Thomas Shaw was born in about 1732. His father is given in nineteenth century publications of Staffordshire families as James Shaw (1710-1776) of Dudley, an attorney by training, and importantly a close friend and advisor of one Samuel Hellier (1699-1751).

Samuel Hellier had an only son, also Samuel, who became close friends with Thomas who was three years older than him. This is a story of these two boys who both attended the Free School in Birmingham and subsequently both went to Oxford University.

Sir Samuel Hellyer by James ShawThomas Shaw matriculated at Queen's College Oxford on 29 Oct 1750, which was the college Samuel Hellier (snr) had attended in the 1720's. However. Samuel (jnr) matriculated at Exeter College in 1753, where his guardian had strong connections - his father dying in 1751. We know also that Thomas had affiliations with Exeter College as late as 1756.

The close relationship and parallel education of both boys is thus a little enigmatic but is crucial to the future development of the family. Both young men studied theology and the law but it was Samuel who, in his father's footsteps was eventually callled to the bar. As far as we know he never practised. Samuel Hellier, who was to become Sir Samuel Hellier in 1762 shared his father's passion for collecting and his correspondence shows that this took up most of his time. Thomas went into the church and his ecclesiastical career shows a steady accumulation of offices and parishes - Enville, Claverly, Tipton and lastly St John's Wolverhampton. He was noted for his absence in some of these parishes. He was also the personal chaplain to the Earl of Stamford and Warrington, who resided at Enville.

Thomas married Mary Shaw in about 1756 and they had at least four children. Documents in the Dudley Archives dated 1777 indicate that Mary Shaw's father was also a James Shaw raising serious questions as to who exactly Thomas Shaw's real father was.

Sir Samuel Hellier, himself, never married and died childless in 1784. In his will, he bequeathed all his estates and chattels to his "good friend" Thomas Shaw. The bequest was made on the condition that Thomas Shaw took up the arms of the Hellier family and changed his name.

Sir Samuel Hellier's wealth had been considerably augmented in 1782 when his elderly grandmother died. She was the dowager heiress of the Huntbach estates in Staffordshire. Some of his grandmother's lands had to be sold to pay off Sir Samuel's considerable debts, incurred we can assume on creating his collections. However, his world renowned collection of Musical Instruments and the Wodehouse in Wombourne passed intact to Thomas Shaw. Much of his collection of coins, jewelry and fossils by this will ended up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Thomas Shaw was named as the sole executor of Sir Samuel's will and he duly changed his name to Thomas Shaw-Hellier by Royal Licence in 1786. he was by then the Perpetual Curate at Claverly and also serving Vicar of St John's Wolverhampton. When he died aged 80 in Wombourne in 1812 he was a wealthy clergyman and left a complicated will that his grandchildren were to pick over for the next thirty years. This had important ramifications on the family of his granddaughter Mary Evans (nee Shaw-Hellier).

It is not clear why Sir Samuel left absolutely everything to Thomas Shaw. It has been speculated that Thomas Shaw was the illegitimate son of Samuel Hellier (snr). This is mainly founded on the fact that he attended Queens College Oxford, the college of Samuel Hellier (snr) whilst the Shaw family would not appear to have the status or motivation to send their eldest son to University. Samuel Hellier had married three times and both father and son left detailed records, including letters and diaries. Sir Samuel had no children, no siblings and no close relations. He manifestly disliked his grandmother calling her the 'old woman' and blamed her for not providing him with sufficient funds to marry. It seems that on balance we should take it at face value that Thomas Shaw was his 'good friend' - the phrase used in his will.

The Oxford Alumni (Foster) indicates that Thomas Shaw's father was in fact another Thomas Shaw from Sedgley. This is confirmed by a significant marriage in the Dudley Parish registers on 2 Oct 1729 between a Thomas Shaw and Ann Elwell. Elwell is a name that appears later in family middle names. It is extremely likely that Thomas Shaw was related to his wife Mary Shaw. However, whilst the lineage of Mary Shaw is readily traceable (she was indeed third cousin of Sir Samuel Hellier), that of Thomas Shaw is much harder to trace. The Shaws of Dudley are discussed in detail on this site elsewhere. Thomas, son of Thomas and Ann was baptized on 1 Oct 1732 in Sedgley.

