Bell, James Ord (1851-1907)

James Bell photographed at age circa 55


James was born on 22 June 1851, at Seghill, Northumberland, to John Bell and Margaret Ord, who were devout Methodists.

James went into the pit at age 9 and was later apprenticed to a draper in Gateshead. He worked as a packman, a travelling draper, walking around the collieries selling goods to pit families. At the time of his marriage in 1873 he was a draper’s assistant in Brandon.

He opened shop in Bishop Auckland, as Manager, for Hepworths Tailors and Drapers, of Leeds, at the time of the birth of his daughter in 1877. James was manager of Hepworths in Durham, living over the shop at 1 Saddler Street, at the time of the 1891 census.  The shop  has since been demolished and is now HSBC Bank. He became a buyer for Hepworths and was Superintendent of Hepworths Shops for the North of England, at the time of his death on 4th January 1907 at Durham.

As a young man, it appears that he was not as devout a Methodist as his parents, but he returned to the fold at the age of about 30. In his thirties, he became a Local Preacher and eventually attained the highest office available to a Layman, Vice-President of the Primitive Methodist Conference, in 1903.

He donated towards the building of Central Primitive Methodist Chapel, Bishop Auckland, and was one of the original trustees.  He opened the School Room attached to the chapel. He opened various chapels and Sunday schools in the region, including Chopwell, Sunnybrow and Harehills, Leeds.

He was a Freemason, but apparently advised his son-in-law, not to join, because he felt that their meetings in Durham had become more an excuse for drinking than anything else and that too many people joined for what they could get out of Freemasonry rather than what they could put in. 

James married Ann Mattison Watson (b1856) on 22 September 1873 at Brancepeth, Co. Durham. James and Ann were divorced in 1902. They had two children.

  • Mary (Minnie) (1875-1888)
  • Florence Beatrix (1877-1965) – married Christopher Heslop, a beef and pork butcher (1911), in 1905

James married Isabella Roddam (1865-1930) in the spring of 1905 at Durham, Co Durham.

The attached documents are a transcription of the report of James’ death in the Durham County Advertiser – 11 January 1907 – and some extracts from Northern Primitive Methodism by W.M. Patterson relating to the Bell family.


Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


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