Captain John Bell 1790 - 1841
|Ship's Captain and Owner
Captain Bell was an owner and master of ships used for transportation of
convicts and for trade, between Great Britain and Australia. Between 1818 and
1827, he was the master of several ships arriving in Van Diemen's Land. In 1827,
he was a passenger travelling to Tasmania with his wife and children.
Ships included the "Minerva" a 530 ton convict transport, and the "Caledonia",
275 ton brig. Registers show it brought Spanish
dollars to Hobart in 1827. He sold the the ship to a Captain John George Briggs in
March 1827, after which
it conducted trading in goods including wheat and sugar. Captain Bell's voyages as
||Points of interest
|Minerva (530 ton convict transport)
||Cork on 1 January 1818
||7 June 1818 at Van Dieman's Land
||160 male convicts - 3 died during transport. Guard of the 48th.
||Hobart on 25 June 1818
||Batavia, Calcutta, London
||Captain Bell discovered the Minerva Shoal in
the Coral Sea en route. (Minerva Reef in Sth. Pacific Ocean?)
||February 1820 at Van Diemen's Land
|| November 1821 at Van Diemen's Land
|Caledonia (275 ton brig)
||Portsmouth on 10 June 1820
||17 November 1820 at Van Diemen's Land
||150 males - all alive in Van Diemans Land
|| Portsmouth on 19 June 1822
||6 November 1822 at Van Diemen's Land
||150 males - 6 died during transport
||London on 1 November 1826
||24 February 1827 at Van Diemen's Land
||Assorted merchandise. Brig underwent repair
for damage sustained off St. Pauls (small French island
between Capetown and Tasmania). One seaman drowned.
He was the owner of ships
|Arrivals Hobart on 5 October 1828;
December 1829, trading merchandise
||Arrival Hobart on 5 April 1828, trading
He also travelled as a passenger:-
||Points of interest
|Medway (450 ton ship)
||London on 1 April 1827
||Hobart on 20 August 1827
||Travelling with family via Bahia and Brazil;
tobacco and assorted goods; 35 passengers
||Hobart on 31 December 1827
||Sydney on 10 February 1828
||Hobart on 15 February 1828
||Cedar and bluegum planks, boxes of seeds,
bales of wool, 3 female prisoners, 10 passengers
bell was born in 1790 in Dumfries, Scotland, and died in 1841 in Hobart,
wife, Mary Rogers, was born in 1791 in Scotland and died in
Hobart, Tasmania, in 1831, from fish poisoning. It is uncertain whether
they had any children, but possibly a son was born in 1831.
In 1832, he
married his second wife Louisa Meredith, born 1808 in
Glamorganshire, Wales, daughter of George Meredith of "Cambria" near
Great Swan Port, East Coast, Tasmania. Their children were:
Sabina Letitia BELL
(b. 20 May 1833-Hobart,Tasmania, m 1864 Walmer, England, d 1910
sp: Lt. Col. Theophilus Vaughton-Dymock, b.1829
Whitchurch, Shropshire, England, d.1905 Bath, England
Click here for more detailed Vaughton-Dymock tree.
Louisa Sarah BELL
George Meredith BELL
Emily Mary BELL
(b 1837-Hobart, Tasmania
(Pictures at right courtesy of Charlotte
Sabina Letitia Bell
Col T Vaughton-Dymock
On his arrival in 1827, Captain Bell was granted land at New Town, Hobart. The family built "Belle Vue" and owned an estate named "Annan" (see below). He is recorded
as subscribing to the New Town church appeal in 1830. In 1836, a block of six acres at New
Town was sold to
Robert Pitcairn, the first lawyer to qualify in the colony.
John Bell became a merchant, shipper
By 1835, he owned
several parcels of land, including:
- 613 acres in the Parish of Milton,
- 667 acres in the Parish of Milton, and
- 2000 acres in County Somerset, near Lake Crescent to the
west of Table Mountain.
a letter to Dr. George
Bell by the Chief Secretary's Dept. Hobart, dated 1939, Captain John Bell owned over 12 000 acres
by 1841 - one property named "Annandale"
was 10,000 acres. Annandale is near Tunbridge.
visited the area in 1872 Read his diary entries here.
Captain John Bell died on 13th
December 1841. Executors of his will were Charles Swanston, George Read
and Charles Meredith. Witnesses to the will included Thomas Pitcairn and Robert
Pitcairn, the lawyer who purchased property from him at Newtown. In his Will he
bequeathed an annuity of £40 per year to his sister, Elizabeth;
he also mentions a young son George Bell.
