Josiah Bell, Woodman of Mereworth,Kent

In former blogs I have written about John Billinghurst alias Bell, born 1800, the illegitimate son of Sarah Billinghurst, of Mereworth, Kent. See ‘The Story of an Alias-John Bell, Mereworth,Kent’ and ‘More on the Alias of John Bell, Mereworth, Kent’.
The following year Sarah Billinghurst married Josiah Bell, in St Lawrence, Mereworth. They had a daughter Elizabeth born 1803, whose story is told in ‘A Life Cut Short-Elizabeth Bell, Mereworth, Kent.’

In this blog I continue the family story about their son, Josiah Bell who was born in 1806.

Josiah Bell, the second child and son of Josiah and Sarah Bell (nee Billinghurst) was born in Mereworth in 1806. By his time his father was 52 years of age and his mother 42 years.
Josiah Bell was baptised at St Lawrence, Mereworth on 31 August 1806. He grew up in Mereworth and was only ten years of age when his father died. No doubt Josiah took on the care of his mother and sister from an early age, but by the time he was in his early twenties, he had lost both his sister and mother.
Josiah Bell married at St Mary’s, East Farleigh, on 29 January 1832, a cousin, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox). She had been baptised at East Farleigh on 10 November 1811.

They had a large family all of whom were baptised at St Lawrence,
⦁ Sarah Bell, b 1832
⦁ Catherine Harriet Bell, b 1835
⦁ Josiah Bell, b 1837
⦁ James Bell, b 1838
⦁ Ann Bell, b 1840
⦁ Mercy, b 1843
⦁ Thomas, b1847
⦁ Robert Bell, b 1849
⦁ Mahalah, b 1851
⦁ George, b 1854
⦁ Frederick, b 1856

Josiah and Ann Bell remained in Mereworth, when Ann Bell’s parents, Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), and most of her siblings emigrated to New South Wales on the Woodbridge, in 1838.

The Baptismal Font, St Lawrence, Mereworth
Copyright-Nola Mackey, 2004

Josiah and Ann Bell and family, can be found in the 1841,1851,1861,1871 Census Return for Mereworth, where Josiah is described as a ‘Wood Labourer’. We know his father was also recorded as a ‘Woodsman’ in several parish documents.

Josiah bell died and was buried in the Mereworth churchyard on 24 March 1874. His headstone is inscribed with “He was for 43 years a bellringer at this church”.

The weathered headstone of Josiah Bell, St Lawrence Churchyard.
Copyright- Nola Mackey,2004

After Josiah Bell’s death, his wife Ann, found employment as the Monthly Nurse. In the 1881 Census she was not at home, but in the household of John Humphrey’s, with his wife Mary Ann and their infant daughter, Edith.She is recorded there as 72 years of age, but would have been about 70 years.
In the 1891 Census, Ann Bell was living in Kent Street. Her invalid daughter Ann, and her youngest son, Frederick Bell and his family were living with her.
Ann Bell died in 1895 and is buried in the Mereworth Churchyard, possibly beside her husband, but her grave is unmarked.



A Life Cut Short- Elizabeth Bell, Mereworth, Kent 


In a former blog I wrote about the puzzle of John Billinghurst or Bell, born in 1800 at Mereworth, Kent, England. He was the illegitimate son of Sarah Billinghurst. In this blog I am continuing the story of the family of Josiah Bell and Sarah Billinghurst who married in 1801, in St Lawrence, Church of England, Mereworth after the above mentioned John Billinghurst, alias Bell was born.

Josiah Bell, was the third child of Josiah and Mary Bell (nee Carpenter), and was baptised at St Lawrence, Mereworth on 17 March 1754. He married in the same church, on 9 November 1801, Sarah Billinghurst. She was the daughter of John and Sarah Billinhurst and was also baptised at Mereworth on 16 September 1764.

Elizabeth Bell, the eldest child of Josiah and Sarah Bell (nee Billinghurst)
was baptised at Mereworth on 29 May 1803. When Elizabeth was born her mother was 39 years of age.
Elizabeth Bell grew up in Mereworth. She was thirteen years of age when her father, Josiah Bell died in 1816. His death impacted greatly on the family.
Elizabeth remained single and died at 18 years of age. She was buried at Mereworth on 2 December 1822.

