Date:January 06, 2013

Nellie Shellaker


Nellie’s Siblings Marry but a Parent Dies

Nellie's Sister Polly Shellaker with 'husband' Frank 'Brown'In the year following the 1891 Census it is probable thirteen year old Nellie attended the wedding of her twenty-eight year old sister POLLY (MARY JANE) SHELLAKER who was married on Monday the 10th of October 1892. The wedding took place at the Finkin Street, Wesleyan chapel in Grantham, a chapel recorded as being a very substantial building with seating for 1,000 people.

On that day Polly married FRANK BROWN, bigamously as it later turned out, as he previously married in 1880 under his birth name of ‘Frank Cable’ and remained married when he married Polly on that October day but that is another story! Nellie’s sister Polly is pictured right with her husband Frank ‘Brown’ – this photograph was probably taken around the time of their ‘marriage’. Their sister Emma Shellaker was a witness at the wedding. Maybe Nellie was a bridesmaid? Probably not, I’m sure Nellie’s daughter Olive would have mentioned that fact had it been so.

During the year 1903, Nellie’s older brother WILLIAM is married at the age of forty years. His wife was MARY LOUISA SHEFFIELD. I do not have any details regarding the location of this wedding or if Nellie, who at that time was around twenty-four years, attended her brother’s wedding, as it is known that the family did not approve of this marriage.

Upon leaving school John started working at the local nurseries in Back Street, Billesdon run by a German from the Saxony region, Mr. Kupper. While working at the Nursery, John attended meetings of the Good Templars held in The Academy, which was located next to the Nursery. It was here that he again met Nellie Shellaker. Due to his unhappy experiences with both his mother and his grandmother,  John Brown held strong views on the subject and was to remain a ‘teetotaler’ all of his life.

[A teetotaler is a person who pledges to abstain from drinking alcohol].

At that same time her younger brother, JOHN SHELLAKER, was also courting. He was seeing a young local girl whom he would later marry, MISS AGNES MILES. At that time the transportation between their farm and the village was by pony & trap. After visiting the village of Billesdon, John Shellaker would leave his pony & trap in Long Lane and would walk his young lady the short distance to her home to West Lane prior to the return journey back to Shellaker Lodge Farm. Likewise after the ‘Good Templar’ meetings Nellie would have to walk to the Long Lane and wait for her brother John in the trap. John Brown was, at that time, lodging in Long Lane with Mr.& Mrs. William Geary, so naturally he walked round with Nellie. This was around 1901.

 The Good Templars were a Temperance organization that tried to offer young people alternatives to the public house. At this time in history drinking was a serious problem amongst poor people, who had little comfort in their homes. Leisure activities were arranged including the organization of cricket matches at Shellaker Lodge. Those taking part were encouraged to “sign the pledge” to drink no more and thenceforth become total abstainers.

Brick Yard Lane, Billesdon c1910Apparently one of Mrs. Geary relatives owned Wades’ Nurseries located in Shepshed, Leicestershire, and subsequently John Brown was offered a job which he accepted consequently it was not until around 1904 Nellie and John they started courting seriously.

While John Brown was working at Shepshed he would cycle over to Billesdon to see Nellie, who on occasions walked across the countryside from her home on the farm to attend services & meetings in the village. This walk would be by means of a public footpath from Shellaker Lodge across several fields reaching Billesdon via ‘Brick Yard Lane’.

The photograph on the right shows Brick Yard Lane which is the road behind the behind the group of children and the pony & trap. The chimney of the Billesdon Brick Works can be seen in the distance with the footpath to the Lodge, used by Nellie, situated to the left of the Brick Yard.

However John Brown was not the only man who ensured the safety of Nellie after these meetings – Mr. R. Kitchen later recalled;

“John was always a fine fellow to work with. I also had happy recollections of our Temperance Meeting which was held every week in the home of Mrs. Naylor near the chapel. I can bring to mind one or two names; Fred Taylor, Ernest Lewin, Albert Ford and after the meeting I often had the privilege of escorting Nellie half way home to Shellaker’s’ Lodge. Brick Yard lane used to be a very dark and frightening path for a lady to go alone. I think this must have been before John started courting or it might have caused a little jealousy but John not being of a jealous nature, so far so good”.

Baptist Chapel, Back Street, Billesdon. c.1906Around the time Nellie commenced her courtship with John Brown, another of her sisters married. EMMA SHELLAKER married SAM ABELL GEARY on Tuesday 14th of November 1900. The wedding took place at the Baptist chapel in Back Street, Billesdon. The grandfather of John Brown, the Reverend J. B. Field, conducted the wedding service. This photograph of the interior of the Baptist Chapel was taken around 1906, six years after Emma’s wedding.

