The Fletcher and Bell Families
William George Nixey’s wife, Lucy Bell née Fletcher, was born at Birmingham on 31st July 1839, and baptised at St Philip’s on 23rd October of the same year. She was the fourth of seven children born to Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher and his wife, Ruth née Wright. Thomas was born on 20th December 1806, and baptised on 19th January 1807 at Shifnal, Shropshire. He was the son of John Fletcher and Elizabeth née Elcock who were married on 17th October 1805 at Worfield, Shropshire. Ruth was baptised on 28th May 1816 at Whittington, Staffordshire, and was the daughter of George Wright and Matilda Ann née Adcock who were married on 12th November 1812 at Lutterworth, Leicestershire. On the 9th September 1834, a double wedding took place at Shifnal when Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher married Ruth Wright, and George Marriott married Ruth’s sister Elizabeth. Thomas and Ruth’s eldest child, Ruth, was born in France, and was baptised on the same day as their next daughter, Elizabeth, on 25th September 1836 at Shifnal. The family then moved to Birmingham where their third daughter, Anne, was born on 5th October 1837, and who was baptised on 25th January 1838. Lucy had three younger siblings who were all born at Birmingham and baptised at St Philip’s, Richard Bell who was born on 24th March 1841 and baptised on 7th June the same year, Jane who was born on 6th July 1842 and baptised on 1st September the same year, and Grace who was born on 27th August 1847 and baptised on 13th October the same year.
When the 1841 census was taken on the night of Sunday 6th June, the Fletcher family were living at New Street, Birmingham, the youngest child at that time being Richard. Also living with them were Ruth’s sister and niece, Elizabeth and Ann Mariat, and three servants, Margaret Wineman, and Ann and Hariot Arnold.
The following letter from Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher was published in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette on Monday 3rd April 1848 in response to the unanimous decision of the governors of the General Hospital at Birmingham in electing him as one of their physicians:
When the 1851 census was taken on the night of 30th March, the Fletcher family were living at 18 Newhall Street, and with them were three servants, Jane and Margaret Drake, and Charlotte Whateley.
In the Oxford Journal dated Saturday 7th November 1857, under the heading “Preferments and Appointments”, it was announced that the Reverend John Bell, Lucy Fletcher’s husband to be, had been assigned to Brington, with the curacies of Bythorn and Old Weston, Huntingdonshire.
The Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser of Wednesday 28th July 1858 made the following brief but very sad announcement regarding Thomas and Ruth Fletcher’s daughter, Jane, who had died in the Conwy area on the north coast of Wales:
Early the following year, John Bell, a thirty-one year old bachelor, Clerk M.A. Rector of Brington, Huntingdonshire and late Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and nineteen year old Lucy Fletcher were married by licence at St Philip’s Church, Birmingham on the 15th February. The witnesses were Mary Anne Bell, Anne Fletcher, James Bell, Ruth Fletcher, and Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher. Their fathers were recorded as John Bell, Surgeon, and Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher, Physician. At the same church later that year, on 1st November, Lucy’s sister Anne Fletcher and John Farncombe of Bishopstone, Sussex, were married by licence. Lucy’s husband, the Rev John Bell, conducted the ceremony, and the witnesses to their marriage were Ruth Fletcher, Grace Fletcher, Emily Philadelphia Farncombe, and Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher.
John and Lucy’s first child, a daughter who they named Ruth Gertrude, was baptised the following month at Brington on 25th December. Their second child, another daughter, named Lucy Maud Katherine, was born on 27th January 1861, and baptised on 10th February. Very sadly, she died at the age of just two weeks.
When the 1861 Census was taken on the night of Sunday 7th April, John Bell along with his wife Lucy and daughter Ruth are found at the Brington Rectory. With them are Lucy’s sister, Elizabeth Fletcher, three pupils, Arthur Wright, Arthur Jones and John Shield, and four servants, Mary Robotom, Ellen Stirton, Mary Ann Parsons, and Henry Meek. Thomas and Ruth Fletcher had moved to 7 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, where three of their children were living with them, Ruth, Richard and Grace. Also with them were Thomas’ sister Jessie and three servants, Mary Jones, Sarah Ryder, and Elizabeth Martin. Meanwhile, at Bishopstone, Sussex are John and Anne Farncombe with their newly born son, John Fletcher. John Farncombe is recorded as a farmer of 350 acres, employing two men and eleven boys.
