Shelley is a small village and civil parish in Suffolk, England. Located on the west bank of the River Brett around three miles south of Hadleigh, it is part of Babergh district.
Most of the parish is within the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, sister of Jamestown colonist and explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, is buried at All Saints Church, Shelley. Many people who come to Shelley will do so to see Dame Margarett Tylney. Her effigy lies in a window embrasure to the west of the pulpit. She died in 1598, shortly before the Tudor dynasty ended .
There is an alcove in the north chancel wall that may have accommodated Dame Margarett, and some shields further east may have come from the same place. Dame Margaret might have resented being shifted out of the chancel, but the Victorian restoration left Shelley with a lovely little village church that is at once beautiful and dignified, and also in reasonable condition.
Her sleeping effigy was witness to a quite extraordinary event in the early years of the 21st Century. In 2003, archaeologists working in Jamestown, Virginia discovered the remains of a body which had been buried with obvious ceremony at the James Fort heritage site. There was a theory that it could be the corpse of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, a Suffolk-born adventurer who led the pioneers that established the first English colony in the New World at Jamestown in 1607. A certain amount of DNA was recovered, and the only way of establishing for certain the identity of the corpse was to find a match from a source known to be of the same family. Gosnold’s sister Elizabeth Tilney Gosnold had been buried in the vault of Shelley church, and permission was given for the vault to be opened and a DNA sample obtained.
Permission was given because of “the strength of the educational and scientific rationale presented to us by the Jamestown team”. The Victorian tiles were removed from the chancel floor, then the 18th Century bricks below them, and then the 17th Century flagstones. A small amount of DNA was obtained from the corpse of Elizabeth, and lo and behold it was a match. A brass plaque on the chancel wall recalls the event and remembers Elizabeth.