Emma Shellaker’s wedding was the first of many Shellaker family weddings to have taken place at the Baptist chapel in Billesdon: Nellie’s brother John (my grandfather) would be married in this chapel a few years later. Although Nellie herself was not married at this chapel, Nellie’s daughter and granddaughters would marry here in the future. I myself married my wife Christine in this Chapel in 1981.

As can be seen from the wedding certificate below the respective fathers of the couple, Richard Shellaker & William Geary, witnessed the marriage.

Twenty-one year old Nellie was the third witness.

The bridegroom at the wedding, Sam Geary was twenty-three years old, his bride, Emma Shellaker was thirty-four, and for the second occasion in her life, she was pregnant. Emma first pregnancy was two years before in 1898, Sam Geary her future husband, was undoubtedly the father. When it was known she was pregnant Nellie’ sister Emma was subsequently “sent away”  to stay with their sister Polly at her home on the south coast of England to avoid the disgrace that pregnancy would bring to the family and to evade the wrath of the Reverend Field. It was planned by the family for Polly and husband Frank to adopt Emma’s baby. The following year, on Thursday the 16th of April 1899, Emma, who was then thirty-two, gave birth to a daughter, who was registered as “Doris Mary Geary Shellaker” – the name confirming the parentage.

However the adoption by Emma’s sister Polly did not take place as intended, as Polly herself became pregnant with her fourth child, most likely after Emma had travelled to stay with her. So Emma’s baby was subsequently adopted by Thomas & Emma Curtis. (Emma Curtis was the sister of Mary Shellaker – the mother of Polly, Emma, Nellie, et al.) But that is another story. Follow this link to read further details of the life of Emma Shellaker.

Emma Shellaker & Sam Geary Wedding Certificate

The Wedding Certificate of Emma Shellaker & Sam Abell Geary – November 1900 showing Nellie (Helana) Shellaker as one of the witnesses

Emma’s second pregnancy, which was the reason for her marriage, resulted in the birth of a nephew for Nellie. The child was a boy born in July 1901, approximately seven months after the wedding of Emma & Sam was christened ‘Sam Arthur’, however he was to die after just seven months. The funeral was held at the Baptist chapel and undoubtedly Nellie would have been present on that sad occasion. Nellie did however have many surviving nephews & nieces over the next few decades. Her older sister Polly gave birth to a total of six children; May, Dick, Bertha, Edith, Daisy & Joe. Her sister Emma had two further children, William, known as ‘Bert’ born in 1902 and Annie born in 1905. Nellie’s brothers, William and John also produced neices for Nellie; Mary and Anne & Joan, Molly and Beryl respectively.

As far as I have know the photograph below is the only Shellaker family group photograph that exists. Based on events and the appearance of those in the photograph I estimate it was between 1900 and 1904. Nellie’s father Richard (Back row – right) died in July 1904 which gives me a definitive end date for my speculation. The date of 1900 as the potential start point for the time period in which the photograph was taken is my belief that Emma (front row – right), is wearing a wedding ring – she was married in November 1900.

The Shellaker Family of Billesdon c.1901
John – 19 years           William – 37 years           Richard – 70 years
Nellie – 22 years           Polly – 36 years           Mary – 63 years           Sarah – 39 years           Emma – 34 years

1901 – CENSUS
The Census of 1901, recorded on 31st March, records Nellie as living with her family at Billesdon Lodge Farm. Nellie’s two married sisters, Mary Jane (Polly) and Emma, are now recorded elsewhere.


1901 Census – The Shellaker Family at Billesdon Lodge Farm

Name of House Name Relationship Condition Age Occupation Employer/Worker Working at Home? Where Born

Billesdon Lodge

Richard Shellaker Head Married 70 Grazier Employer At Home Leicester, Tugby
Mary Ann Shellaker Wife Married 63 Leicester, Hallaton
Sarah Shellaker Daughter Single 39 Leicester, Tugby
William Shellaker Son Single 37 Grazier Employer At Home Leicester, Tugby
Helana Shellaker Daughter Single 22 Leicester, Tugby
John Shellaker Son Single 19 Grazier Worker At Home Leicester, Tugby

Emma's father, Richard ShellakerShortly after this Census Nellie’s father, Richard Shellaker, pictured on the right, died on Wednesday 20th July 1904 at the age of seventy-four years. After a service at the Baptist Chapel, Back Street Billesdon he was buried in the cemetery at Billesdon, which is located relatively near the chapel. Nellie was twenty-five years old when her father passed away.