We can gauge very little on the life of this young woman with the bare dates of her baptism and burial. However in the Mereworth Parish Chest there is a list of medicines and medical expenses the parish overseers paid, for the care of their poorest parishioners.

In the list for 1822 we find many entries for members of our Bell families. In particular we find numerous mention of medicines for ‘E Bell’. She may have always been in poor health, but we can gather she became very ill several months before her death and that every medical assistance was given her by the parish overseers.

I have extracted the following from the parish accounts.

July 27- E Bell Diuretic mixture 2/6
Aug 4- E Bell Mixture repeated 2/6
Aug 6- E Bell Eight powders 2/6
Aug 14 – E Bell Diuretic mixture 2/6
Aug 19 – E Bell Two blisters to the legs 3/-
Aug 24 – E Bell Large tonic mixture 3/-
Aug 28 – E Bell Large box ointment 9d
Aug 31 – E Bell Two blisters to the feet 2/6
Sep 3 – E Bell Large box ointment 9d
Sep 7 – E Bell A tonic 2/6
Sep 10 – E Bell Box of ointment 9d
Oct 14 – E Bell Box of ointment 9d
Nov 6 – E Bell Box of ointment 1/-

We do not know the cause of death of Elizabeth Bell, but it appears from the above entries it must have been a blessed release.
One can only imagine what her mother, Sarah, must have endured. She survived another six years before her own death in 1828,leaving a sorrowing son of 22 years.


St Lawrence,Mereworth, 2004- Copyright,Nola Mackey

More on the Alias of John Bell, Mereworth, Kent

In this blog I try to answer the question concerning the alias used by John Bell or Billinghurst of Mereworth in the blog “The Story of an Alias- John Bell, Mereworth, Kent.”
I had struck this problem of interchanging of surnames and the use of an alias in earlier Bell research.
One theory I had concerning ‘aliases’ was that perhaps a girl had an illegitimate child, who was baptised in her maiden name and when the girl later marries, the child then takes the surname of the new husband or attaches it as an ‘alias’. An ‘alias’ means that he or she is also known by another name.
If my theory was right in this case I would be looking about 1800 for a female “Billinghurst’ who had later married a man with the surname Bell.

St Lawrence, Mereworth, 2004. Image Copyright- Nola Mackey

I found in the Mereworth Parish Marriage Register, on 9 November 1801, Sarah Billinghurst married Josiah Bell.

A further search of the Mereworth Baptism Register found John, the illegitimate son of Sarah Billinghurst, baptised on 2 November 1800.
Perhaps it should be noted that John is believed to have been Sarah’s first child. She would have been between 35 and 36 years of age at the time.

As there were no records in the Parish Chest Accounts concerning the birth and care of John Billinghurst it may be that Josiah Bell was his father, but he didn’t claim him at his baptism. Whatever the case he certainly took responsibility for him.

After John Billinghurst died in 1860, all his children in subsequent Census Returns, Marriage and Burial Registers are recorded with the Surname of ‘Bell’.

In the 1861 Census Returns for Mereworth, are Thomas Bell aged 26 years, his wife Mary, and daughter Matilda. Also living in the same household are Thomas Bell’s brothers, George, Alexander, Josiah, Henry and Alfred Bell, and his sister Fanny Bell.

In later Census Returns the children are all married and are scattered throughout the village with their own families under the surname ‘Bell’.

The Story of an Alias – John Bell, Mereworth,Kent

I have mentioned in former blogs that I have been able to trace one of my ancestral family lines back to the Middle Ages. This is one of my Maternal Lines by the very common surname of ‘Bell’. This was done long before computers and the Internet. It has taken many years, to locate and review many records. Along the way I have had the pleasure of finding many cousins of varying degrees, all of whom have helped me in some way sort out and put together the incredible history of a family, who resided in a small area of Kent for over six hundred years. In the 19th Century due to the Industrial Revolution, harsh weather conditions, and other economic reasons many were forced to emigrate, literally for their own survival, to all points of the globe.

