Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes finds watching St Luke XII
In/memory/of/Thomas Shelford C.M.G./late of Singapore/died 12th January 1900, aged 60
Born at Preston Suffolk/died at Guildford Surrey
Also of Jessie Fullarton Shelford/wife of the above/died 29th March 1928. aged illegible
Also of Gwen More Shelford/born 21st Sept 1877/died 12th Dec 1961
Also of/Edith Shelford/died 5th February 1953. aged 73
Thomas Shelford was born on 23 November 1839, the fifth child and third son of William Heard Shelford, rector of Preston, Suffolk, and his wife Emily Frost Shelford, nee Snape, the daughter of another rector. His elder brothers William and Leonard became an engineer and a clergyman respectively, but Thomas was delicate, with a weak chest, and when his father died in 1856, he moved with his mother to Bury St Edmunds. She maintained him and his five younger siblings on income from her properties.
In 1861 or ’62, however, he travelled to South Africa and then on to Singapore, arriving in 1863. He joined a firm of merchants as an assistant, but, by the time of his retirement had become a partner and a significant player in Singapore’s civic and political life. Known to his friends as ‘Tim’, he became in 1872 Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and its representative in the Legislative Council of Singapore and later part-funded the re-launch of the daily newspaper the Singapore Free Press. He was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1892, a rare honour outside the civil service and the military
The town hall in Singapore
He married firstly Flora Hastings Lawrie, on 24 December 1867 at St Andrew’s church Singapore.
St Andrew’s church, Singapore
She was the daughter of George James and Laura Lawrie, who are both buried in St Leonard’s Churchyard, Hythe. They had five children before her death on 24 August 1873. She died, aged only thirty-two, while visiting her parents in Ayrshire, shortly after giving birth to a daughter.
‘Tim’ remained a widower for eleven years, before marrying another Scotswoman, Jessie Fullarton Baird in 1876. She was the daughter of Alexander Baird and Margaret nee Cowan, and was born in Ochiltree, Ayrshire, where her father was a cattle dealer and innkeeper.
By 1891, Jessie was living in East Bridge House in Hythe, without ‘Tim’ but with their two daughters, her sister and ‘Tim’s son, Robert. Apparently she could not adjust to life in the East. When her husband retired in 1897 he, Jessie and the girls went to live in Guildford, but he was buried in St Leonard’s churchyard and his widow returned to Hythe after his death, living in a house called ‘Holmwood’ and later in another called ‘The Dentalls’. The only connection the family had to the town were Tim’s former in-laws, the Lawries, now also buried in St Leonard’s and a sister-in-law, Annie Adair Mackeson, who still lived in the town.
Mary Gwenmore Shelford (known as ‘Gwenmore’) was born 21 Sept 1877 in Wandsworth, the elder daughter of Thomas Shelford and his second wife, Jessie. Her younger sister, Edith, was born in the Straits Settlement of Malaysia. When the family moved to Hythe after their father’s death, Gwenmore and Edith both became Sunday School teachers at St Leonard’s church, and set up a children’s library there.
In early January 1907, notices appeared in the press announcing the engagement of Gwenmore to the Revd. Frank Hay Gillingham, a military chaplain and first-class cricketer who played for Essex. The marriage never took place. Frank eventually married someone else, but Gwenmore did not.
During the First World War she worked with the V.A.D at the Bevan Hospital in Sandgate as assistant to the Keeper of Linen (her sister Edith) for twenty-six hours a week for the duration. She died in Hythe, where she had been living at the Imperial Hotel. Edith had predeceased her by eight years.
Laura, the older half-sister of Gwenmore and Edith had married Captain Robert Norman Bland. They lived in Singapore where Robert was Resident Councillor of Malacca. Robert junior was their third child, and died during a visit to the UK. He and his mother were staying at Saltwood Gardens in Hythe. He is buried next to his grandfather and not far from his maternal great-grandparents George James and Laura Lawrie.