Prominent British Bells, Past Generations

Following are some of the prominent people by name of Bell in the British Empire , past generations.

ALEXANDER MONTGOMERIE BELL (1808-1866), writer on law: s. John B-, a mfr. of Paisley; studied at Univ. of Glasgow; admitted member of Society of Writers to the Signet, 1835; appointed prof. of conveyancing in Univ. of Edinburgh, 1856, in which chair he distinguished himself; his lectures form a standard treatise on laws of conveyancing; he was of quiet, retiring habits and sincerely religious temperament; from records of the Society of Writers to the Signet: “his talents, assiduity and great practical knowledge well qualified him to discharge the important duties devolved upon him and he was deservedly esteemed by all to whom he was personally known.”

ANDREW (1726-1809), engraver: began humbly, and rose to be first in his line in Edinburgh; became remarkable for extent of his information through extensive reading and intercourse with men of letters; his success in life was due largely to being originally half-proprietor of “Encyclopedia Britannica” and for which he furnished the plates.

ANDREW (1753-1832), founder of Madras system of education: b. in St. Andrews; from his mother, descendant of a Dutchman who came over with William III, he inherited a hasty temper and eccentricity; much of the energy with which he took up the subject of education was due to recollection of cruel discipline, which he had been subjected to; went to Va. 1774; he is said to have tutored in a planter’s family, and had a tobacco business of his own; several years later took orders in Church of England; sailed for India, 1787, after receiving complimentary degree of D.D. from St. Andrew’s Univ., where he had entered in 1769; within 2 years was appointed to and held simultaneously, 8 army chaplainships; accepted post of Supt., Madras Male Orphan Asylum, 1789, an institution founded that year by the East India Company for educating sons of military men; returned to England, 1796; to establish originality of his system of education he published a report, in 1797, and documents entitled “An Experiment in Education Made at the Male Asylum of Madras”; considerable rivalry existed between him and a young Quaker, named Joseph Lancaster, as to origin of the system, both claiming to have originated it; rector at Swanage in Dorset, 1801; his church party formed, in 1811, “National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church throughout England and Wales,” which in 1817 was incorporated by royal charter; Bell was appointed superintendent and henceforth his life was identified with the history of the society, the number of its schools exceeding 12,000; endeavored to plant the monitor system of education throughout Scotland and the Continent; Wordsworch and Coleridge, inspired by his enthusiasm, encouraged him; Southey believed “extravagantly” in him; member of several learned societies, including Asiatic Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh; received degree of LL.D. from St. Andrew’s Univ., in 1818, rewarded with a stall in Hereford Cathedral; in 1819 was made a prebendary of Westminster; in 1831 was established under his direction in Edinburgh, the “Bell Lecture on Education,” out of which have since grown the chairs of education, founded by the Bell trustees and aided by a government grant, in Edinburgh and St. Andrew’s Univs.; d. Cheltenham 1832 and buried with great ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

ARCHIBALD (1755-1854), miscellaneous writer: admitted member of faculty of advocates, Edinburgh; 1795, became sheriff-deputy of Ayrshire; wrote essays, tragedies, poems, etc., and attempted to supply words for the old national airs.

BFAUPRF (1704-1745), antiquary: decended from ancient family of Beaupre, long resident in Upwell and Outwell, Norfolk; educated at Westminster School and at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking degree of B. A. in 1725, M. A. in 1729; studying ancient coins and antiquities; assisted Blomef eld in his history of Norfolk and Thomas Hearne in many of his antiquarian works; his remains are said to have been laid in the family burying-place in St. Mary’s chapel, Outwell church.

BENJAMIN (1749-1806), surgeon: s. George B-, descended from landed proprietors of long standing in Dumfriesshire; b. at Dumfires; house-surgeon to Royal Infirmary about 2 yrs.; studied at Paris; in 1772 appointed surgeon to Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, holding that office 29 yrs.; in 1778, surgeon to Watson’s Hospital; his professional works on “Theory and Management of Ulcers” were translated into French; commended for opposition to corn laws and for prognosticating great improvement in modes of communication; actively interested in agriculture.

SIR CHARLES (1774-1842), discoverer of the distinct functions of the nerves: s. of William B-, a clergyman, Episcopal Church of Scotland; awarded knighthood in recognition of his discoveries of the functions of nerves; wrote several kooks on surgery and lectured; went to Brussels to treat the wounded from Pattle of Waterloo; in 1840 he toured Italy; was a happy man; thoroughly enjoyed literature and music.