One set of records in England we find very useful for family history research are the 19th Century Census Returns. Although the first Census was taken in 1801, the information collected was in reality a head count and not very useful to help with information on families. The 1811, 1821 and 1831 Census Returns were very similar. However, the 1841 Returns had information on individuals which made it much more useful for putting together family groups. The 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census Returns give much information on individuals and are a great record for putting together and tracking family groups.

Although many of our Bell families emigrated to United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa before the 1841 Census was taken, it was important for us to find and document all our family branches, who had not emigrated, but remained in Kent or had moved to other places in the British Isles. The Census Returns could help with this project.

The birth place of my 4X Great-grandfather Thomas Bell, (b 1782), the son of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence),was Mereworth, Kent. This is a rural village near Maidstone.
Mereworth Village3 (2)
Mereworth Village-Copyright, Nola Mackey, 1980

I made a collection of all individuals with the Surname of Bell who stated their place of birth as Mereworth, in the 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census Returns. From these Census Returns I was able to calculate approximate year of birth for each individual. Using the English Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes I was able to find the Registration numbers and send to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriage for certificates, which helped to clarify and sort out family groups. I also utilized copies of the parish registers of baptism, marriage and burials I have for Mereworth. Using these documents I was able to reconstruct many branches of the Bell family.

However, one family recorded in the 1851 Census at Kent Street, Mereworth, just did not seem to fit, although they claimed to have all been born at Mereworth.

This was the family of John Bell, aged 52 years, an agricultural labourer; his wife, Sarah, aged 38 years and children; Thomas, aged 14 years; Alexander aged 11 years; Josiah, aged 6 years; Henry, aged 3 years and Frances aged 1 month.

BELL, John,1851,Mereworth,Census Returns

1851 Census Returns for John Bell and family, retrieved from Findmypast, 31 January 2018


However, I could not find this family group in the 1841 nor the 1861 Census.

After listing the names and calculating the year of birth I was ready to search the Mereworth Parish Registers. To my great disappointment, I only found one baptism, Josiah, the son of John and Sarah Bell, baptised 19 February 1845. Were these children actually born and baptised elsewhere but had lived at Mereworth most of their lives? What was I missing?

I was not able at the time to locate the appropriate Mereworth Marriage Register, but I was able to get some names and dates from the surviving Marriage Banns Book. I was able to purchase various Bell marriage certificates for Mereworth, which included those of; John Bell to Ellen Sales; Thomas Bell to Mary Ann Watson; Harry Bell to Dorcas Emery and Eliza Bell to William Sudds. On each certificate the father’s name was given as ‘John Bell, a labourer.
The only Bell marriage I was able to extract from a surviving church Marriage Register at Alyesford, Kent, was that of Fanny Bell to Edgar Wilson in 1871. She gave her father’s name as ‘John Billinghurst’ not ‘John Bell’. I then tried for a baptism entry at Mereworth for Fanny or Frances as the daughter of John Billinghurst. There it was. ‘Frances, daughter of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptised 9 March 1851. As the 1851 Census was taken in early April- she was most likely the ‘Frances Bell’ aged 1 month’ in the Census.

I continued searching the registers for ‘Billinghurst’ and ‘Bell’ and found the following:-

⦁ James, son of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptised 10 Sept 1843, buried 29 Sept 1843.
⦁ Josiah, son of John and Sarah Bell, baptised 19 Feb 1845.
⦁ Henry William, son of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptised 30 Apr 1847
⦁ Frances, daughter of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptised 9 Mar 1851.
⦁ Alfred, son of John and Sarah Billinghurst, baptised 19 February 1854, buried 7 February 1864.
I could not find baptism entries for Thomas and Alexander Billinghurst or Bell as sons of John and Sarah.

I then searched for a marriage of a John Bell or Billinghurst who married Sarah ‘Unknown’ before the 1843 baptism, of the first known child, of this couple.
I found a marriage of a John Billinghurst (a widower) to Sarah Marshall on 13 November 1842 at Holy Trinity, Maidstone.

I then found a John Billinghurst married Eliza Miller on 17 August 1823 at All Saints, Maidstone.

