The Bell branch starts with my 3xgreat grandmother Mary Anne BELL(300), who married James MILNES(299).

Bell generations

Generation Bell Ancestor Spouse Date and place of marriage
O Mary Anne BELL(300)
James MILNES (299) (1744-1803) 13 Mar 1792, Bowden, Cheshire
N Robert BELL(1266)
(? - 1812)
a daughter of William TURNER of Hull,
probably Ann TURNER(1536).
possibly in Manchester in 1766

Mary Anne BELL

Mary Anne's dates are given as 1769-1858 in a book about Katharine Briggs 1 and also in papers now with the Leeds University Library2 . I am not sure where she was born, but there is a record of the baptism of a Mary Ann BELL, daughter of Robert BELL and Ann BELL, in Manchester, Lancashire, on 21 May 17693, which is in the right year. Alice Sophia BRIGGS(6) wrote that Mary Ann was the daughter of Archibald Bell of Edinburgh4, but it is clear from the unpublished letters of the family that his name was Robert BELL and that, at least at the time his two grand-daughters were children, he lived at Whitestone and Chamber (possibly the names of houses, as I can find no such places on the map), near Manchester. A brother is mentioned, also living at Chamber, near Manchester, and a sister Margaret living in Edinburgh. So the Bells may well have come from Edinburgh to Manchester. Unfortunately, Bell is a vey common name, and without some preliminary clue as to where and when they were born, it is difficult to identify Robert BELL and his siblings in the Scottish records.

Mary Ann married James MILNES(299) on 13 Mar 1792 at Bowden in Cheshire5. There is also a marriage allegation dated 29 Mar 1792, giving her residence as Altrincham, Bowden, Cheshire6 . The year fits with the marriage entry, but there is disagreement over the date. James and Mary Anne lived at Manor House, Flockton, in Yorkshire. They had two daughters7:

Mary Ann outlived her husband by over 50 years, dying in 18588. She was buried at Flockton, Yorkshire, at St. James the Great9. She seems to have played a part in running the New Flockton mine, which Richard MILNES and his sons ran after coal was discovered on his land in 1774. After James MILNES died, Mary Ann was in partnership with her son-in-law William STANSFIELD, as Milnes & Stansfield. Later, her other son-in-law Henry BRIGGS joined the partnership, being admitted as a partner a month before he married Marianne in 182410 . For a period from her husband's death in 1804 until William STANSFIELD came on the scene in 1815, it seems that Mary Ann may have managed the mine on her own.

Robert BELL

Robert BELL, incorrectly called Archibald Bell by ASB, was said to have come from Edinburgh, but later lived near Manchester. In a pedigree of Cappe and Jardine11 it Robert's wife is identified as a sister of the 1st wife of Newcome CAPPE, a well-known non-conformist minister. This would make Robert's wife a daughter of William TURNER (1538), a merchant of Hull, by an unnamed (in the pedigree) daughter of Samuel BLYTHE of Norton Lees. My best guess is that Robert BELL's wife was Ann TURNER(1537) .

, which is in Derbyshire though close to the boundary with Yorkshire and only about 8 km from Sheffield. Samuel BLYTHE was the son and heir of the Blythe family, and also a dissenting minister.

In a further note, the web publication of the late Jos Kingston, Life and death in Elizabethen Norton [], describes the parish and its inhabitants, including members of the BLYTHE family, ancestors of Samuel BLYTHE, and so a source of additional information on that family when I am happy that the Rev.Samuel is actually an ancestor.

An Australian website [] shows the Rev. Samuel BLYTHE as married to Mary RICHARDSON daughter of John RICHARDSON of Newton, but does not give a date for their marriage. It shows Mary RICHARDSON as born in 1680, died 18 May 1753, and buried at Norton on 22 May 1753. The IGI has a marriage on 24 Mar 1701 at Blackwell by Alfreton, Derbyshire [FHL film 422187], and the parish of Blackwell includes the hamlet of Newton [Familysearch wiki webpage, Derbyshire]. On the Australian website there is a list (of children of the marriage of Samuel BLYTHE and Mary RICHARDSON?). The first name on this list is Mary BLYTH/Turner, who was baptised on 22 Nov 1710 at Alfreton, Derbyshire [this baptism is in the IGI, batch C04627-5, FHL film 1041619, one of 5 films of the parish records of Alfreton, from the original manuscripts in the Derbyshire Record Office at Matlock]. The father's name is only given as Blyth.

