Shaw, Stebbing (DNB00)

SHAW, STEBBING (1762–1802), topographer, son of Stebbing Shaw (d. 1799), rector of Hartshorn in Derbyshire, was born near Stone in Staffordshire, probably in the spring of 1762. His mother's maiden name was Hyatt, and she owned a small estate in Staffordshire, which passed to her son. He was educated at Repton school, and on 24 May 1780 was admitted as pensioner at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he made the acquaintance of Sir Egerton Brydges, who came up at the same time. He graduated B.A. 1784, M.A. 1787, and B.D. 1796, was elected scholar on 4 Feb. 1784, fellow on 13 Jan. 1786, and took orders in the English church.

About 1785 Shaw went to live at the house of (Sir) Robert Burdett at Ealing, to superintend the education of his son, the future Sir Francis Burdett [q. v.] In the autumn of 1787 tutor and pupil made a tour together ‘from London to the western highlands of Scotland;’ Shaw kept a private diary of their proceedings, which he published anonymously in 1788. It was received with little favour. He made a ‘tour to the west of England in 1788,’ and published an account of his travels in the following year. On this occasion he had studied the history of the places which he purposed visiting, and had made a careful investigation into the working of the mines in Cornwall. The book soon became popular, and was reprinted in Pinkerton's ‘Voyages’ and in Mavor's ‘British Tourists’ (1798 and 1809).

Brydges and he spent the autumn of 1789 in visiting the counties of Derby and Leicester, and in the summer of 1790 Shaw was in Sussex. In every parish he sought for information on the church and its leading families, and supplemented his collections by researches at the British Museum. The results of his investigations were embodied in the four volumes of the ‘Topographer for 1789 to 1791’ which were edited by Brydges and himself, and the magazine contained many of his illustrations. A continuation, called ‘Topographical Miscellanies,’ appeared in 1792, but only seven numbers, forming one volume, were issued.

Shaw retired to his father's rectory at Hartshorn in the summer of 1791, and while there conceived the idea of compiling the history of his native county of Staffordshire. With great industry and ambition for authorship, he was possessed of good general knowledge and of considerable skill in drawing. The first volume of the `History and Antiquities of Staffordshire’ came out in 1798, and the first part of the second volume was published in 1801; a few pages only of the second volume passed through the press. It contained many of his own illustrations, some of which had already appeared in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and many unpublished plates are at the Salt Library, Stafford, and the British Museum (cf. Simms, Bibliotheca Staffordiensis, p. 397). A large-paper copy, with copious additions and corrections by S. P. Wolferstan, is at the British Museum. Copies on large paper have fetched 68l.

Shaw was elected F.S.A. on 5 March 1795, and on 27 April 1799 he succeeded his father in the rectory of Hartshorn. In the beginning of 1801 he offered his services in examining the topographical and genealogical manuscripts at the British Museum, and the librarian ‘by permission of the trustees engaged him at his own expense,’ but his early death in London on 28 Oct. 1802 put an end to his labours (Harl. MSS., second preface, pp. 31–2). His death was a ‘happy release;’ he is said to have died insane, partly from application and partly from vexation about his history (Polwhele, Traditions, ii. 549).

A letter by Shaw is printed in Pinkerton's ‘Correspondence,’ i. 396–8, and he assisted Nichols in his ‘History of Leicestershire.’ He was passionately fond of music, and was a proficient in playing the violin. A portrait of him was published in January 1844.

[Gent. Mag. 1802 ii. 1074, 1803 i. 9–11 (signed L. N. S., i.e. Samuel Egerton Brydges), 129; Upcott's English Topogr. iii. 1176–85; Nichols's Lit. Anecdotes, ix. 202–3; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. iv. 712, v. 581, 662; Cox's Derbyshire Churches, iii. 381–2; Erdeswick's Staff. (ed. Harwood), pp. xlvii–viii; Nichols's Leicestershire, iii. 693, 998; Brydges's Recollections, i. 58; Brydges's Autobiogr. i. 54–5, 234; information from Dr. Ryle, Queens' College, Cambridge.]

W. P. C.