Notable People Of Preston – Frances Lady Shelley 1787 to 1873

Posted on - 18th October, 2013 - 4:52pm | Author - | Posted in - History, People
Lady Shelley from a miniature by G. Sanders in the possession of Spencer Shelley Esq.

Lady Shelley, from a miniature by G. Sanders

The Making Of A Society Lady


Born Frances Winckley in 1787, into a large house on the south side of Fishergate, between Cannon Street and New Cock Yard, Preston, she was the only daughter and heiress of Thomas Winckley a direct descendent of the de Winkelmondeley, who in Saxon times settled between the Ribble and Calder. Thomas Winckley was a large property owner in Preston with both Winckley Square and Winckley Street being named in his honour.

Christmas in the city

Frances’ mother was the daughter of the Hew Dalrymple a descendent of Kinsman from Lord Stair who carried the union of England. She had previously been married into the Hesketh family and widowed with children of her own.
At the time of the birth of Frances, her father Thomas, was becoming very dissatisfied with Preston and it wasn’t long before he took his family to live in a villa four miles outside the city of Liverpool. Sadly he did not survive this move for very long and he died when Frances was just 6years of age.
Shortly after her father’s death Frances was taken to stay with Lord Stair’s family in London and by the age of 8years she was sent to a school for small children in Twickenham, where she developed greatly in the subjects of French and music.
Frances was an ambitious but delicate child who caused her mother a lot of anxiety, especially when Frances showed all the signs of having consumption. She was taken to Clifton and placed in the care of Dr. Beddoes who was well known for his treatments of such cases. Though his methods were viewed as radical the treatment received by Frances was successful and she fully recovered, she went through many upheavals in her young life, but the death of her mother was especially traumatic and was to prove a major turning point in her life. She was sent to live at Winwick with her guardian as a guest of Lord Derby for short while and later sent to live with her half brother Thomas Hesketh at Rufford Hall.
At the age of 15years, Frances was sent as a pupil to London under the instruction of Lord Derby, she was to be prepared to take her place in a society befitting an heiress. Two years later it was deemed that she was ready to be introduced to people of the upper circles of society. She was a great success at any social occasion she attended, meeting a vast array of dignitaries including royalty. It was on such an occasion that she met her future husband Sir John Shelley, although their courtship was not a smooth one they married on the 4th July 1807 at St. George’s, Hanover Square, London. With the event of the marriage all the Winckley properties became the property of the Shelley family, which did not please her half siblings from her mother’s previous marriage to the Hesketh’s.
Frances was a woman of great energy and determination and she never forgot her home town of Preston, in c.1830 she wrote a letter to James Teebay asking him to organise a celebration of her son’s birthday for her Lancashire tenants at the Shelley Arms in Preston. Preferably this was to be held on the 4th of June, the happiest day of her life, which was the 23rd anniversary of her marriage. She was also very interested in the church and religious matters. On the death of her husband in 1882 at the age of 81, Frances moved to the Isle of Wight, having a residence built in the East Cowes area. She still held social affairs and often spent time with Queen Victoria when she was in residence on the Island.
Lady Frances died at her home in the Isle of Wight at the age of 85 in February 1873.


The ‘Notable People of Preston’ series is written by Gillian A. Lawson, the archivist of the Preston Historical Society.

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