Alan is proudly descended from seventeenth century freemen of Sudbury who were master weavers. Clement Shelley a senior citizen in the 1630s fought for the Sudbury freemen’s rights and was a spokesman for the weavers. A formal listing of Sudbury freemen in 1703 confirms Thomas Shelley (born in 1639, a direct ancestor) as “son of Richard Shelley”. This indicates that Richard was a freeman before him. Philip Shelley (ancestor) son of Thomas and other apprentices of Thomas are also mentioned in the listing.
With an unreliable demand for cloth weaving in the eighteenth century, the family turned to blacksmithing. They operated an extensive business at ‘Wigan End’ (now the East Street area) where they produced everything from church dressings, household utensils to dung forks and shovels for the Town Council, as well as the shoeing of horses. Pigot’s Directory of 1823 (the earliest Suffolk trade directory) has Samuel Shelley (ancestor, son of Philip) recorded as ‘Wheelwright and Gig Maker’.
The Shelley’s were also publicans and beer retailers. Charles Thomas sold the newly erected ‘Red, White and Blue’ (free beer house) in 1863, that later became the ‘Hare and Hounds’, his uncle Robert in the 1840s was landlord of the ‘George Inn’ and his son William was the proprietor of the ‘Prince of Wales’ and was the last private brewer in Sudbury.
Soon after the turn of the twentieth century the blacksmithing was reduced as modern engineering overtook it and the family were eventually dispersed.
For many years [and currently] Alan has had the honour of representing the Sudbury Freemen on the executive board of the national association of ‘Freemen of England and Wales’ and from 1990 until 1995 he was elected Deputy President of the organisation.
In 1703 Richard had been dead 61 years, Thomas was then aged 64 years and Philip was at that time aged 35 yrs.
Philip died in 1738 aged 70. His son Philip (born 1704) married Elizabeth Fuller in 1727. He died in 1740 aged only 36. Their son Philip was 23 and had trained as a blacksmith under Samuel Clarke at Acton who his widowed mother later married. In1753 they purchased, by release from John Taylor of Woodhall Manor, a blacksmiths shop with yard and several cottages at Wigan End. (These were subject of ‘rights close’ in 1783). Philip’s twin sons born in 1757 were Samuel – Gig-maker & Wheelwright and James who was Blacksmith & Farrier. Among Philip’s apprentices were Thomas Ruggles (admitted to freedom 1790 and William Ely in 1802 (after 7yrs each). Philip lived until 1800 aged 72.
1442 Robert Shelle is recorded Citizen Draper of London in St. Botolph’s parish, Billingsgate.
1454 Walter Shelley is recorded Clerk, Citizen of London in St. Bartholomew’s Priory.
1478 John Shelley, Mercer of London, received gift of goods and property from John Sparrow of Sudbury. 1486 John Shelley, Mercer, is owed £13-6s-8d by Sudbury cloth maker, John Hache and his wife Emma.
1678 Alice Shelly (dau.of Samuel Shelley, baker of London) apprenticed to John Cook, weaver, influential (dissenter) ruling member of Sudbury, Mayor as was his son Daniel. Alice was niece of Thomas Shelley son of Richard whose grandfather was probably William (born c1572) son of John Shelye (Yeoman) of Pentlow, 5 miles north-west of Sudbury. Clement (son of John) was born 28 Mar 1578. He was closely associated with the dissenting ruling members at Sudbury.