A search of the Mereworth Parish Registers for children of this couple found the following:-.
⦁ Elizabeth Bell born 1824
⦁ John Billinghurst ,born 1826
⦁ George Josiah Billinghurst,born 1828
⦁ Sarah Ann Billinghurst, born 1830
⦁ Eliza Billinghurst, born 1833
⦁ Thomas Billinghurst, born 1835
⦁ Alexander Billinghurst, born 1839.
I was then able to find John and Eliza ‘Bell’ and their children in the 1841 Census at Mereworth.

Living next door was the Marshall family with a daughter named Sarah, who is most likely to be the Sarah Marshall who married John Billinghurst in 1842, after Eliza Billinghurst died and was buried at Mereworth on 14 November 1841.

Sarah Billinghurst died at Aylesford and was buried at Mereworth on 17 October 1856 aged 43 years. John Billinghurst died and was buried at Mereworth on 1 July 1860.
This explains why I was not able to locate the family of John and Sarah Billinghurst or Bell in the 1861 Census.

As often happens in family history research, we answer one question but bring to light more puzzles and questions. Why were the names ‘Bell’ and ‘Billinghurst’ so interchangeable in this family?

Immigration-“Woodbridge” Voyage-1838

The emigrant ship the “Woodbridge” left Southampton on 7 May and arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838.

There were several people on board who had family connections to me.

Robin and Mercy Bell and family, who were uncle, aunt and cousins to my ancestor, George Bell who emigrated in 1837.

Also on board were Thomas and Alice (Ellis) Sargent and family who were my 3 X Great-Grandparents. Their daughter, Sarah married George Bell in 1844. I wrote a rather detailed account about the voyage in Bell Family Newsletter No 26 July 1993 p13-19.This blog is based on that article.


At this time emigrant ships were often provisioned through the naval stores at Deptford Dockyards. It was the Surgeon’s job to check the supplies for the emigrants.

Gravesend had been a port of embarkation for emigrants to America and Australia for many years but the inconvenience of trying to load passengers on board from small boats in an often swift tidal current (of the Thames River), led to the erection of a new pier which was opened in July 1833. It extended 100 feet into the river from the old stone pier, with a further extension opened in 1834. This new extension consisted of insulated columns or piles of cast iron which supported a floor or roadway. This pier was constructed so as not to impede the current of the river.

As mentioned below in the Surgeon’s Report emigrants from Kent and Sussex boarded the ship here on 22 and 23 April 1838.

The Surgeon Superintendent on this voyage of the “Woodbridge’ was Alexander Stewart, MD, RN.

He had been a naval surgeon and had been the Surgeon Superintendent on the convict ship “Aurora’ under Captain Dawson which arrived in Sydney on 3 November 1833, so we know he had made the voyage at least once before. His report has survived and is at the State Records of NSW.

Surgeon’s Report of the ship Woodbridge ‘s voyage to Sydney by Alexander Stewart, MD, RN

Much of the below details were taken from NSW State Records Reels 2654,1296 and other papers, and from the Sydney Gazette dated 18 September 1838 by Peter Andrews and included in an article he prepared for the Journal of the Singleton Family History Society. Peter and the Society kindly gave me permission to use the material in the newsletter at the time. Peter is now deceased and his article can be found on the Society’s website.

Log Commences

APRIL 1838

On the 22nd April 1838, I was appointed by Lord Glenelg (Secretary of State for the Colonies),as Surgeon Superintendent of the Emigrant ship “Woodbridge” bound for Sydney. Being completed with water and provisions the ship was dropped down from Deptford to Gravesend the 22nd of same (April),then the following day,76 persons were embarked and 61 more on the 24th completing the number to be taken on board in the river (Thames). They were chiefly farm labourers from the counties of Sussex and Kent and generally healthy, but a few of the children had a pustular eruption on the face, said by the parents to have taken place after vaccination. In the afternoon of the 25th we got under weigh and again anchored in the sea reach, the winds becoming unfavourable and blowing strong. 26th 4.00pm got up anchor and made sail in the evening, the wind and the tide being against us, the ship was brought up at Mole. At noon on the 27th again weighed anchor, made all sails and having a fair breeze the ship came to anchor off Cowes, Isle of Wight at 11am on the 28th April. On the 2nd May embarked 130 emigrants from Wiltshire, the greater number of these were also farm servants and married with families. The day after the last came aboard I found out that some of the children were suffering from whooping cough, but with one exception, of a mild character. No means could be adopted for the separation from the healthy and I am happy to say no serious consequences followed. Only a few cases subsequently occurred and these were very mild requiring some medical treatment. On the 7th May at 7.00am weighed and made all sail running through The Needles with a modest breeze and fine weather.

