Harry Shelvoke

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Harry Shelvoke was one of the founding members of the British coachbuilding and engineering company Shelvoke and Drewry. He was one of the last members to bear a family name that is documented to have become extinct in modern times (the last person bearing that name died in the 1960s). The name lives on in only three company names connected to Harry's family: the two engineering firms of Accles & Shelvoke, Shelvoke Ltd (Dennis Shelvoke / Dennis Eagle) and Shelvoke Pickering and Janney, a firm of chartered accounts in Cannock, Staffordshire.

He is descended from those associated with Manor of Shelvock in Shropshire and families bearing the name of Shelvock. Historical records show that the spelling variant of Shelvoke is first recorded in 1722 at Eccleshall in Staffordshire, NW of Stafford, before recurring in the 19th-century industrialised West Midlands towns of Wolverhampton and Willenhall, probable ancestors of Harry.

James Shelvoke, Harry's grandfather, (born by 1815, location unknown) headed the family centred in nearby West Bromwich and Aston, part of Birmingham. James married Catharine Harper in Aston in 1833. They had three children:

  • James (c. 1834; m. 1854 = Kate; children: Elizabeth (c. 1859), Florence (c. 1867) & Kate (c. 1869)) – an extinct line
  • Mary Ann (c. 1837)
  • George (c. 1838; m. by 1868 = Emma; children: Annie (c. 1869), Charles (c. 1871), George Edwin (c. 1874), & Harry (c. 1877)). They were living in Trinity Road, Handsworth in 1881 and Shenstone in 1901. Emma died in January 1921 at Kingsbury Road, Birmingham.

(George Edwin Shelvoke, Harry's brother, married Charlotte and had Gwyneth (born in Cape Colony, South Africa c. 1900) and William George (c. 1907; who is believed to have married but had no issue). In the West Midlands, 1907 appears to be the last birth year of any Shelvoke.)

The firm of Accles & Shelvoke was formed in 1913 to commence the manufacture of cartridge-powered captive bolt stunning equipment to become a world leader in humane animal killing. This resulted from a history of manufacturing and engineering by the Shelvoke's which include:

  • 1876: James Shelvoke, Weaver; mail maker at Talford Street Works (Hulley's Directory)
  • 1890: George & James Shelovke, Weavers; mail makers at Talford St Works (Kelley's Directory)
  • 1891: Phillips Street Nos. 49–57 inclusive plus "shop" various tenants under the owner George Shelvoke (Poor Rate, Vol. 2).
  • 1896: Charles Shelvoke & Co. was also working in a part of the same Works
  • 1898: George Shelvoke retired from his business at the Talford Street Works and let the Works to another company.

William Charles, s/o Charles, above, was the founder of Shelvoke Pickering and Janney. The firm was originally based in Birmingham and he used to 'commute' between the two. The firm was established sometime in the 1920s. The Birmingham office was closed after a takeover. The Cannock branch still survives.

Harry (c. 1877), who appears to have been named Harry Clifford, became a part of two families that settled in the Croydon area, south of London in the early 20th century, where he worked for the Lacre Motor Company of London. A Harry Clifford married there in 1902 and had three daughters (Dorothy Edna (c. 1903), Lilian Brenda (c. 1906) & Eileen Nora (c. 1908)). These girls married in 1929, 1931 & 1937 respectively, which ended the Shelvoke name for Harry's line. (A possible brother of Harry C., Frank also married in 1911 Croydon and had one daughter Barbara M (c. 1914)). As noted elsewhere in Shelvock families, there was a genetic tendency towards more girls than boys that is the root cause to the rareness and then extinction of the family name.

Harry Shelvoke (1878–1962) and James Drewry (1883–1952) are given as employed by the Lacre Company (Lacre was apparently a contraction of Long Acre, London, where the business started) that moved to Letchworth Garden City in 1910, where Shelvoke was general manager, and a Mr. Drewry as Chief Engineer. Between them they conceived a design for an ingenious lorry and built the prototype in Harry's barn. As the Lacre Company wasn't interested in this enterprise, they set up Shelvoke & Drewry in October 1922 to manufacture their design.

The following information about Harry Shelvoke, taken from "Kaleidoscope of Shelvoke & Drewry" by Nick Baldwin and William Negus, contains some information that does not match historical records:

"Harry Shelvoke (1877 or 1878 – 1962) came from Melverley in Shropshire. He served in the Boer War (1899–1902) with the Staffordshire Light Infantry. He worked with Herbert Austin in the early years of Wolseley Motors Limited. In 1911 he joined Lacre Ltd., who were an important early commercial vehicle manufacturer, as general manager. In 1910 Lacre moved from Long Acre in London to the expanding Letchworth Garden City. Along with James Drewry he designed and built an ingenious lorry. When Lacre were uninterested in producing this vehicle, Shelvoke & Drewry left to form their own company in 1922. In 1937 the Company became a public company with Harry Shelvoke as managing director. He held this position until 1949 when he became chairman. He remained as Chairman of the company until 1957. He died at Letchworth in 1962 at the age of 84."

"His home was a mock Tudor house named Melverley, where he lived until his death surrounded by armour and swords. Similarly the boardroom at the works, in Icknield Way, was wood paneled to resemble a baronial hall. Mr. Shelvoke drove the ex-Prince of Wales' Daimler Double Six motor car. He is represented as: "a fiercesome gentleman of the old school, with a flair for showmanship." He expected high standards from his employees, but many remained loyal to the company over many years."

(Note: The reference to Melverley is interesting. Although Harry's birth was in Birmingham, he knew of some connection to his ancient family roots. A coats of arms for the 15th-century Thornes of Shelvock and Melverley exists in heraldic records).

At the turn of the 20th century the 1901 census reveals that the Birmingham family are all accounted for, with no suggestion of other families anywhere else. The future of the family name at that time was in the hands of Harry & George the younger, but they were unsuccessful in producing male offspring to continue the line.

William George Shelvoke also died by the 1960s, which left his widow as the sole surviving Shelvoke in name. With her death the family name becomes extinct. Mrs. Edythe Diana Shelvoke, aged 89, is still alive in 2008.