that at this time Nellie was still a scholar at the National School at Billesdon. It is believed Nellie’s younger brother John also attended this School at the same time as Nellie.

This 1891 Census reveals one of Nellie’s sisters is ‘missing’ from the family home. Mary Jane (Polly) is at this time working as a housekeeper in the home of a Mr. Joseph Wardle in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Their sister Elizabeth, is also absent from this Census having died three years previously in 1888.

Name of House Name Relationship Condition Age Occupation Where Born
Shellaker Lodge Richard Shellaker Head Married 60 Leicester, Tugby
Mary A Shellaker Wife Married 53 Leicester, Hallaton
Sarah A Shellaker Daughter Single 29 Leicester, Tugby
William Shellaker Son Single 28 Leicester, Tugby
Emma Shellaker Daughter Single 24 Leicester, Tugby
Helana Shellaker Daughter Single 11 Leicester, Tugby
John Shellaker Son Single 9 Leicester, Tugby

During the time Nellie was growing up she learnt to play the violin. It is known she was taught to play by Mrs. Eleanor Hamby, a music teacher who lived in Billesdon. However her father Richard Shellaker also played the violin and may have started Nellie’s musical instruction. It is said, but it is not proven, Richard Shellaker would accompany the singing of hymn in the chapel on his violin, as was the custom in places of worship prior to the establishment of the harmonium and the church organ.


Next Page: Nellie meets a Five Year Old Boy