MAY 1838

During the month of May the weather was fine with moderate breezes. The thermometer averaged at noon,63 degrees, maximum 83 degrees, in latitude 7 degrees north, minimum 50 degrees off Cowes, nine days of which rain fell, chiefly near the equator and in heavy showers of short duration. Winds were 7 days NE,1 day NEbE,1 day NNE,I day NW,I day NNW,3 days SW,1 day SSE,1 day SEbE,3 days E,1 day EbS,7 days ENE,I day EbN,3 days variable with calms. 48 cases were put on the sick list principally obstipatic and dysenteric. Many of the females suffered much from sea sickness, of whom 30 were cured and two children died, one of inanition and the other from dysentery.

JUNE 1838

June for the most part ,fine with moderate and variable winds. Thermometer averaged 77 degrees, maximum 85 degrees in a latitude 4 north, minimum 66 degrees in latitude 28 degrees south. 17 days of which rain fell in heavy transient showers with occasional thunder and lightning. Winds 1 day NE,9 days SE,3 days SSE,1 day SEbE and 13 days variable with calms. Added to the sick list 55,cured 54,two children died of dysentery, the same diseases prevailed as the last month.

JULY 1838

July, on the 21st of this month, finding the bowel affections continuing on unabated and also with symptoms of scurvy making their appearance, I judged it necessary for the benefit of the health of the emigrants to put into some port to enable me to procure fresh provisions. Accordingly I wrote to the Master of the ship requesting him to take her to the nearest convenient harbour for that purpose. On the same day we arrived at Simmons Bay, Cape of Good Hope, where I purchased 2501 pounds of beef and mutton and half that quantity of mixed vegetables, having also taken on board 8 tons of water. No fruit was available. We proceeded on our passage on the 26th. The weather this month was more unsettled, the winds being stronger and a good deal of thick foggy atmosphere. The29th and the 30th days were particularly thick and muggy with torrents of rain and much thunder and lightning, which so injured our remaining fresh beef that a survey was held upon it and 887 pounds were thrown overboard, being unfit for use. The thermometer averaged 60 2/3 degrees, maximum 66 degrees at 29 degrees south latitude, minimum 56 degrees in the latitude 34 degrees south. Nine days of rain fell with the exception of the two days stated above in moderate passing showers. 34 were added to the sick list,32 cured and 4 died,3 children of dysentery and 1 of aptha of the mouth and fauces.


August, the weather was very unsettled and the decks were wet ,but no injurious effects to the health of the people. The sick list, remarkably diminished since the issue of fresh provisions. Thermometer averaged 53 degrees, maximum 64 degrees in latitude 39 south, minimum 49 degrees in latitude 38 south. 19 days of rain fell in transient but heavy showers with occasional hail. The winds chiefly westerly, suddenly shifting around to the north and south, blowing strong with occasional gales and thick weather. The winds were 2 days N,2 days NNE,1 day NE,4 days NW,2 days NNW,2 days NWbW,8 days WNW,2 days WSW,3 days WbS,2 days SSW,1 day SW and 1 day variable and calm. 16 were added to the sick list,19 cured and a married female died from the debilitating effects of sea sickness.


