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Tealby [née Bates], Maryfree

  • Hilda Kean

Tealby [née Bates], Mary (1801/2–1865), animal welfare organizer, was born in Huntingdon, the daughter of Edward Bates (b. 1783/4), druggist. She had a brother, Edward Bates (b. 1803/4), curate of Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire. Little is known of her early life. By 1841 she was living in Hull, having married Robert Chapman Tealby (1801/2–1862), partner in a firm of timber merchants in the city.

In the autumn of 1860 Mary Tealby established what later became known as the Battersea Dogs' Home. Already an active supporter of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, she was living in Victoria Road, Holloway, London, with her father and brother. The Islington Gazette reported on 6 October 1860 her view, having found so many starving dogs in that district alone, that 'the aggregate amount of suffering amongst those faithful creatures throughout London must be very dreadful indeed'. Concerned with the fate of dogs dying 'of lingering starvation' in the streets (An Appeal, 6) she established secure premises in St James's Road, Holloway, where dogs could be exercised and lost dogs retrieved by their owners. As the rules made clear the home was to be neither a permanent home for 'old, worn out favourites' nor a hospital, but a 'temporary refuge to which humane persons may send only those lost dogs so constantly seen in the streets' (Annual Report, 1865, 7).

The first meeting of the committee running the home was held on 27 November 1860 at the premises of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Pall Mall, with the Revd Edward Bates as honorary secretary and Mary Tealby in the chair. Tealby, widowed in 1862, was not a wealthy woman and much of the committee's early work focused on essential fund-raising. She was also active in visiting the premises regularly, and by 1861 had become a life governor of the home. The last meeting she attended was in December 1864.

Mary Tealby died on 3 October 1865 in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, from cancer and exhaustion, aged sixty-three. She and her brother were buried in the same grave in the churchyard of St Andrew's, Biggleswade. The dogs' home committee recorded their loss, declaring Mary Tealby to be a 'kind-hearted and generous lady' (Annual Report, 1865, 4). For many years to come the reports of the dogs' home—subsequently moved to Battersea—were dedicated to her as 'the foundress and unwearied benefactress' (ibid., 1893).


  • G. Costelloe, The story of the Battersea Dogs' Home (1979)
  • An appeal for the home for lost and starving dogs by a member of the society (1861)
  • Annual report of the Temporary Home for Lost, Starving Dogs at Hollingsworth St, St James' Road, Holloway (1865)
  • minutes of the Home for Lost and Starving Dogs, 1860–67, Battersea Dogs' Home archive, London
  • The Dogs' Home Battersea, 1860–1960, Battersea Dogs' Home (1960)
  • Islington Gazette (6 Oct 1860), 3
  • The Queen (28 Sept 1861), 49–50
  • earl of Harrowby, Our moral relation to the animal kingdom (1862)
  • Annual report of the Battersea Dogs' Home (1893) [archive of Battersea Dogs' Home]
  • Hull Packet (7 March 1862)
  • census returns, 1841, 1851, 1861
  • gravestone, St Andrew's churchyard, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire
  • d. cert.
  • private information (2004)

Wealth at Death

under £100: probate, 10 Feb 1866, CGPLA Eng. & Wales