According to the Coventry Herald in its issue dated Friday 19th July 1861, Lucy’s only brother, Richard Bell Fletcher, who was referred to as a “gent”, was assigned as Ensign of the Warwickshire Rifle Volunteers, 1st Consolidated Battalion (Birmingham). Being in the Volunteers was a local militia appointment, and not a full-time army posting. Local gentlemen normally held the rank of officers in their local militia. Richard won’t necessarily have served in the regular army, unless his unit was called up to take part in a specific campaign. Around the same time, at the age of twenty and a half, and while working as a merchant’s clerk, he became a Freemason. He was initiated into the “Lodge of Light”, Birmingham, on 15th July 1861, and resigned in June 1878.
Lucy next gave birth to twins on 9th January 1862 at her parents’ home in Waterloo Street, Birmingham, and named them Ethel Mary and Mildred Alice. They were baptised on 27th April 1862 at Brington. Their first son, John Lawrence, was born on 15th March 1863, and was baptised on 24th May. Another son, Edward Austin, was baptised on 9th December 1865. Their final child, another girl, was named Constance Lucy. She was baptised on 29th August 1867, but died just two days later, and was buried on 1st September.
The Bedfordshire Mercury in its issue dated Saturday 16th January 1869 reported on three thefts. As collectively the list of items stolen were rather unusual, he was clearly an opportunist:
When the 1871 Census was taken on the night of 2nd April, John and Lucy were again found at the Brington Rectory, and only their two sons were with them, John Lawrence and Edward Austin. Also with them were four boarders, Henry V Flower, James V Chataway, Robert P Hooper, and Fentham Hedges, and three servants, Eliza Busby, Annie F Lorman, and Ellen Seale. Ruth Gertrude is a pupil at a boarding school at St Edmund Terrace, Hunstanton, Norfolk, and the twins, Mildred Alice and Ethel Mary, are pupils at the Rotherwick Rectory in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, in the household of James Chataway and his family. Thomas and Ruth Fletcher had moved from Birmingham to Dorridge House, Knowle, in Solihull, and four of their children were with them, Ruth, Elizabeth, Richard and Grace. Four servants were also there, Sarah Semark, Anne Miller, Anne Wilkins, Anne Boston, and Edward Cogbill. Meanwhile, John and Anne Farncombe are living at Farm House, Bishopstone, Sussex, and their family has grown with the addition of two daughters, Muriel and Annie Bell. Also with them are four servants, Elizabeth Ellis, John and Ann Hider, and Mary Holland. This is the latest census Richard Bell Fletcher has been found in, his occupation being given as “Mariner”. As previously mentioned, Richard had joined the Freemasons in 1861, and amongst the orders and degrees they have is one called the Royal Ark Mariner. Could this possibly be what his occupation of “Mariner” referred to? Whatever the case, he resigned from the Freemasons in June 1878. Although as already stated he can’t be found in future UK censuses, he is mentioned in his father’s will which was written in 1887. There is also a burial record in New Zealand on 23rd October 1901 of a Richard Bell Fletcher, buried in a public grave at the Swinburn (or Kyeburn-Kokonga) Cemetery, Maniototo County, Otago. He was sixty years old, and could well be Lucy’s brother.
A slightly unusual article appeared in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal of Saturday 9th November 1872:
When the 1881 Census was taken on the night of 3rd April, John and Lucy were still at the Brington Rectory, with just one of their children, Mildred Alice. With them were two students, Charles V Magniac and William C Thornhill, two servants, Margret Ray and Emily H Mantle, and a visitor, Hugh M Steven. Edward Austin Bell was found far from home in northwest England, where he was a fifteen year old scholar at the Rossall School near Fleetwood, Lancashire. Thomas and Ruth Fletcher had moved again, and in this census are found at 43 Clarendon Square, Leamington, and with them were three of their daughters, Ruth, Elizabeth and Grace. Three servants were also with them, Elizabeth Holmes, Selina Dunkley, and Emma Warr. John and Ann Farnscombe are still farming in Bishopstone, Sussex, and with them are their two daughters, Muriel and Annie, and two servants, Orpha Tucknott and Ann Self. In this census John Farncombe is said to be the employer of nineteen men and eight boys.
John Bell died at Brington on 24th April 1883 at the age of fifty-six, and was buried at his own parish church. When his will was proved on 26th July, his personal estate was valued at £9,692 13s. 4d. The executors were his widow Lucy, and his brother James Bell who was a solicitor living in Kingston-on-Thames in Surrey.
