Select Shelley Miscellany

Here are some Shelley stories and accounts over the years:

The Michelgrove Shelleys

The Michelgrove Shelleys were buried at Clapham church in Sussex.  In 1772 Sir John Shelley composed the following loving epitaph to his wife which can still be found there:

"Here Lyeth the Body of Wilhelmina Shelley
Who departed this Life the 21st of March 1772
Aged Twenty three years.

She was a pattern for the World to follow:
Such a being both in form and mind perhaps never existed before.
A more dutiful, affectionate, and Virtuous Wife,
A more tender and Anxious parent,
A more sincere and constant Friend,
A more amiable and elegant companion;
Universally Benevolent, generous, and humane;
The Pride of her own Sex,
The admiration of ours.

She lived universally beloved, and admired;
She died as generally revered, and regretted,
A loss felt by all who had the happiness of knowing Her,
By none to be compared to that of her disconsolate, affectionate, Loving,
And in this World everlastingly Miserable Husband,
Who has caused this inscription to be engraved."

The Voyage of the Sea Venture

Henry Shelley was a passenger on the Sea Venture that departed London for Jamestown in 1609 in order to rescue the colonists there.  The ship was shipwrecked off Bermuda.  The following is the official account of what happened.

"The Sea Venture sailed as part of a flotilla of nine ships commanded by Admiral Sir George Somers. The intended destination was Jamestown, Virginia.

On 2 June, the Sea Venture, flagship of the "Third Supply" (six ships and two pinnaces); departed London. On 23 July, a hurricane at sea separated the Sea Venture from the other vessels. After four days, she began taking on water. Land was sited and she wrecked between two reefs off the shores of Bermuda on 28 July 1609.  All of approximately 150 passengers safely made land.

Two pinnaces were built during the following nine months, the Deliverance and the Patience. These vessels sailed on to Virginia on 10 May 1610, leaving two men behind. On 19 June 1610, Sir George Somers volunteered to return to Bermuda aboard the Patience for supplies for the struggling colony of Virginia. He arrived in Bermuda, dying there in November of 1610.  Captain Matthew Somers returned to England aboard the Patience with his uncle's body. Three men were left on the islands to hold the claim."

Shelley Potteries
The Shelley pottery business was started around 1748 by Randle Shelley at Longton near Stoke.  The Shelleys produced their own earthenware and decorated the plates and dishes made by Josiah Wedgewood. Although two of the family, Thomas and Michael, were to achieve some renown as potters, their business failed.  They were declared bankrupt in 1798 and forced to sell their factory.

In 1865, Henry Wileman became a partner in what was then Foley Potteries, eventually became its sole owner, and proceeded to enlarge his factory.  He hired Joseph Shelley as a sales representative. Shelley became his partner in 1872, and, when Wileman retired, Shelley became its sole owner  He kept the "Wileman" company name until 1925, although the goods were marked "Shelley" from 1910.

Joseph's son, Percy, joined the business in 1881, and had a great desire to strengthen their export business and improve quality. He built his own bone grinding mill, which was unheard of, and had the animal bone ground to his specifications - using only cattle bone, which had the best quality of all.

Shelley Potteries went out of business in 1966.  But the Shelley name still lives on in Longton.  For a brief time,  Shelley's Laserdome in the town was the heart and soul of the 1980's rave scene in the northwest. More importantly, the Gladstone Pottery Museum was built on the site of the original Shelley pottery works. Here, the records and works of Shelley and other local potters are preserved.

Shelley's Island in Pennsylvania

How did Daniel Shelley from a Mennonite family come to be plotting against the American Revolution?

Papers lodged in the Pennsylvania state archives suggest that he was implicated in the plot.  The ringleader apparently was the Rev. Daniel Batwell, an English-born local minister.  In the summer of 1777, he and two fellow conspirators were ferried across the Susquehanna from Prunk's Tavern in Newberry to Shelley's Island.  There they met with Daniel Shelley at his fieldstone house and hatched the plot to blow up the York city magazine where the firearms and gunpowder of the Continental Army were stored. 

What was Daniel Shelley's role?  It is not clear.  But the plot was foiled when two of the conspirators had too much to drink at Prunk's Tavern one night and spilled the beans.  Daniel was arrested and imprisoned in Carlisle.  He secured his release after he agreed to turn state's evidence and, apparently, join the Continental Army. 

Daniel returned to Shelley's Island and sired more children.  A family story has it that, after he had buried wife number three, he stood at her graveside, cast his eyes upward, and exclaimed: "Oh, Lord, must I marry again!"  He did.

Plaque on the Grave of Kate Shelley

The following plaque is to be found at the Sacred Heart cemetery in Boone, Iowa:

"Here is a deed bound for legend; a story to be told until the last order fades and the last rail rusts.

On the night of 6th July 1881, Kate Shelley, then a girl of 15 years, crossed the Des Moines river bridge at Moingona Iowa, in tempest and flood and prevented a C. and N. W. passenger and express train from plunging into rain-swollen Honey Creek where two men had died when a bridge collapsed under their locomotive.

Her heroism saved the train and those aboard and led to rescue of survivors from the Honey Creek disaster."


William Shelley and the Native Institution

The following is a chronology of events from the Australian Colonial Secretary papers:

"1814 December. Notice of establishment of school for Aboriginal children at Parramatta under a committee with William Shelley as principal.

1815 December.  Earl Bathurst approving of establishment of Native Institution.

1816 April. Twelve boys and girls to be selected from the prisoners of war of a punitive expedition against hostile natives.

1817 March. Accounts in favour of Mrs. Elizabeth Shelley as manager of the Native Institution.

1818 December. General order re annual conference with Aboriginal chiefs and tribes and encouragement for children to be put in Institution.

1820 January. Necessity for removal of the Native Institution from Parramatta and for suitable superintendent (by 1820, 37 aboriginal children had been received, six absconded, two died, one taken by father, and 28 completed their studies).

1824 January. Government and general order thanking the committee of the Native Institution and the Male and Female Orphan Schools for their exertions and relieving members of their duties in consequence of the need to model these institutions on new principles."

The editors of a newly-published book, Great Mistakes of Australian History, said in their introduction that it was “an act of national immaturity” to approach Australian history simply as a series of achievements, without recognising the “misjudgements, misconduct and missed opportunities” that were an inevitable part of any nation’s story.

A principal “character” in this book is William Shelley, the well-intentioned founder of the Parramatta Native Institution – the precursor of institutions and policies that led to the “stolen generations.”

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