JOHN HOARE'S FAMILY HISTORY
The Bell Family Line
(updated November 2013 to include references to the name 'Beasley')
My grandmother on my fathers side was Florence Kathleen BELL, born towards the end of 1883 died 1974. I have the fondest memories of her from my childhood. Although very short she was large in girth and character, and very much a countrywoman although she had left the country to live in London by her eighteenth birthday. (She said she was sent to the Midlands to work as housemaid to a Vicar, but I can't confirm this.) She added a year to her age for the 1901 census and her marriage later that year, by which time she was already expecting my father: she was always very vague about her age from then on. We don't think she could read or write much. Now that I have researched her family it all fits into place.
When grandma was becoming old and frail she would love to tell stories which were half Christian, half pagan. One of her favourite gambits was that she had 'powers' because she was the seventh child of a seventh child. Census reports suggest that she was in fact the sixth born of thirteen, but it is quite possible that an older sibling had died at a young age. Her father, though, seems to have been the third of six, which rather spoils the story! Grandma claimed to have worked in the poor parts of London as a (totally unqualified) nurse and wetnurse.
When I was growing up in Southampton in the 1950s a frequent visitor to my grandmothers bungalow was her younger sister Eva Gertrude, my Auntie Gertie, who would have been in her sixties, and her two adult sons Wilfred and Harry. I remember her as quiet and reserved, but I have now learnt that she had led a colourful life, with four daughters I never knew - two of the daughters had emigrated to Australia. The family believes that Wilfred was an engineer who designed the propeller for an aircraft which played an important part in World War Two, now confirmed by documents i have been given. Harry was a science teacher in several schools in Southampton. The family name was BEASLEY, and I have set up a page for them.
In the 1891 census Grandma was living in 67, Malthouse Cottages at the edge of Broadlands Estate on the outskirts of Romsey in Hampshire, with seven brothers and sisters aged from 1 to 21, as well as her parents. I have been sent modern photographs of the Cottages. From the census it is likely that their house was one of the centre two of the block
Imagine them as they were in 1901 - a block of five cottages housing 13 adults and 14 children!
This story seems to be going backwards through time, which might work out quite well, so I will continue. Grandma's father was Thomas BELL, born 1847 and a farm worker ('aglab' in census parlance), and his mother was Charlotte. I am very lucky to have been sent pictures of both of them, although that of Thomas has deteriorated to almost nothing.
Going back any further the picture becomes murky. Thomas was baptised Thomas BAILEY, taking the name of his mother, Hannah BAILEY. His birth certificate gives no father, and his mother was unable to write enough to sign her name, and so used a cross. In the 1851 census we find Hannah recorded as housekeeper to a William BELL, with four children all taking the surname BAILEY. William is recorded as the head, and the children as sons and daughters, and in fact William and Hannah married in April 1851. Can we assume that Thomas was the son of William? Upon reflection, yes probably. If not, the male line stops here. On the other hand, William Bell WAS listed as head, and the children were recorded as 'son'. In a poor family such legal niceties were probably irrelevant.
The Bell family goes back to William born in 1770, and probably much further, in the adjoining villages of Sherfield English, Michelmersh, and Lockerley, some five miles Northeast of Romsey in Hampshire. The occupations listed were humble, with the most skilled being 'broom maker'. The Bailey family were centred round Lockerley, and seem to have been even worse off. References to blindness and paupers crop up. One other notable fact that I have not seen elsewhere in my research is that weddings and baptisms tended to be arranged on Holy Days, perhaps because those were the only days that families were free from work and could gather together in the daytime.
Since first writing this page I have been contacted by the family of grandma's sister, Ada Lillian Bell. Both families seem to have lived in the same town for some time, but with apparently little contact. They have also sent me the picture shown here. I am delighted to know about this branch, but in accordance with my self-imposed 'hundred year' rule, I can't go into more detail here. I will allow myself one exception - Reginald Victor James Bell, who should have been my Great uncle Victor, but fell in the Great War.
I have also been contacted by the descendant of Victor's brother Albert John Bell, known as Jack, and I have given Jack a page of his own.
© John Hoare 2009 minor revisions to 2014