On 18th October 1883, the first of their children to be married was Ethel Mary who became the wife of Edward Leonard Welstead. This is how their marriage was reported on in the Pall Mall Gazette of Saturday 20th October:
The first of Lucy Nixey’s grandchildren to be born was Violet Ethel Welstead who joined the family on 5th February 1885. So far the following nine grandchildren have been found:
Name | Birth Year | Mother’s Maiden Name
A very sad story was related in the Cambridge Independent Press of Friday 6th April 1888, regarding the death of Frederick and Ethel Mary’s second child, John Edward George Welstead:
Two years later, Ethel’s twin sister Mildred Alice was the next to be married. Her marriage took place at the Parish Church of St George Hanover Square, London, on 3rd November 1890. Her groom was a twenty-six year old bachelor, Frederick George Francis Browne, who was a Lieutenant in H.M. Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His residence was recorded as Budbrook Barracks, Warwick, while Mildred gave her address as 66 Piccadilly. Both of their fathers were recorded as deceased, George Frederick Salmon Browne having been a Major in the Madras Staff Corps. The witnesses were R. Hall, and J. Lawrence Bell. Frederick and Mildred had just one child, a son who they named Victor Frederick, who was born in 1897.
Almost four months after being a witness at his sister’s wedding, John Lawrence Bell was the next to be married. His marriage took place at the Parish Church in Stand, Lancashire on 26th February 1891. His bride was twenty-four year old Muriel Alice Leake, the daughter of a Gentleman named Robert Leake. The witnesses to their marriage included Robert Leake, Louisa M. Leake, and Frank T. Wrigley. Their wedding was reported on in the Pall Mall Gazette on Friday 27th February 1891:
John and Muriel also had just one child, a daughter who was born in 1893, and who they named Elaine Muriel.
Thomas Bell Elcock and Ruth Fletcher moved a short distance from 43 Clarendon Square to 8 Clarendon Crescent in the autumn of 1883, and this is the address they are found at when the 1891 Census was taken on the night of 5th April. With them were two of their daughters, Ruth and Elizabeth, as well as a nurse, Charlotte H Steadman, and three servants, Hannah M Roberts, Alice Hales and Mary E Fitchen. Meanwhile on the south coast of England, John Farncombe is found with his brother William and three nieces at Montpelier Villa, North Street, Worthing, and Anne is found at Manor House, Hampden Gardens, Bishopstone, with two of her children, John and Muriel, her visiting sister Grace, two servants, Annie Winter and Avis Mockford, and another visitor, Cathrine Pinnock. Ethel Mary Welstead was living at High Street, Kimbolton, with her husband Edward and six year old daughter Violet Ethel, as well as three servants, Alice Rose H Wyant, Elizabeth Dickens, and Annie Mehew. The newly weds John Lawrence and Mildred Alice Bell were living at Roxborough Park, Harrow, Middlesex, and with them were two servants, Anna M Piercy and Mary Wilding.
Two and a half months later, on 17th June, another wedding took place at the Parish Church of St George Hanover Square, this time it was Ruth Gertrude Bell, who gave her address as 66 Piccadilly. The gentleman she was marrying was one of the witnesses to her sister Mildred’s marriage the previous November, Reginald Hall. He was a Captain in the army, and was based at Aldershot. His father was Henry Hall, who was a Clerk in holy orders. They were married by Frederick J. Hall, Clerk in Holy Orders, Vicar of Little Wymondley, Hertfordshire, in the presence of J. Lawrence Bell, and Alexander McKinstry. So far it has not been possible to find Reginald and Ruth in the UK Censuses, and currently it isn’t known whether they had any children.
Once again, later that year, you’ve guessed it, yet another marriage took place, the last of John and Lucy’s children, but this time it was a little further away from home. Edward had emigrated to Queensland, Australia where he worked as an accountant. He and Charlotte Elizabeth Walsh were married on 18th November in Brisbane. Edward and Charlotte had five children, one daughter and four sons, Lucy Mildred in 1893, Murray Fletcher in 1894, Cedric Austin in 1896, George Colin in 1901, and Edward Alan in 1907, all of them being born in Queensland. The influence the Rossall School had on Edward Austin Bell in his earlier years is quite obvious when you find him in Queensland Electoral Rolls, his address being recorded as Rossall, Flinders Parade, Sandgate.
