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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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)

£10

 

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.

Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman – A Delightful Chance

This year as I have returned to researching my ancestors, it has be a wonderful chance to catch up with many cousins of all degrees. We have had such fun getting newly, or reacquainted, over photographs, documents and other family memorabilia.

Blogging has also allowed me the delightful chance of acknowledging the very best practises in ‘family history’, in that many people have contacted me with encouragement and offering information and assistance, some from the other side of the world.

In September 2012 I blogged about the daughters of James and Mercy Cheeseman of Staplehurst, Kent, England. In that blog I mentioned how the Parish Chest records had given me much information about this family. James Cheeseman is said to have gone to fight in the Napoleonic Wars in late 1803, and never returned home. His widow, Mercy, later married Robin Bell, the brother of my ancestor, Thomas Bell. The marriage had taken place at East Farleigh, Kent in 1811.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Mary’s East Farleigh, Kent   [Copyright- Nola Mackey, 2004]

I have often noted in my blogs that I have been researching my family history for nearly fifty years. One of the loveliest things about being a long term family historian, is the wonderful and valuable network, I have built up over many years. For instance, when I became a member of the Kent Family History Society forty years ago, I found so many members living locally in Kent were willing to assist in any way they could, and I in turn was able to help many, with ‘twigs’ of their family, who had emigrated to Australia, at sometime. Many of these friendships remain today, although the contact may only be at Christmas, or even less frequent.

However, while we are beavering away at our own research, if we come across any material we think might be useful to any one in the ‘network’ we pass it on. This happened to me to me a few weeks ago. It had been many years since Margaret H. had been in contact with me, but she had been researching one of her ancestors, who had gone off to the Napoleonic Wars, and had come across probable regimental details of our James Cheeseman, and knew I would be interested.

She had also read my blogs and knew I was looking for information on Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman, the eldest surviving daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman (nee Cox). Margaret not only gave me the date and place of Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman’s marriage, but also details of their children and subsequent life, which I have been able to follow up in on-line indexes of baptisms, marriages and burials as well as census returns. I had also purchased many records of Kent over the years, and those too have also been useful for my current research.

Briefly, Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman was born 13 April 1804, at Staplehurst, Kent, some months after her father went away to war. She was named ‘Sarah Cornwall’ after her paternal grandmother, and baptised at All Saints, Staplehurst. For some years the ‘parish’ paid Mercy Cheeseman, the wife of James, some four shillings a week for the care of her family. [Further details of these payments and other information about this can be found in “Mercy Cheeseman-Bell,” Nola Mackey, Bell Family Newsletter, No 42, July 2001.]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All Saints, Staplehurst, Kent   [Copyright – Nola Mackey, 2004]

Mercy Cheeseman had an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth in 1806. Mercy and her two daughters moved to East Farleigh, with Robin Bell in 1808. Robin Bell and Mercy Cheeseman married in 1811. This couple had a number of children born at East Farleigh, before the family finally emigrated to Australia in 1838.

Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman grew up in East Farleigh and went into service at a young age. She had an illegitimate daughter born in August 1821. She was baptised at St Mary’s, East Farleigh on 19 August 1821, and given the name Hannah. [Ref: East Farleigh Parish Registers,(microfilm, P142-1-1, p34), purchased from Kent Archives and Library of Kentish Studies, Maidstone ]

It is possible, and indeed probable, that she was left in the care of her maternal grandmother, Mercy Bell at East Farleigh.

Robin and Mercy Bell had had a family of six, by this time, but two had died in infancy.

Hannah Cheeseman, the infant daughter of Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman, died at seven weeks of age and was buried at St Mary’s Churchyard, East Farleigh on 14 October 1821.

Meanwhile, as coincidence would have it, Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman had gone to Maidstone and had been married that very day, at All Saints, to Isaac Wheeler. This couple had a number of children over the next twenty years. All were baptised at All Saints, Maidstone:- Henry, 1823; Susannah,1826; Mercy, 1828; Charles,1830; Isaac, 1833; Sarah Ann Elizabeth, 1834; Sophia, 1836 and Harriet, 1838.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Baptismal Font, All Saints Maidstone,Kent   [Copyright- Nola Mackey, 2004]

This family can be tracked through all the census for Kent, in on-line subscription sites. Sarah Cornwell Wheeler and her family stayed in Kent, when her mother, step-father and their family emigrated.

Although this is not my direct line in the Bell family, I still get the greatest pleasure in being able to help other family historians make a little progress in their ancestral quest.

Robin and Mercy Bell of Kent, England and Scone in New South Wales

I have been researching my Bell ancestors since childhood when my maternal grandmother told me stories of bushrangers, gold miners and colourful family characters. I must admit it is still my favourite family when it comes to research.

It is now more than fifty years since I bought my first certificate, which was the death certificate of George Bell, my grandmothers paternal grandfather, who died in 1894 at Picton in New South Wales.