September, on the 15th,the Woodbridge anchored in Sydney Cove and the morning of the 18th,the emigrants were disembarked. With the exception of one child, all were healthy. The weather this month was generally fine, with light and moderate breezes, no rain. The Thermometer averages 50 1/2 degrees, maximum 67 degrees in Sydney Cove, minimum 48 degrees in latitude 40 south. 2 added to sick list,29 discharged, one of whom was a married woman died of dysentery

On Monday the 17th September 1838 the following two articles appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

  1. Shipping Intelligence : From Portsmouth, same day, having sailed the 7th May, the Ship “Woodbridge”, Captain Dobson with 260 government emigrants, under the superintendence of Dr. Stewart.
  2. The undermentioned immigrants, with their families, who arrived on the ship “Woodbridge”, on the 15 September, under the superintendence of Alexander Stewart, Esq., R.N., will be landed on the 19th instant, at the Immigrant Buildings, Bent Street; and persons desirous of engaging their services are requested to apply to the Superintendent, at the Buildings, the following day.


The Sydney Gazette dated Tuesday 18 September 1838 in the Ships News Column stated: “The emigrant ship Woodbridge is a vessel well adapted for the conveyance of settlers to our shores, her between decks, being more than seven feet in height, and very spacious. The emigrants on board appear to be in a mostly healthy state, and their berths and other accommodation do great credit to the commanding officers on board, and also the Surgeon Superintendent, Alexander Stewart, Esq.,R.N. The only deaths on board this vessel during her passage were eight young children.(In actual fact the deaths were 8 children and 2 married women). Messrs R.Campbell & Co. are her Agents. The emigrants will be landed this day, and as they are principally agricultural labourers, there will be a good opportunity for the settlers to provide themselves with such as they may require.”

Additional Notes-

The vaccination referred to was for Small Pox, also known as Variola. Small Pox was a contagious feverish disease characterised by eruptions on the skin.

The ‘sea reach’ was a stretch of water where ships anchored waiting for a favourable wind. ‘Mole’ on The Downs’  is an anchorage or roadstead between the east coast of Kent and the Goodwin Sands and takes its name from the range of chalk hills visible in the distance that run through Hampshire, Surrey, Kent and Sussex.

The steamers and small boats brought the emigrants from Southamption about 10 miles down the reach to the ships at anchorage off Cowes. The ships then sailed Spithead side of the Isle of Wight or through The Solent down the other side of the island through The Needles and out into the English Channel.

Bell Ancestors,Coming to Australia-Robin and Mercy Bell,1838

Robin Bell (b 1785), the third son and fourth child of Thomas and Ann Bell of Mereworth, married Mercy Cheeseman in 1811, and had a family of ten children.

This family emigrated to New South Wales on the Woodbridge in 1838.

In the late 18th Century, England was again at war. The most terrible effect was the great depression it brought about in agriculture. It was essential the land produce an ever increasing amount of food and although land enclosure had been going on for a long time the pressures of war hastened the movement. Many more taxes were introduced and although they mainly applied to the rich landowners they had a roll-on effect to the labourer in that as his taxes rose the landowner used them as an excuse to pay his workers less. By 1795 in the south of England agricultural labourers were paid only a pittance compared to what they had been and attempts were made to supplement his income from the parish poor rate. Many people resisted this step and tried to do without this assistance because of the stigma associated with it. They were willing to work, but there was no work. Of course the Industrial Revolution played its part too.

We know that by the early 1830’s conditions had become so terrible that some agricultural labourers caused riots. In some effort to assist the poor, work houses were set up all over

England. It was probably about this time that Robin and Mercy Bell and family were forced to return to Mereworth from East Farleigh where they had lived and worked for a number of years.  (Mereworth was Robin Bell’s parish of birth, so became responsible for him and his family in times of unemployment and destitution).

At the same time the colonies were calling for more agricultural labourers for the expanding wool trade. Immigration was encouraged but only the richer farmer could afford to go.

By 1837 the first of the assisted immigration schemes to Australia were in place. The summer of 1837 in England and Europe was cold and wet which led to a very poor harvest for that year.

This was probably one of the catalyst that led James and George Bell of East Farleigh, the sons of Thomas Bell (b 1782) and his first wife Mary, to sign on as sailors on board the convict ship Asia to work their way to Sydney in late 1837. See former blogs My Bell Ancestors-George Bell (1817-1894) Sorting Red Herrings posted 3 July 2015 and My Bell Ancestors-George Bell Red Herrings Sorted posted 1 February 2016.