Within the space of seven years, both of Lucy’s parents and her sister Ruth passed away at Leamington, while her brother-in-law and nephew, John Farncombe and John Fletcher Farncombe died in Sussex. Firstly, her mother Ruth died on 5th December 1893 at 8 Clarendon Crescent, aged seventy-eight, as reported on briefly in the Saturday 9th December 1893 issue of the Leamington Spa Courier. A little over two years later, Lucy’s brother-in-law died in Bishopstone, Sussex, where a beautifully written article regarding his funeral appeared in the Sussex Agricultural Express of Saturday 23rd March 1895. In part it said:
Those present at the funeral included around thirty members of the Seaford Urban District Council of which John Farncombe was a member. It was only around two years later in early 1897 that John Farncombe’s son, John Fletcher Farncombe, died at the age of thirty-five. Later the same year, on 21st October 1897, Lucy’s father Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher died at the age of ninety. The Leamington Spa Courier in its issue dated Saturday 23rd October 1897 printed the following article regarding his death:
Regarding the funeral, the Leamington Spa Courier of Saturday 30th October printed the following:
Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher’s will was proved on 31st December the same year, and in the Morning Post of Friday 14th January 1898 under the heading of “Wills and Bequests”, the following details were published:
On 16th October 1900, at 19, Sherbourne Place, Leamington, Lucy’s eldest sister Ruth died at the age of sixty-five. A few months later when the 1901 census was taken on the night of 31st March, Anne Farncombe is living with her two daughters, Murial and Annie, at Belgrave Road, East Blatchington, Sussex, and also with them are two servants, Fanny Bulman and Caroline Thomas. Lucy’s son John Lawrence Bell along with his wife Muriel Alice and seven year old daughter Elaine were living at Church Street, Amersham, and with them were three servants, Elizabeth Whitbread, May Hoare, Florence E Simmock, and a visitor, Constance Summers. Lucy’s sisters Grace and Elizabeth were living at 19 Clarendon Street, Leamington, and with them were two servants, Rhoda and Eva Pratt.
When the 1911 Census was taken on the night of Sunday 2nd April, Anne Farncombe was living at Vern Court, Belgrave Road, East Blatchington, Sussex. Her two unmarried daughters Muriel and Annie are with her, along with two servants Edith Farmer and Emily Frances Geermey. Lucy’s sisters Grace and Elizabeth were still living at 19 Clarendon Street, Leamington, and with them were two servants, Emma Atkins and Martha Warr. John Lawrence Bell, his wife Muriel Alice, and daughter Elaine Muriel were living at The Old House, Wexham, Slough, and with them were three servants, Elizabeth Whitbread, Florence Harvey, and Elsie Maude Hedges.
Lucy’s sister, Anne Farncombe, passed away aged 78 in the spring of 1916 at Newhaven, Sussex. Their sister Elizabeth died unmarried at 19 Sherbourne Place, Leamington on 13th January 1921 at the age of eighty-four. Later the same year, Lucy’s daughter, Ruth Gertrude Hall, passed away at the age of sixty-one in Bath, Somerset. The following article regarding her funeral appeared in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of Saturday 15th October:
Some years later, Lucy’s youngest sibling, Grace, died at 19 Sherbourne Place, Leamington, on 26th October 1936 at the age of eighty-seven. The following obituary appeared in the Leamington Spa Courier of Friday 30th October 1936:
Lucy’s eldest son, John Lawrence Bell, died in the Surrey area early in 1937 at the age of seventy-three. Her twin daughters, Ethel Mary Welstead and Mildred Alice Browne, both passed away in the St Neots area in 1940 and 1945 at the age of seventy-eight and eighty-three respectively. Her only other son, Edward Austin Bell, died in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on 5th October 1952 at the age of eighty-eight.
The details of Richard Bell Fletchers initiation into the “Lodge of Light”, Birmingham, can be found in the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London: Register of Admissions, Country and Foreign, no. 689, fol. 127.
Richard Bell Fletcher’s burial record was found on the Ancestry UK website, under "New Zealand Cemetery Records, New Zealand Society of Genealogists Incorporated."
Unless otherwise stated, all newspaper articles can be found at the British Newspaper Archive.
The portrait of Dr. Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher is Copyright and appears by kind permission of Warwickshire County Record Office (Ref CR2941/20/1).
The photograph of All Saints, Brington is a Flickr photo by Steve Day.
The modern-day photograph of 8 Clarendon Crescent, Leamington, appears by kind permission of David and Christine Lawson.