FRANCIS (1590-1643), Franciscan friar: s. William B- of Temple Broughton, parish of Hanbury near Worcester; ordained priest at the English college of St. Alban the Martyr in Valladolid; he was sent on a mission in England and in 1643 was apprehended by a party of soldiers belonging to the parliament army on suspicion of being a spy; documents found in his possession revealed his true character and he was committed to Newgate found guilty and executed at Tyburn, Dec. 1643; he was a skilled linguist; author of several religious works.

SIR GEORGE (1794-1877), general: s. George B- of Belle Vue, on Lough Erin, Fermanagh; did service in Portugal in action of Arroyo-de-Molinos, siege of Badajoz, battle of Toulouse, first Burmese war, and rebellion of 1837-8 in Canada; received thanks of commander for exertions in recovering guns of the fort and garrison of Couteau-du-Lac, an important position on the St. Lawrence; served in Gibraltar, Nova Scotia, West Indies, Mediterranean, Turkey, the Crimea (siege of Sebastopol) ; wounded and honourably mentioned in despatch at latter siege.

GEORGE JOSEPH (1770-1843), advocate: Sir Charles B-, (q. v.), the celebrated anatomist; b. Fountain Bridge, near Edinburgh; educated largely by himself; admitted advocate, 1791; published works on bankruptcy laws, mercantile jurisprudence and imprisonment for debt, for which he earned a high reputation; though son of an Episcopal clergyman, he belonged to the whig party; was of genial disposition and courteous manners; was a close friend of Jeffrey; a fine portrait of him hangs in the Parliament House, Edinburgh.

HENRY (1767-1830), builder of the Comet steamship and introducer of practical steam navigation in England: b. near Linlithgow; there is evidence to show that Fulton, who started a steamer on the Hudson in 1807, obtained deas from Bell the previous year; Bell reaped little reward for his invention but was pensioned by the River Clyde trustees.

HENRY GLASSFORD (1803-1874), sheriff: s. James B-, advocate; b. Glasgow; wrote precocious criticisms on actors and acting of the day; spoke at the famous dinner of the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund at which Sir Walter Scott publicly acknowledged authorship of the ” Waverly Novels”; editor of Edinburgh Literary Journal and writer of several poems, from some of which Edgar Allan Poe seems to have taken hints for his famous fantasies; regarded as the best mercantile lawyer of his day in Scotland; he was a Liberal; he was generous almost to a fault; has been called “the last of the literary sheriffs”.

HENRY NUGENT, (1792-1822), genealogist: s. George B- of County Fermanagh ; acquired distinction for successful advocacy of the claim of Mr. Hans Francis Hastings to the long-dormant earldom of Huntingdon.

HUGH: b. about 1272; knighted by Edward 1, A. D. 1306.

JACOB (1810-1859): b. London; his faculty for art was especially on the grotesque and humorous; founded the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain for guarding rights of his fellow-traders; member of parliament.

JAMES (1524-1584), catholic priest: b. in Lancashire; educated at Oxford; executed at Lancaster, 1581; at the trial he behaved with great courage and said to the judge upon being convicted: “I beg your lordship would add to the sentence that my lips and the tops of my lingers may be cut off for having sworn and subscribed to the articles of heretics, contrary both to my con. science and to God’s truth.”

JAMES (1551-1596), reformer: b. Somersetshire; fellow, Corpus Christi College , Oxford , probably 1547; gave up fellowship in 1556 and became a zealous partisan of the Reformation; it is probable that he accompanied the Princess of Sweden when she travelled in England .

JAMES (1769-1833), geographical author: b. Jedhurgh; apprenticed as a weaver, later traded in cotton goods; elicited high encomiums from leading periodicals of the clay for his writings on geography, a Calvinist, tem pered with feeling of wide tolerance for religious convictions of others; d. near Glasgow.

JOHN LL.D. (d. 1556), bishop of Worcester: educated at Cambridge; held several ecclesiastical posts; was sent to Rome by Henry VIII to the Lateran Council; made one of Henry VIII’s chaplains and was employed by him in divers ways in furthering his divorce from Katharine. Appeared as the king’s proxy in 1527; in 1528 was consulted by the king and by Wolsey on the Pope’s dispensation and on the commission to Wolsey and Campeggio to decide the validity of his union with Katharine, and appeared as king’s counsel before legatees in Blackfriars Hall; commissioned to assist the archbishop in preparing royal proclamation against Tyndal’s translation of the Scriptures and a number of heretical books; was present at baptism of Edward VI at Hampton Court ; member of committee of convocation in 1540 which pronounced the marriage of Henry and Anne of Cleves illegal.