The bad summer of 1837 was followed by a very harsh winter with much snow.

Many families were literally destitute and starving. Several of our Bell families like many others decided to emigrate, hoping to make a better life. The ‘bait’ as it were, was the dream to be able and own land after a few years work in the new colony. This was a dream they couldn’t have realized if they had stayed in England. Having decided to emigrate the families had to full-fill very strict conditions for a free passage to Australia. Many applicants were turned down as they were not able to fit these conditions. Robin Bell (b1785)and his family of Mereworth, Kent, were able to satisfy the conditions to emigrate to Sydney, as most of their family were adults and employable. See former blog “Robin and Mercy Bell of Kent, England, and Scone in New South Wales”, posted 1 September 2012.

With the bounty System for New South Wales the male members of the family would have applied to the Workhouse Union Clerk at Malling for an assisted passage. He would have sent their application onto the Agent General for Emigration in London. Writing back to the clerk at Malling the Agent General would announce that the Surgeon Superintendent of a certain bounty ship, such as the Woodbridge, or his agent, would be available to interview applicants on a certain day in the workhouse boardroom. The necessary certificates had to be presented at the interview. The applicant had to produce certificates certifying to moral and industrious habits, good health and practical knowledge concerning his given occupation. These documents had to be signed by the parish clergyman and other respectable inhabitants in the parish where the applicant resided. The applicant also had to tender certificates to his age and that of his wife and children. These were usually extracted from the parish registers. It is probable that Robin Bell and his family made the original application sometime in February 1838.

Other specified conditions for passage to Australia included a certain amount and type of clothing. Luggage packages were not to exceed 18″ deep and every steerage passenger before embarking had to put sufficient linen and other changes of clothing for a month into a box not more than 15″ square as only these small boxes were allowed in the steerage compartment. All other luggage was stored(preferably in a tin-lined trunk), in the holds to be retrieved and brought onto deck in calm weather about four or five weeks into the voyage.

Eligibility for free passage was determined by the Superintendent or his Agent at the interview. The successful applicants would then be advised the ships departure date and the necessity of reaching the place of embarkation a couple of days before the date of departure so their luggage could be examined for correctness under the rules of passage.

Preparations would take several weeks to complete, as the clothing alone which was all made by hand would take time. Parish Overseers Accounts in the Parish Chest Records for Mereworth, Kent, give a great insight into the lives of our Bell families, as these show us that the Mereworth Parish Overseers paid for the shoes and clothing to be made to allow our Bell families to emigrate. Also the tin lining for the trunk and tools for their trade. Emigrants were expected to travel to the place of embarkation at their own expense. Again the Mereworth Parish Overseers assisted. Note the ‘landing money’ which was given to the emigrants on landing in the colony.


Original Parish Chest, St Lawrence Mereworth, that once held the parish account books including the Overseer of the Poor. Copyright Nola Mackey-2004

“1838 – An Account of Moneys Spent by me for parish of Mereworth to assist in clothing and other expenses attending so many poor families who were emigrating from this parish to New South Wales”

April Gave Robt Bell by check To purchase tools etc £4
Paid Mr Farrant a bill for Robt Bell and family £6
Pd the Revd Mr Jebb for Robt Bells Family

To receive at Landing in Sidney (sic)



Robin and Mercy Bell were also known as Robert and Mary Bell in the Mereworth records.

The family were given ten pounds on landing in Sydney to help them live until they could arrange employment.

The Woodbridge left  England on 7 May  and arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838.

In the next blog I will give more information on the voyage of the ‘Woodbridge‘ itself.

Bell Ancestors Coming Down-Under- South Australia


In former blogs I have blogged about the emigration of various branches of our Bell Family to United States ,Canada and Australia. This emigration story spanned nearly a century and was virtually global in range.

The 1830’s were a terrible time period for our Bell ancestors in Kent, England. Many families who faced with starvation or the newly erected Workhouses, saw emigration as their only opportunity and salvation. However they didn’t have means to emigrate.