John Brown’s father passed away on Monday 14th March 1910 and was buried three days later on  Thursday 17th March at Medbourne Churchyard in Leicestershire. The Reverend Uffen of Market Harborough preached the funeral sermon. John’s mother died later that same year in Sunday 11th December 1910 she was also buried at Medbourne with the Reverend Uffen again officiating.

1911 – CENSUS
In the Census of 1911, recorded on 2nd April of that year, Nellie is still living with her family at Billesdon Lodge Farm. This was to be the last occasion Nellie would be recorded on a Census with her family, a family that had changed since she was first recorded on a Census thirty years previously in 1881. Nellie’s sister Elizabeth has died as had her father Richard so her mother Mary Ann is now recorded as a ‘Widow‘. Nellie’s sisters Mary Jane (Polly) and Emma are both married and living with their own families. Her Brother William is living on his own farm. Of her siblings, only her elder sister Sarah and younger brother John remained within the family home.

In the household at this time are also her niece, seventeen year May Brown, one of Polly’s daughters also Nellie’s ‘intended’, Nurseryman, John William Brown. The household also has a ‘servant’, John Daneks.


1911 Census – The Shellaker Family at Billesdon Lodge Farm

Name Relationship Age Marriage Status Occupation Employer/Worker Working at Home? Where Born
Mary A Shellaker Head 73 Widow Leicester, Hallaton
Sarah A Shellaker Daughter 49 Single Farmers daughter dairy work At Home Leicester, Tugby
Helana Shellaker Daughter 31 Single Farmers daughter house work At Home Leicester, Tugby
John Shellaker Son 29 Single Farmer Employer At Home Leicester, Tugby
May Brown Granddaughter 17 Single Help Lincoln, Grantham
John William Brown Visitor 26 Single Nurseyman Worker Leicester, Medbourne
John Daneks Servant 20 Single Farm Servant Worker Leicester

On Thursday 27th April 1911 another of Nellie’s siblings marries; her youngest brother John Shellaker marries the local butcher’s daughter he had been courting for many years, Miss Agnes Emma Miles. They were married at the Baptist chapel in Back Street. Nellie had known Agnes Miles since they were both children. A register from 1893 of the Baptist chapel Sunday School shows that John & Nellie Shellaker both attended with Agnes Miles and her brothers.

Nellie would have attended this wedding, although on this occasion she was not a witness. The witnesses were the bride’s father, Thomas Edward Miles, Ethel Miles (bride’s sister) and Thomas Edgar Thornton. A newspaper report of the wedding details the wedding presents given. Nellie gave her brother a set of silver teaspoons. A present from John Brown is also recorded, an Oak timepiece.

This wedding was the first of two Shellaker weddings that occurred in the year 1911; five months later it was to be Nellie herself who was to be married ….



Front Street - chapelAfter attending the wedding of two of her sisters it was Nellie who now became the bride. On Tuesday 26th September 1911, at the Wesleyan Chapel in Front Street, Billesdon, Miss NELLIE SHELLAKER was married to Mr. JOHN WILLIAM BROWN. Nellie was thirty two, the bridegroom John was twenty-five.

Insofar as I can establish no complete photograph exists of the Wesleyan Chapel in Front Street, Billesdon. However the photograph of Front Street, on the right, taken circa 1910, just a year prior to Nellie’s wedding, shows parts of this chapel. The chapel is the second building on the left, obscured by a tree or hedge and half covered with ivy, the one immediately after the first house on the left – the white building. The frontage of the Wesleyan Chapel, faces the street and has a small wall with a gate and railings separating it from the pavement. The Wesleyan chapel was established in 1854, was part of the Oakham Methodist circuit. The chapel was said to have been formed out of an old building. It was re-fronted and enlarged in 1859 at a cost of £110. It is also recorded that the chapel was restored in 1892. This chapel went out of use around 1925 and was converted into a fire station in 1940. It since became a hardware shop and it is now a private resident.

As can be seen on the Certificate of Marriage below the wedding was conducted by Mr Newman James, a Methodist Minister. The witnesses being brothers of the bride and groom; John Shellaker and Albert Brown respectively.

Nellie Shellaker & John Brown - Marriage Certificate

Nellie Shellaker & John Brown – Certificate of Marriage 

Below is a copy of an invitation, (which was in the possession of Nellie’s daughter, Olive), for the Wedding of Nellie & John issued by John’s parents, Mr & Mrs. John William Brown of Shepshed.  The invitation card opens out to reveal the details of the wedding (image below right).

