Oliver Shaw

Oliver Shaw was baptized in St Thomas, Dudley on 5 Sep 1647, the son of Oliver and Elizabeth Shaw. The Shaws were a prominent family in the small town of Dudley – owning land and carrying out a variety of trades. A 1649 levy on the town indicates 162 houses existed in Dudley that were taxed. By 1660 the population of Dudley including Netherton based on Hearth Tax records is estimated at just over 1800. Various Shaws appear on these two tax lists.

The earliest recorded Shaw, presumably an ancestor, is a Thomas Shawe whose will of 1545 indicates he held land in nearby Kingswinford. By a series of judicious marriages and the accumulation of property in neighbouring manors, the  various strands of the Shaw family established themselves as one of the important burgher families in eighteenth century Dudley.

Oliver Shaw (1647-1722) himself is relatively well documented during his long life and cemented the success of his descendants. A number of his grandchildren rose to prominence in the locality – notably Daniel Shaw who became Mayor in 1769. His grandson James Shaw (b 1710) was an early attorney working for Lord Ward (Dudley family) and notably Sir Samuel Hellier.

Oliver’s grandfather was most likely Richard Shaw, who died in 1657. It is from Richard’s numerous sons, at least one illegitimate, that we could look to trace the other branch of the Shaw family – the antecedents of Thomas Shaw-Hellier. Although it is more likely that this branch goes further back and much points to him being descended from another Richard Shaw, with direct Woodhouse descent in their blood. Oliver Shaw, though is much more clearly and provably the ancestor of Thomas Shaw-Hellier’s wife – Mary Shaw, the daughter of Oliver’s grandson, James Shaw (1710-1776)

Importantly Oliver Shaw married Alice Jellians in 1675. Alice was one of four sisters, the four heiresses of Thomas Wilmer of Staverton. The Wilmer family were a Tudor gentry family. Thomas Wilmer’s mother was a daughter of Edward Sutton 4th Baron Dudley and his wife Martha Sutton was also the illegitimate daughter of the Edward Sutton 5th Baron Dudley, by his mistress Elizabeth Tomlinson. The Wilmers could trace their ancestry back to John of Gaunt and Edward III.

The marriage settlement indicates that both Gilbert Jellians, Alice’s father and Oliver Shaw the elder handed over a substantial list of property to the newly weds – a fair number of fields and dwelling houses dotted around the centre of modern day Dudley.

Alice Jellians’ grandfather Thomas Wilmer lived through to 1680. His wife Martha (d 1651) was the sister of Dud Dudley (1600-1684), a royalist but more famous for his metallurgical skills and early industrial entrepreneurship. This would mean that Oliver Shaw was impeccably connected to the important townsfolk of Dudley and his wife was directly related to the Dudley family.

Early maps show the burgage land belonging to Oliver Shaw – these were small town centre strips of land – rented from the Lord of the manor and ideal for carrying on a business. The Shaw family come up with a number of professions (nailer, Cordwainer etc) but Oliver Shaw is normally described as a yeoman, meaning that his income was primarily derived from farming and he probably owned land in Netherton and possibly even in Wombourne.

Oliver Shaw had four sons, Daniel, Oliver (bap 1684), Gilbert (bap 1688) and Samuel (bap 1693). Daniel the eldest son was baptized on 28 Feb 1681 in St Thomas Dudley and he went on to marry Mary Read in 1705. Adam Read, father of Mary was a barber surgeon practising in Dudley and amongst Oliver’s grandchildren by his son Daniel there were several generations of Read Shaws, all of whom were surgeons or Doctors.

Gilbert Shaw became a saddler who carried out his business in Birmingham. His will of 1759 would indicate he had no surviving children. This will mentions Peter Shaw (b 1711), son of his brother Oliver Shaw.

The will of Gilbert Jellians, dated 1699, names Oliver Shaw as a joint executor together with Oliver Dixon, another of Gilbert Jellian’s sons in law. The will names the four Shaw grandsons (as above) and their sister Elizabeth Brinton.

Oliver Shaw was buried in St Thomas Dudley in 1722 and his wife, Alice on 13 Feb 1718. His will leaves a number of bequests, illustrating a relatively modest standard of living. To his son Samuel he left four good chairs, a little table and a clock from his Hall house. He also left a quilt to Samuel “which my dear wife desired he should have”. A gift of £5 to the poor of Dudley gives a measure of his social status, wealth and disposition.


  • Edward Chitham: The Story of Dudley (The History Press, 2014)
  • Charles Wilmer Foster: The History of the Wilmer Family (Goodall and Suddick, 1888)
  • Abstract of Will of Oliver Shaw, 19 Feb 1722, Dudley Archives, Z105/34