Mystery of Huntingdon-born founder of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

15:00 25 November 2011

Battersea Dogs Home logo

Battersea Dogs Home logo


AN appeal has been launched to find out more about the founder of the UK’s oldest and best-known animal rescue centre after research revealed she spent the first 27 years of her life in Huntingdon.

Mary Tealby founded Battersea Dogs and Cats Home 151 years ago, but little is known about the former Huntingdon resident who went on to establish one of the first homes for stray dogs in the country.

As yet, not even an image of Mary has been found, but the charity is keen to hear from anyone who might have a family connection with her.

She was born in 1802 to parents Edward and Mary Bates. According to records, her father had a chemist shop, one of only two in the town, in Market Square.

Mary was one of three children. She had two younger brothers – Edward, born in 1804, and John, born in 1805. All three children were christened in the family’s church, All Saints’, in March 1810 when Mary was eight.

She married in 1829 and moved to Hull with her husband. She set up a temporary home for lost and stray dogs in Holloway, London, in 1860.

It moved to its current location in Battersea in 1871, where it cares for thousands of dogs and cats every year.

In 1864 after she fell ill Mary moved from London to Biggleswade, where she stayed with relative Robert Weale. She diedy on October 3, 1865, and is buried alongside her brother Edward in the church grounds.

Claire Horton, Battersea’s chief executive, said: “Mary Tealby’s legacy has helped improve the lives of animals all over the world, and by restoring her grave we will ensure a lasting memorial to this remarkable woman.

“Sadly, very little is known about Mary. She was divorced and didn’t have any children when she passed away. We’d love to find out more about our founding lady and would like to hear from anyone who thinks they may have a family connection.”

To date, the Battersea has been unable to track down a painting or photograph of its founder, and has pieced together information on Mary from written accounts from the time. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography even describes her as “a figure about whose early life nothing is known”.

INFORMATION: Contact Battersea by e-mailing


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