James Shaw

James Shaw was born approximately in 1710 in Dudley Worcestershire. He was to become a well respected attorney working for a succession of the Dudley and Ward families of Dudley Castle.  He also worked for and had a strong friendship with Samuel Hellier, a prominent member of the Staffordshire gentry. Samuel Hellier was a renowned collector especially of Musical Instruments.

It is highly probable that James’s father was Daniel Shaw a leading mercer in Dudley and himself a direct descendant of both Edward Sutton, 4th Baron Dudley, and illegitimately Sir Edward Sutton, the 5th baron. The collapse of the Dudley family’s wealth and the break up of the feudal estates after 1620 was exacerbated by Sir Edward Sutton’s promotion of a large illegitimate family and marriages into a number of local gentry families. Whatever the case, the hotch potch of leases and disputed property rights generated huge amount of legal paperwork that would have been the training ground for the young James Shaw. The Shaw name appears on a number of Dudley leases and trusts at the Dudley Archives.

James Shaw of Netherton Hall, Wodehouse, Wombourne

The estates of Baron Dudley were particularly rich as they bestrode the myriad of early coal fields and iron works that were at the very heart of the early industrial revolution. The Dudley family with such members as Dud Dudley, the metallurgist, were not traditional aristocrats but keen on industrial innovation. The earliest steam engine of Thomas Newcomen in 1712 was also built at the behest of the Dudleys. Documents exist that show that James Shaw was heavily involved in the detailed costs and ownership rights of these early ‘engines’ in the 1740’s and 1750’s. A paper delivered to the Newcomen Society at the Science Museum in 1965 discusses the very detailed papers held by the Shaw-Hellier’s in the Wodehouse that not least described the cost of various components of subsequent engines.

These papers also show that by 1760 James Shaw himself got increasingly involved in using the Newcomen technology in a new mining venture near Stourbridge. Together with his partner Henry Wollaston they invested over £3000 in what must have been a significant mining venture at The Hayes, at Lye. The business was wound up in 1769 after significant losses and James Shaw appears to have had the right to keep the ‘engine’ valued at around £500.The losses must have been a significant financial blow.

James Shaw married Sarah Bendy on 22 October 1734 and they had three children – a son and two daughters. The eldest daughter Mary married Thomas Shaw, who was to inherit the Hellier estates in 1786. In 19th century histories of Staffordshire families Thomas Shaw is always described as the son of James Shaw – although it is clear from a number of leases held in the Dudley archives that it is his wife, Mary who is his daughter and Thomas Shaw therefore is James Shaw’s son in law. How exactly Thomas Shaw fits into the Shaw family is thus very enigmatic. It is allegedly because of James Shaw’s close relationship with Samuel Hellier (d 1751) that Thomas Shaw becomes such good friends with Sir Samuel Hellier and ‘won’ the inheritance.

There is a will of a James Shaw, gentleman of Dudley, dated 1776 that is probably his. His wife Sarah is given full charge of all his affairs and there is no detail in the document. Sarah Bendy was descended from the Bendy’s of Shutt End in Kingswinford and William Bendy her great grandfather, an Oxford educated lawyer, had been Clerk of the Peace in Staffordshire in the civil war and a prominent parliamentarian.

A portrait of James Shaw of Netherton Hall still hangs at the Wodehouse, Wombourne.

Family of James SHAW and Sarah BENDY

Husband:James SHAW (bap.1710, d.1776)
Wife:Sarah BENDY (c. 1705-1782)
Children:Mary SHAW (b.c. 1735, bur.1806)
James Hayward SHAW (c. 1740-aft1802)
Sarah SHAW (1743-aft1778)
Marriage22 Oct 1734Pattingham, Staffs

Husband: James SHAW

Name:James SHAW
Father:Daniel SHAW (bap.1681, d.1749)
Mother:Mary READ (bap.1685, d.bef1730)
The name James is cited most convincingly in Percy M Youngs article on Samuel Hellier. A book in the library is inscribed James Shaw a gift to Samual HellierII. The book is still in the library at the Wodehouse.
Baptism27 Aug 1710Dudley, Worcestershire
Occupation1730Dudley Solicitor
Oxford University records say that Thomas is son of Thomas of Sedgely, Salop. The CofE database confirms that this man with MA goes on to become Perpetual curate of Claverly.
But note James Shaw is named as his father in other texts – described as a Dudley Solicitor.
Will proved 27 Feb 1776

Wife: Sarah BENDY

Name:Sarah BENDY
Father:William BENDY (b.1653, bur.1724)
Mother:Mary HAYWARD (b.c. 1673, bur.1755)
Birthc. 1705
Death1782 (age 76-77)

Child 1: Mary SHAW

Name:Mary SHAW
Spouse:Thomas SHAW-HELLIER (bap.1732, d.1812)
Birthc. 1735
Possessions17 Nov 1789 (age 53-54)Prayer Book inscribed Mary Shaw-Hellier
Burial20 Oct 1806Wombourne

Child 2: James Hayward SHAW

Name:James Hayward SHAW
Spouse:Joyce COOPER ( – )
Birthc. 1740Dudley, Worcestershire
Baptism13 May 1740 (age 0)St Thomas, Dudley
Deathaft 1802 (age 61-62)

Child 3: Sarah SHAW

Name:Sarah SHAW
Birth1743Dudley, Worcestershire
Baptism28 Sep 1743 (age 0)Dudley, Worcestershire
Deathaft 1778 (age 34-35)


  • Paper Read at the Science Museum 6 Jan 1965 by John S Allen: “The 1712 and other Newcomen Engines of the Earls of Dudley”