JOHN (1691-1780), traveller: s. Patrick B- of Antermony; engaged in service of Czar Peter I in 1714; travelled with embassies to Persia, China and Constantinople; wrote accounts of his travels and concerning habits and customs of inhabitants of China.

JOHN (1747-1798), artillerist: served at Gibraltar and England; witnessed at Southsea the foundering of the Royal George; invented device for testing soundness of guns and other devices useful for mariners, receiving premiums trom Society of Arts for some of them.

JOHN (1763-1820), surgeon: b. Edinburgh ; fellow, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh; noted lecturer and foremost surgeon in Edinburgh ; wrote several books on Surgery; celebrated for his advanced methods.

JOHN (1745-1831), publisher: called “the very Puck of booksellers”; published one hundred and nine volumes, called “The Poets of Great Britain complete from Chaucer to Churchill”; distinguished among printers as being first to discard the long f (s) from his font of type.

JOHN (1764-1836), barrister-at-law: s. Matthew B-, b. Kendal, Westmoreland; fellow at Trinity College , Cambridge ; conservative as a lawyer; a Whig.

SIR JOHN (1782-1876), general: b. Bonytoun, Fifeshire; s. David B.served in the Peninsular war; wounded at battle of Vimeiro; received gold cross in several battles; in 1828-1841, chief secretary to the government of Cape of Good Hope; was senior general in the army.

JOHN GRAY (1823-1866), bookseller: s. Thomas B-; b. Newcastle-onTyne; earnest student, writer, and collector of topographical books.

JOHN MONTGOMERIE (1804-1862), advocate of the Scottish bar and sheriff of Kincardine: b. Paisley , 1804; wrote several books on law.

JONATHAN ANDERSON (d. 1865), architect: s. James B-; b. Glasgow ; educated Edinburgh Univ. ; had a remarkable knowledge of Gothic architecture; elegant draughtsman.

LADY MARIA (d. 1825), amateur painter; dau. of an architect named Hamilton ; studied under Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose pictures she copied with much skill.

PATRICK (1799-1869), one of the first inventors of the reaping machine: b. Mid-Leoch, near Dundee ; honorary degree of LL.D. conferred on him by Univ. of St. Andrews .

ROBERT (d. 1577), judge: of a Norfolk family; educated at Cambridge ; sat in parliament from 1562 until death.

ROBERT (1800-1867), journalist and miscellaneous writer: s. of an Irish magistrate; b. Cork; edited several journals, notably the Atlas a large London weekly; helpful to struggling men of letters; buried near grave of his friend, W. M. Thackeray, in Kensal Green Cemetery.

ROBERT CHARLES (1806-1872), line-engraver: b. Edinburgh .

THOMAS (1733-1802), divine: b. Moffat; made translations from Dutch writings and wrote religious works.

THOMAS (1785-1860), antiquary: s. Richard B- of Newcastle-on-Tyne , where he was born; one of the founders of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle; owned an extensive library containing manuscript genealogical and antiquarian compilations and assisted typographical writers.

THOMAS (1792-1880), dental surgeon and zoologist: b. Poole, Dorsetshire; s. Thomas B-, surgeon; wrote histories of reptiles; elected vicepresident Zoological Society, having been one of its originators; his manners were most attractive; compiled several works on zoology; held important offices in the Royal Society, the Ray Society and Linnean Society.

WILLIAM (fl. 1599), lawyer; b. Hampshire; educated at Warwick and Balliol College , Oxford .

WILLIAM, D.D. (1625-1683), archdeacon of St. Albans: b. London, parish of St. Dunstan-in-the-West; elected scholar, St. John’s College, Oxford; made chaplain to Sir John Robinson, lieutenant of the Tower; made chaplain to the king; archdeacon of St. Albans, 1671; published several sermons.

WILLIAM (1740?-1804?), portrait painter: b. Newcastle-on-Tyne ; studied in Royal Academy , London ; awardegold medal for picture “Venus entreating Vulcan to forge arms for her son AEneas”; painted for nobility.

WILLIAM, D.D. (1731-1816), divine: educated at Cambridge ; distinguished himself for dissertations on populousness of nations and the effect of such on trade, and for acts of discerning liberality.



Seaver, Jesse Montgomery. Bell Family History. American Historical-Genealogical Society, 1929.

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