Date:January 06, 2013

Nellie Shellaker


Golden Years

John & Nellie Brown's Golden AnniversaryThe year 1961 saw the Golden Anniversary celebrating fifty years of marriage for Nellie and John, an achievement shared with friends and family in the schoolrooms at the Baptist chapel, Billesdon.

A social evening was arranged in the form of a “This is your Life” presentation, based on very popular television programme. (Incidentally, the day of their Golden Wedding Anniversary fell on the same weekday as their wedding fifty years previously – on a Tuesday).

At the end of the evening Nellie & John were presented with the book used for “This is your Life”. I have included below some of the tributes given by their friends to Nellie & John personally on the night and also messages sent by letter:

A Letter from Mrs May Samuel
“I worked with you for 22 years so I have some lovely memories of those days. Treated me as a friend… how you raised money to have improvements made to your chapel and how pleased you both were when the work was accomplished.

(After the fire) you stood together as always and built another home although it was a big struggle but you won through. …and at Christmas I always think of the good times we had making holly wreaths sometime until early in the morning until early morning, with Mrs Brown keeping us going with cups of tea and sandwiches, not forgetting Miss Shellaker’s help. You never let anyone go hungry, including any stray dog or cat it didn’t matter how busy you were it was never too much trouble to find a cup of tea or a meal for anyone. If any of the Villagers had any troubles in any way, sickness or anyone wanted taking to hospital Mr. Brown always went, with Mrs. Brown staying ‘Yes John you ought to go’

Mary Underwood recalled,
“John Brown telling of a remarkable dream he had of meeting a lorry driving on the wrong side of the road, and of how next morning he encountered the exact situation just as he had dreamt it. He felt that this was a remarkable deliverance and warning from God”

H. Slater writes,
“Mr. & Mrs. Brown were very kind to my husband & I when we lived at Billesdon. I shall never forget their kindness and what they did for us….they gave my husband work and when he was poorly they always found him a light job. They were always willing to help every one who was in trouble and they were always kind to our children”

Alice Smith, a niece writes,
“Auntie Nellie & Uncle John are very dear to me, as was Aunt Sarah who was well over eighty years old when I lived with them in the 1930’s. Uncle John and Auntie Nellie are an example for anyone to follow.

I shall not mind if I can live a life half as fine as theirs is. Uncle John’s kindness is, as I am sure is known to scores of people for many miles around, is that nothing is too much trouble for him or Auntie to do for others, and Auntie Nellie is especially kind to cats! – I never saw anyone take so much trouble with them.”

Nellie Shellaker John Brown - Golden WeddingNellie & John Brown - This is your Life -Newspaper










Pictured above left is a newspaper cutting from a local paper which covered the “This is your Life” social event in the schoolroom at the Billesdon Chapel celebrating John & Nellie’s Gold Wedding Anniversary. On the right is a photograph also taken to celebrate this occasion, taken on the lawn of the front garden at their home at Woodbine Cottage in Rolleston.

John and Nellie were to share only one more wedding anniversary together, as Nellie took ill in December 1961, a couple of months after their Golden Wedding Anniversary celebrations and grew worst in January 1962, gradually losing strength. She was able go for a short ride in the car when feeling a bit betterand  could also visit to the Chapel for services on occasions. Her last attendance to a ‘Womens Own’ meeting was on July 19th 1962 with a Mrs Hadfield was the Speaker. She took to her bed in September of that year which had been moved to a downstairs room. In November of that year she became much worse and, as recorded in a diary at the time, ‘God took her from her suffering on Thursday November 8th at 2.15′.

Nellie Brown (Shellaker) Death Cert-1962

The Death Certificate of Nellie Brown

Nellie was reached the age of eight-three years and died at her home with her family at Rolleston. As can be seen from the copy of her death certificate below, Dr. E.G.K. Williams of Billesdon certified her death. I myself was staying at the house in Rolleston the night Nellie died – I was six years old at the time.

Nellie’s death in the local newspaper.

The newspaper cutting on the right is the announcement on Nellie’s death in the local newspaper. Nellie was laid to rest on Monday November 12th at 11.30. A very nice service in the Baptist chapel in Billesdon was conducted by the Reverend Webb, the Baptist Minster and the Vicar of the local Church of England church, the Rev Cumming, who both gave a very glowing accounts of Nellie’s life.


Nellie Funeral reportAfter the service Nellie was buried in Billesdon Cemetery near the graves of her own father & mother, Richard & Mary Shellaker. A short report of Nellie’s funeral appeared in a church newspaper for the Gartree Deanery is shown on the right.


Nellie’s husband John Brown lived for a further three and a half years before passing away at Rolleston on Tuesday 3rd May 1966. He was 80 years old when he died.

John Brown Death Certificate

The Death Certificate of John Brown

His funeral was also held at the Baptist Chapel in Back Street, Billesdon on Friday 6th May 1966.

Geary Brothers - Billesdon c1910On the right is an invoice from Geary Brothers, Carpenters and Joiners, Market Place, Billesdon  who acted as the village undertakers. The invoice details the cost of the John Brown’s funeral, including the coffin, fees for the Chapel and the cemetery, payments to the bearers and cost of the hearse and other car. The far right shows the workshop of the Geary Brothers c.1910. I’m unsure if the two men are the same brothers who arranged John Brown’s funeral or if they are a previous generation of Geary family.

Mrs Eske, of Rolleston Hall gave a tribute at a service at Rolleston church on the following Sunday, 8th May 1966.

“On the journey through life one meets with many people who bring out the different aspects of one’s own character. Some of these men and women seem to bring out the best in all those with whom they come into contact.

John Brown - CapSuch a man as this was John Brown. There was a quality about him which I can only describe as “goodness”. It seemed to emanate from him and influence all those whom he met. We shall remember him as a small man with bright blue eyes, always with a merry twinkle in them, a man who was ready to laugh with you, however he might be feeling, and he suffered a lot of physical pain in his long life and, like all of us, he had plenty of difficulties with which he had to cope. There was an inner strength in him which, not only gave him courage, but which he was able to impart to others, giving them courage too.

His simple directness and firm belief in God radiated from him in a wonderful way which made him a tower of strength to his family, friends and all who knew him. Mr. Brown was very close to the earth and the green things which grew never ceased to fill him with a sense of the mystery of creation. Perhaps this was the secret of his inner strength.

More than anyone he worked as a true Christian to bring his beloved Chapel and our own Church both in Billesdon and here at Rolleston, closer together believing that in true faith there lies no room for petty arguments.  We have often heard him reading the lessons here, standing on this very spot.  He will indeed be sadly missed. But let us not dwell too much on the sadness of losing him but rather be happy and thankful that we have had the privilege of knowing such a really good man”

After the service John was buried in Billesdon Cemetery in the same grave as Nellie. There is no gravestone to mark their graves. John had asked the family “not to spend money on lumps of stone,” he believed that after death the spirit left the body which then became just an empty vessel.

Nellie Brown (nee Shellaker)

Nellie Brown (née Shellaker)

Born Tugby 1879 – Died Rolleston 1962

I would like to thank all those who have supplied information, photographs and certificates which enabled this brief history of the life of Nellie Shellaker to be written, especially Nellie’s daughter Olive.