The wealth and inheritances that Thomas Shaw accumulated in his long life are in some cases still visible today. Sir Samuel's Musical Instrument collection was sold and presented to museums by Thomas Bradney Shaw Hellier in the 1890's. The most prestigious piece the Hellier Stradivarius, is now back in a museum in Cremona. The Hellier book collection remains intact at the Wodehouse today in the possession of the Phillips family who are distant relations by marriage.

The only book we have from this period is Mary Shaw-Hellier's Prayer book - this is dated 17 Nov 1789.

Portraits of the Rev Thomas Shaw-Hellier and his father-in-law James Shaw, amongst others, still hang in the Wodehouse, Wombourne.These appear to be painted by Thomas's younger  brother the artist James Shaw (1736-1784)

Thomas Shaw-Hellier died on 10 Jul 1812 and was buried in the Hellier Family vault in St Benedict, Wombourne. He wrote a will, probate 16 Dec 1812, that left his considerable estate to trustees for the benefit of his grandchildren.


Family of Thomas SHAW-HELLIER and Mary SHAW

Husband: Thomas SHAW-HELLIER (1732-1812)
Wife: Mary SHAW (1735-1806)
Children: James SHAW-HELLIER (1759-1827)
  Thomas SHAW-HELLIER (1761-1803)
  Mary SHAW-HELLIER (1763-1831)
  Theophilus SHAW-HELLIER (1766-1824)

Husband: Thomas SHAW-HELLIER

Sex: Male
Father: Thomas Shaw
Mother: Ann Elwell
Birth 1732 (cal) Dudley, Worcestershire
Title   Reverend
Education (1) 20 Oct 1750 (age 17-18) Queen's College, Oxford LLB Matriculation
Occupation (1) btw 1765 and 1812 (age 32-80) Perpetual Curate of Claverley
Occupation (2) btw 1780 and 1790 (age 47-58) Incumbent of St John Woverhampton and Tipton
Name Change 18 Jul 1786 (age 53-54) Royal Licence from Shaw to Shaw-Hellier
Will 7 Jul 1812 (age 79-80) Codicil to will later contested in house of Lords 1837 - Shaw v Rhodes, Evans v Hellier
Education (2)   Free School Birmingham
Death 10 Jul 1812 (age 79-80) Wodehouse, Wombourne

Wife: Mary SHAW

Name: Mary SHAW
Sex: Female
Father James Shaw (1710-1776)
Mother Sarah BENDY (1702?-1782)
Birth 1735 (app) Dudley
Possessions 17 Nov 1789 (age 54-55) Prayer Book inscribed Mary Shaw-Hellier
Buried 20 Oct 1806 (age 70) Wombourne

Child 1: James SHAW-HELLIER

Name: James SHAW-HELLIER 1
Sex: Male
Spouse: Elizabeth BADDERLY (1766-1835)
Birth 3 Oct 1759 Dudley, Worcestershire
Baptism 16 Nov 1759 (age 0) Dudley, Worcestershire
Death 1827 (age 67-68) Wodehouse, Wombourne

Child 2: Thomas SHAW-HELLIER

Sex: Male
Spouse: Mary Tubb( -aft1812)
Birth 1761 (app)  
Title   Rev
Residence 1803 (age 41-42) Magdalen Hall, Oxford
Will 1804 (age 42-43) Letters of admin suggest he died intestate
Death 1804 (age 42-43) Oxford

Child 3: Mary SHAW-HELLIER

Sex: Female
Spouse: Richard YATES (1767-1816 )
Birth 21 May 1763 Dudley, Worcestershire
Death Sep 1831 (age 68)  

Child 4: Theophilus SHAW-HELLIER

Name: Theophilus SHAW-HELLIER
Sex: Male
Birth 10 Aug 1766 Dudley, Worcestershire
Death 1824