William’s childhood could not have been easy. His father Joshua Bell died within months of his birth, leaving four children under the age of ten. William’s mother Sarah was then about thirty years old. She did not re-marry but she did have two more children, Jeremiah (often “Jere”) and Richard. Richard died at the age of fourteen in November 1794, and their mother died three months later in February 1795. Did she nurse him through an infectious illness?
I am so proud of my family: they clearly accepted Sarah’s child Jeremiah as their equal. He was a witness to William’s marriage and he was a joint-owner of the family property. William, John, Samuel and Jeremiah Bell jointly owned the property where they lived and worked. William was a “clothier” in Westgate, now a conservation area.
Ownership of property also conveyed the right to vote, which William and his brothers exercised with some difficulty as you can see here.
William was widowed in 1811, left with four children between the ages of 13 and 3. He does not seem to have married again, as might have been expected. We know he continued to live in the family home because of the land tax records.
After William’s death the land passed to James Thompson but I have found neither a will nor a sale. It could be that James was a relative of Mary’s, or a creditor, or his brothers just needed the money!
Baptised William Bell on 11 February 1770 in Baildon, Yorkshire
Married Mary Thompson on 25 September 1797
Buried 3 March 1830