Nellie - Wedding Invitation

Nellie & John Brown - Account of WeddingA report exists of the wedding of Nellie and John, (image on the right with the words reprinted below – author unknown), which I feel really captures the happy atmosphere of the occasion.

With only a little imagination one can easily visualize the newly married Nellie & John, together with their family and friends outside the chapel in Front Street, Billesdon, before they all made their way, in several pony & traps, to the Lodge Farm for the reception.

Billesdon 1911

“On Tuesday Sept 26th a very pretty wedding was celebrated at the little Wesleyan Chapel when Miss Helena Shellaker was married to Mr. John Brown of Shepshed. The bride wore a very pretty gown made of cream voile and a crinoline hat to match, and the Bridesmaid (Miss Brown, sister of the Bridegroom wore a dress of heliotrope cashmere and a black hat with lace trimmings.

Mr. Bert Brown (brother of the groom) acted as best man, and the ceremony was conducted by the Revd. W. Newman James of Leicester and Miss Johnson presided at the organ. The bride has been a most useful and genial member of the Church to which she belonged for many years, and the esteem and love in which she was held was shown by the large congregation present.

A reception was held at the home of the Bride after the ceremony. Mr. & Mrs. Brown started for Newcastle on their honeymoon amid hearty good wishes of all friends and neighbours”.

The reception, as mentioned above , was held at Billesdon Lodge Farm, following which the happy couple left for honeymoon in a horse drawn vehicle which took them to the local rail station at Ingarsby from where they went by train to Newcastle to stay for a few days with a Mr. & Mrs. Beal.

In February 2013 I was sent a copy of Nellie and John’s wedding present list which was in the possession of one of their Great-grandsons, James Stimpson. The list, which is below, was written in January 1912 a few months after the wedding. It not only gives us an interesting pictures as to the type of presents given at this wedding which occurred over one hundred years ago but provides a extensive list of Nellie & John’s friends & family.

The name includes ‘Sam & Emma’ – this is Nellie’s sister Emma and her husband Sam Abell Geary, ‘John & Aggie’ – Nellie’s brother John Shellaker and his wife Agnes, (my Grandparents) ‘Mr. Kupper’ – the man for whom John Brown worked at the Nursery in Back Street, the ‘Band of Hope Workers’ and members of the ‘Sunday School’, ‘Miss S. Shellaker’ – Nellie’s sister Sarah, ‘Mother’ – this relates to Nellie’s mother Mary as we know both John’s parents had died the year prior to the wedding,  ‘Mr. C. Naylor’ – John’s childhood friend Charlie Naylor, ‘Mrs Polly Brown’ – Nellie’s sister Mary Jane, who was known as ‘Polly’, with two of her daughters; ‘Miss May Brown’ (who was recorded at living at Billesdon Lodge as a 17 year old in the Census in April of 1911) and ‘Miss Lizzie Brown’. Some members of the ‘Curtis family’ are also mentioned, Nellie’s mother’s sisters family.

Nellie & John Brown - Wedding Present List

John Brown & Nellie ShellakerI was told the photograph below right of Nellie & John was taken shortly before their wedding but I believe I can see a ring, a plain band, on the third finger of Nellie left hand. This may have been an engagement ring but it could be a wedding ring.

It is not known where the photograph was taken. The couple had been courting for around seven years before their marriage.

Upon their return from the honeymoon Nellie & John returned to Shepshed to live at The Crest, a semi-detached house next to the railway. After a few months John Brown’s grandfather, the Reverend Field, who at that time was around eighty-nine years old, came to live with them.

Although the Reverend Field had other sons, they did not want to look after him. In those days, the only alternative remaining for the Reverend Field was the ‘Workhouse’, so John invited his grandfather to move in with Nellie & himself.

While Nellie was living at Shepshed she and John received a letter from her sister, Sarah Shellaker, informing them the Nursery in Back Street, Billesdon, where John Brown had previously worked, had been put up for sale by the owner, Mr Kupper. Nellie & John could not turn away from away from this opportunity and consequently purchased the Nursery business. They returning to Billesdon, having lived at Shepshed for about sixteen months. On New Years Day, Wednesday 1st January 1913, Nellie and her husband John, together with John’s Grandfather the Reverend Field, journeyed from Shepshed by pony & trap back to the village of Billesdon to take over the Nursery in Back Street. Nellie’s ‘grandfather-in-law’, the Reverend Field was around ninety-two years old, at this time.

Next Page: A nervous breakdown?