Fortunately through various avenues several immigration schemes were being put forward by colonial governments particularly in Australia. Several of our Bell family took advantage of these schemes to emigrate.

George Bell (b1806) the second son and child of John and Mary Bell (nee Kemp) of Mereworth, Kent married Jane Hunt on 25 December 1827. They had a number of children all born at Mereworth; Jane (b1828), John (b 1830), Mary (b1832), George (b 1834) and Ann (b1837).

By 1837 this family had to relied on parish assistance to survive. The alternative was to go into the Malling Workhouse.

They wished to emigrate to New South Wales with other family members, but unfortunately they could not satisfy some of the conditions for a free passage. Their children were too young for employment when they arrived. However no such restrictions were proposed by the South Australia (Land) Company who were paying free passages for emigrants to come out to the newly formed free colony of South Australia.

George Bell was the right age and calling for a free passage, but the company was not prepared to pay the passage of his wife and children. The Mereworth Parish Overseers came to the family’s assistance and paid their passage. They also paid all the other costs of emigrating.

“1838 – An Account of Moneys Spent by me for parish of Mereworth to assist in clothing and other expenses attending so many poor families who were emigrating from this parish to New South Wales”

Pd the Emigration Committee for passage for five children belonging

To George Bell                                                                                                              £15.00

Pd Mr Carr a bill for list shoes etc for G Bell                                                              13. 4

Pd Mrs Browning a bill ditto                                                                                          14. 6

Pd Mr Viner a bill for G Bell                                                                                           £2. 12. 6¾

Pd Mr G Morphew a bill for tools for George Bell                                                            18. 7

Pd Mr Farrant for ditto                                                                                                     £2. 16. 2

Pd J & T Dutt a bill ditto                                                                                                            9. 6

Pd Mr Hy Shirley a bill for tin for G Bill                                                                               4. 10

Pd Mrs Capan for lowance for G Bell and family at T(own) Malling                              1. 10

Pd Mr Samuel Glover bill for Bell                                                                                     £2. 17. 6

Gave George Bell and family to receive at landing in South Australia                      £3. 10. 0

Gave the man to pay for breakfast for himself and George Bell, his wife and

family on rode (road) to Deptford                                                                                       £1. 1. 0

Pd Mr George Harryman a bill for meate (meat)for Mrs Bell                                              2. 6

Pd Mr Wolf a bill as part for Mereworth going to Deptford with emigrants                  14. 0

Pd Mr Durrell a bill at Meeting of South Australia Company                                             6. 0

Pd Mrs C Goodwin a bill for George Bell                                                                          £5. 16. 6

Pd Mr Hards a bill for Mrs Bell                                                                                                11. 3

Paid for George Bells bed and bedding                                                                              £4. 10. 0

This gives us a very detailed account of the costs involved in emigrating

Clothes and shoes as well as the necessary tin lined trunk for the clothes to keep them dry on the voyage. Tools for George Bell to bring out with him to use in his employment.

The bed and bedding for the voyage and the family’s settlement in Australia. For the family to stay overnight at Malling and their transport to Deptford. From there the emigrants were taken to Gravesend to embark on the emigrant ship.


Image from believed to be Barque Falls of Clyde now preserved as a museum ship in Hawaii. Retrieved 15 July 2017

 A Barque has three or more masts with square sails on the fore mast and fore and aft sails on the after mast. Generally in the range of 250-700 ton capacity.


George and Jane Bell and family embarked on the Resource, a barque of 417 tons built in Calcutta in 1804. It was owned by Mr T Ward of London. The ship left London about 15 September (1838) under Captain Boyle and arrived in Port Adelaide on 23 January 1839. On board were more than 140 immigrants, many poor farming families from Kent and other places in England.


JAN. 23.—Barque Resource, Capt. Boyle, from

London, 7th October, with 140 emigrants and passengers.

Trove: Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 – 1844) Wednesday 30 January 1839 p 2 Article From <>

South Australian Shipping…

Resource, from London, Captain Boyle, arrived 23 January, with one hundred and forty-three emigrants, six adults and fourteen children died during the voyage.

Trove: The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842) Wednesday 6 February 1839 p 2 Article From <>