There are two records of a Robert BELL marrying an Ann TURNER, one on 11 Jul 1757 at Garstang, Lancashire [FHL film 1278886, batch M02063-5] and the other on 12 Nov 1766 at Manchester Cathedral. Familysearch also has a record of intended marriage of Robert BELL and Ann TURNER [Robert Bell, of Manchester, and Ann Turner, spinster, of Fairshaw, Manchester, event date 11 Nov 1766, digital folder 4018419, image 1199. In another entry, Robert Bell is described as widowed, same folder, image 1200]. At the moment I do not know which of these marriages is the correct one, or even whether either is the right one. I tend to favour the Manchester wedding in 1766, which fits with the birth of Mary Ann in 1769, but this is still conjecture and may not fit with the births of Robert and William, if their dates can be found (see below). The IGI has an Anne TURNER, daughter of William TURNER, baptised at Sheffield on 23 May 1733 [IGI based on member submission, so no source details].

A letter of Marianne Milnes quoted by [K M Briggs collection, MS 1309/1 p.4]... says that her grandfather, Robert BELL of Chambers, near Manchester, had four children:

A later letter from Robert BELL to his grand-daughter Margaret comes from Whitestone, dated 05 Feb 1802. The letter says that John BELL and Sarah CAPPE had three children: Catherine, Robert and Margaret, and that the latter two died young, Robert in Leeds when he was a medical student, and Margaret of a fever.

In his last letter to his grand-daughter Margaret MILNES, dated 26 Jan 1805, Robert BELL mentions receiving a letter from his sister Margaret from Edinburgh, and that she was 82, suggesting that she was born around 1723. There is an old parish record, accessible via the official Scottish website, of the baptism of a Margaret BELL in Edinburgh on 05 May 1723, daughter of Robert BELL and Margaret THOMSON, which is suggestive. But I can find no other baptisms in Edinburgh with these parents. There are too many people called BELL in the Scottish records.


1) Katharine Briggs: Story-Teller, by H. R. Ellis Davidson, Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, England, 1986, p.3, Table 2.
2) Leeds University Library, K M Briggs Collection, Special Collections MS 1309. Parts of this collection relevant to this family history have been provided as photocopies by the University. Mary Anne's year of birth is given in MS 1309/11.
3) National Archives: Non-Conformist Registers, RG4, Piece 63, folio 142. Mary Ann Bell, daughter of Robert Bell and Ann Bell, baptised by Joseph Mottershead at Manchester, Lancashire, on 21 May 1769. The name of the chapel is not given in the listing or in the image of the original manuscript available through However, there was a Joseph Mottershead who was a dissenting minister and who was minister of Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, from 1717 until his death in 1771 [Wikisource quoting the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, vol.39].
4) Leaves from the Diary of A.S.B. - For her Family., by A.S.B., 1917. Privately printed. Page 42.
5) The IGI Familysearch lists the marriage, based on parish records for Bowdon, FHL film 2093924, containing marriages 1775-1828, as well as baptisms and burials 1770-1812.
6) FamilySearch, from England, Cheshire, Marriage Bonds and allegations, 1606-1900, digital folder no.4018532, image 600. In this record her year of birth is given as 1771 but this is because her age is given as 21, meaning only of full age, i.e.21 or over. Also her spouse is given as James Milner, of Frockton, which are probably mis-transcriptions of James Milnes and Flockton.
7) Katharine Briggs: Story-Teller, by H. R. Ellis Davidson, Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, England, 1986, p.3, Table 2. Margaret was baptised at Flockton on 27 Jun 1793, FHL film 496812, which is a transcription of the register of the parish of Thornhill, but which also contains Flockton baptisms and burials 1717-1812. The transcription is Vol.53 of printed transcripts by the Yorkshire Parish Resigter Society, edited by John Charlesworth. The same film has Marianne baptised on 19 May 1801 at Flockton. The IGI also has a record from FHL film 1542081, which is a film of the original parish registers of Thornhill at the West Yorkshire Archives, again including baptisms and burials at the Chapelry of Flockton 1713-1812.
8) GRO deaths index, Wakefield, Jun quarter of 1858, vol.9a, p.1.
9) National Burial Index, data provided by the Huddersfield and District Family History Society.
10) Adventures in Coal, by John Goodchild, British Mining No. 66, Northern Mine Research Society, Aug 2000. The beginnings of the coal mining firm of Henry Briggs Son & Co. in Yorkshire, c 1826 to 1890.
11) Fam. Min. Gent., p.188, 189; The Publications of the Harlean Society, Vol.37, 1894. which indicates that there were three sisters, of whom only one, Mary who married James BENSON of Birmingham, is named.

© John Stowell 2010,2011             Last updated on 17 Apr 2011.

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