His other children's names are not listed. Mrs. Louisa Bell was
still living in
Robert Pitcairn was a leading advocate for the abolition of transportation. In 1850 he
sold the house to the first Anglican Bishop in Van Diemen's Land, the Right
Reverend Francis Russell Nixon, who added the music room and renamed the house 'Bishopstowe'.
He had a strong interest in art, as did Louisa Anne Meredith, Captain Bell's
mother-in-law. The seafarer, Captain Charles Bayley, acquired the house in 1864
and named it 'Runnymede' after his favourite ship. The State Government leased
it to the National Trust in 1967.
pictures of Runnymede
biography comes from the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition at
BELL, JOHN (1790-1841), merchant, was born on 30 November 1790 at
Middlebie, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. After early training at sea, Bell took
command of the Minerva, carrying convicts to New South Wales. He first
arrived at Port Jackson in April 1818, and after coastal voyages returned
there in December 1819 to find himself the subject of obloquy for having
allegedly failed to supply full rations to convicts in the Minerva. He
appealed successfully for a full inquiry and was completely exonerated. In
February 1820 he sailed for Bengal in the Minerva and returned to
Sydney two years later. In 1824 he again arrived at Port Jackson in the
Minerva, this time from the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1825 he applied by
letter for land in New South Wales and was granted 1200 acres (486 ha) by
Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane. Expensive cattle were bought and left with
an agent who was to choose the land. In England Bell, who had done well as a
trader, bought the brig Caledonia and brought out his wife, an overseer
and farm hands when he sailed for New South Wales in 1826. In a severe storm
the ship was nearly wrecked and three lives were lost. Bell put in to Hobart
Town in February 1827 where extensive repairs were found necessary. He altered
his plans and exchanged the disabled Caledonia with Captain J. G.
Briggs for his wharf store, shipping agencies and fine house at New Town. Bell
soon held the agencies of many ships trading with Mauritius and the Far East,
entered a trading partnership in 1827 with Captain Cooling of the Admiral
Cockburn and arranged an agency in Launceston for the export of colonial
wool and wheat.
In the same year he took a foremost part in establishing a commercial club.
In 1830-32 he was a director of the Bank of Van Diemen's Land and in 1832 was
associated with the first attempt to establish a life assurance association in
the colony. Bell was a director of the Hobart Town and Launceston Marine
Insurance Co., established in 1836. He held a similar position in the
Tasmanian Fire and Life Insurance Co.; it declared no dividends in its first
three years, but in 1839, when Bell was managing director of both insurance
companies, it paid a 50 per cent dividend and thereafter continued to prosper.
Bell applied for a second grant in Van Diemen's Land and was awarded 2000
acres (809 ha) which he located at Green Lagoon. He failed, however, to claim
his New South Wales land before January 1828 when another application for it
displaced his. His costly cattle were turned loose and soon became wild, but
his protests, although continued throughout the 1830s, failed to win him any
compensation. His Tasmanian property, Annandale, was increased by further
grants on the strength of his imported capital, which he claimed amounted to
over £11,000 by 1830. Some of this had gone into importing pure merinos of
which by 1840 he had built up a large stud flock, as well as 7000 improved
sheep. High prices for his wool in London had induced him to join the quest
for land in Port Phillip in 1836.
In 1832 he had acquired Betsy's Island then stocked with silver-haired
rabbits for the fur trade with China, and in 1835 further allotments on the
wharf in Hobart. Another attempt to contravene the land regulations when he
bought an order for 800 acres (324 ha) after grants had ceased proved
unsuccessful. In 1840 Bell retired from active life through ill health; his
midland estates of nearly 12,000 acres (4856 ha) then extended from the Clyde
to the Blackman River. He died on 12 December 1841 at Belle Vue, his New Town
home, survived by his second wife, Louisa, daughter of
George Meredith and Sarah Westall, née Hicks. Bell's first wife had died
childless, of toad-fish poisoning, in March 1831, and he had remarried in June
1832. There were three children by his second marriage.
Two relatives had followed him to the colony.
John Calvert (1807-1869) had
managed Bell's properties for him before settling at Port Phillip, and
John Bell (1821-1876), nephew of Bell and
Calvert and a trained surveyor, joined him after surveying for some time in
Van Diemen's Land. Together they owned Irrewarra of 68,000 acres (27,519 ha),
later divided between them into Watch Hill and Lake Colac. Bell finally built
Bell Park, Geelong, and John Calvert, Morongo.
P. L. Brown (ed) Clyde Company Papers, vol 3, (Lond,
1958); manuscript catalogue under J. Bell (State Library of New South Wales);
correspondence file under Bell (Archives Office of Tasmania).
More on the
Author: A. Rand
Print Publication Details: A. Rand, 'Bell, John (1790 -
1841)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1,
University Press, 1966, pp 80-81.
Last updated: 20 December 2009