Since that time I have traced these ancestors back to the Middle Ages in Kent, England. I have also traced many twigs and branches of the Bell Family Tree’. Some of these I have published in book form.

For twenty years I also published a Bell Family Newsletter in which I kept the family members up to date with the family research. Family members also sent details of their ‘twigs’ and ‘branches’ which was also shared through these newsletters.

Although I no longer publish the newsletter I’m always interested in the research of these families and from time to time I solve long standing puzzles and make wonderful break-throughs.

I now intend to share these with family members through my blog and articles on my website. This blog is about the family of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), who immigrated from Mereworth, Kent,on board the Woodbridge, which arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838. These were the uncle and Aunt of my fore mentioned George Bell. Much of the story of this family and their descendants is told in ‘The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell’, which is available through this website.

I have continued to research this family line to try and solve mysteries and find information not available when the book was printed. I found some of the missing information at a later date and shared it with interested family members in the Bell Family Newsletters Nos 41 and 42. Now I have been able to find more on this family, particularly the women, before the family immigrated.

Mercy Cox was born about 1782, probably in Staplehurst, Kent, the seventh child and youngest daughter of Uriah and Anne Cox (nee Poole). Her baptism has not been found, but it is possibly in the Congregational Church records, as were her older brothers and sisters.

Mercy Cox married James Cheeseman on 8 November 1800 at Smarden in Kent. James was the eldest son of Solomon and Sarah Cheeseman (nee Cornwall) and had been born at Marden Kent in 1767.

Ann Pool, the eldest daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman was born at Staplehurst, and was baptised on 4 July 1802.

In late 1803 James Cheeseman went away to the Napoleonic Wars, and never returned. In the Staplehurst Overseers Account Books we find that the parish paid Mercy Cheeseman a weekly allowance from parish funds for nearly three years. On the 18 December 1803 the infant daughter of Mercy and James Cheeseman died and was buried in the churchyard at Staplehurst.

On the 22 April 1804 another daughter was born to Mercy and she was baptised in the Staplehurst church on 22 April. She was named Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman for James’ mother.

Mercy’s parish allowance payments stop on 14 April 1806. Lady Day, the 25 March is the first day of the Church year, and it would appear these payments stopped soon afterwards. After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, there was a break in hostilities with France, so one would expect James Cheeseman to return home to his family. Obviously not having put in an appearance by the end of the church year in March 1806, the parish may not have been willing to continue to support his family, and may have tried to resettle them in the husband’s parish of birth, Marden, Kent.

Sometime in 1806 another daughter was born to Mercy Cheeseman, possibly at Marden. She was baptised at Marden on 31 January 1808 and is recorded at the daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman. I will write more about these three daughters of Mercy Cheeseman in my next blog.

It was about this time that Mercy Cheeseman formed a relationship with Robin Bell of East Farleigh, Kent. Robin, the fourth child and third son of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence) was born at Mereworth, Kent, and baptised there on 15 March 1785.

Jane Bell the eldest daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 28 February 1808. She died at Maidstone the following year and was buried in All Saints churchyard on 25 November.

It had been over seven years since Mercy Cheeseman’s husband, James had gone off to war, and the general conclusion was that he had perished, as he had not returned home to his family. Robin Bell and Mercy Cheeseman were married at East Farleigh on 10 October 1811.

On the 10 November 1811, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh. She later married her cousin Josiah Bell and remained in England when her parents and siblings emigrated.

Mary Bell, the third daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 16 January 1814. On 4 August 1834 there was a Removal Order for her to be removed from East Farleigh and returned to Mereworth her father’s parish of birth because she was expecting a child. At her examination on 18 August 1834 she named John Saunders, a labourer of Brenchley as the father. She remained at East Farleigh with Mereworth Parish Overseers paying parish relief to East Farleigh for her keep. In the following month a son was born to Mary and she named him Robert in honour of her father. He was baptised at East Farleigh on 7 October 1834. He died just before his third birthday and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, East Farleigh on 26 September 1837.At this stage nothing further is known of Mary Bell. She may have been the Mary Ann Bell who married George Terry at Maidstone in 1836.

Further children were born to Robin and Mercy Bell including the following:

Robert Bell baptised 28 April 1816 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Henry Stirling Bell baptised 16 August 1818 at St Mary’s East Farleigh. Died and was buried there on 5 March 1820.

John Bell, baptised 28 May 1820 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Thomas Bell, baptised 7 June 1822, at All Saints Maidstone.

James Bell, baptised 7 November 1824, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Jethro Bell, baptised 18 March 1827, at All Saints, Maidstone.

Charlotte Bell, baptised 15 November 1829, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

All these children emigrated with their parents on board the Woodbridge in 1838. Much of their life and descendants can be found in my book, The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell.