Bell, William (1814-1891)

Transcription of section in Petty  concerning W. Bell opening the Marlborough Mission.

Before we close our narrative of the missionary enterprises of Shefford circuit we must briefly record the commencement and progress of Marlborough mission, in the north-eastern extremity of Wiltshire. At the March quarterly meeting of 1838 Mr. W. Bell was appointed to enter upon this mission. Five years previously an attempt had been made to establish a cause in this town; but the persecution was so violent, and the difficulty of “supplying it regularly with travelling preachers ” being then insurmountable, the place was abandoned. It was now resolved to make another attempt, and Mr. Bell went to the place in the true spirit of a Christian missionary, willing to suffer as well as to labour in the cause of his Divine Master. He began by preaching in the open-air, when the old spirit of persecution manifested itself; a number of persons cursed him bitterly, and pushed him off the stool on which he was standing. The following Sabbath, while Mr. Cruse, a local preacher, was preaching a policeman seized him, and locked him up in the “blind house.” He was, however, soon released from his dismal abode. The missionary continued to labour in this persecuting town, and succeeded in establishing a small society.

At Pewsey, a small town notorious for wickedness, Mr. Bell preached in the open-air in the midst of such horrid noises made by persecutors that he could scarcely be heard, and when he had done the mob followed him, and pelted him with stones and clods of dirt. He, however, continued to visit the town, and succeeded in obtaining a place to preach in, and in forming a society.

At Woodborough he and others preached in the open-air nine months without being able to obtain a house to preach in. Several persons, however, obtained spiritual good under their ministry, a society of fifteen members was formed, and several who durst not open their houses for preaching offered them for prayer-meetings.

At Huish Mr. Bell met with grievous persecution when he first preached there on the 28th of March, 1838; and the fortnight following the persecutors threw so many squibs or crackers among the people who were hearing him that he was obliged to close the service abruptly. He, however, succeeded in time in obtaining a house to preach in near the village, in which a flourishing society was established.

At the small village of Stowel a considerable number of persons attended the preaching of the missionary, and several very ungodly characters were turned to the Lord.

At Savernake Park various denominations had attempted in vain to establish a cause, but through the blessing of God on the labours of Mr. Bell and his brethren a large congregation was collected, and many persons began to inquire what they must do to be saved.

Good was effected at other places, and in March, 1839, a hundred members were reported for the mission. Four places belonging to the circuit were then annexed to the mission, a second preacher was appointed to labour thereon, and thirty-four places were regularly visited.


William was baptised on13 November 1814 at Gillingham, Dorset. His parents were John Bell and Elizabeth Coward.

Census returns identify the following occupations for William.

  • 1841 PM minister
  • 1851 grocer and baker
  • 1861 PM local preacher, baker & grocer
  • 1871 grocer, baker & preacher
  • 1881 baker

He married Lydia Newton (abt1817-1900)) in late 1839 in the Newbury Registration District, Berkshire. Census returns  and birth records identify twelve children.

  • Henry John (1840-1915) – a coach builder (1911) 
  • Martha (1842-1864) – married Charles Wise, a baker & grocer (1861), in 1859
  • Elizabeth (b1843)      
  • Sarah (b1845)        
  • William (1846-1931) – a garden labourer (1901)     
  • Mary Ann Newton (1847-1895) 
  • George (b1850)        
  • Robert (b1853)  – a baker (1891)  
  • Charles (1855-1876)    
  • Rhoda (1858-1939) – married Benjamin Wise, an accountant (1911), in 1905
  • James (1860-1934)  – a baker (1891); a farm labourer (1911)
  • Hannah Lydia (1862-1950)  – married George Street, a gardener, in 1906

William died on 1 February 1891 at Hungerford, Berkshire.


  • 1835 Shefford
  • 1840 Marlborough
  • 1841 Banbury
  • 1842 disappears


J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p359

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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