James Bell & John Calvert Bell
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James Bell of Woolbroke or Woolbrook, Teesdale,  was born on 21 Aug 1829 in Dornock, Dumfries, the son of Lewis Bell(b.1793 Dumfries) and MaryOld Geelong Times Office in Moorabool Street (courtesy LaTrobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria) Calvert. His brothers in Victoria were "Big John" Bell of Warrambeen, Watch Hill and Bell Park, and Robert Lewis Bell of Mt. Mercer.

He married Mary Singer (b. 17 Jun 1837), and had three children - John Calvert Bell, Alexander Bell and Clara Johnstone Bell.

 He owned Woolbrook at Teesdale, Victoria, and was a prominent member of the community. He also had an estate at Burnside.

It appears he sponsored the migration of his nephew, Lewis Bell (b. 1853 Dumfries), to Australia in 1872.

A James Bell was the first Editor of the Geelong Advertiser, and owned the 1860's-built Geelong Times Building in Moorabool Street, Geelong (at right); however I now believe this is another James Bell. See below.

Races    He was a keen member of coursing clubs, and is mentioned in newspaper clippings regarding one of his dogs, Lord Raglan, at a meeting at the Burnside Estate, on the Leigh Road (later Bannockburn). The early Inverleigh races were held on Woolbrook land.

Plagues    Rabbit plagues and foxes caused great damage to all properties in the area from the mid-1860's onwards. When the rabbit plague escalated in the late 1860's, James Bell released domestic cats on his property, hoping to eradicate rabbits. By 1873 it appeared to be successful. However, by 1877, he was advertising that he had laid poison on his property at Burnside.  By 1883, foxes had taken a terrible toll on the lambs at Woolbrook. Local Councils attempted to assist by offering bonuses for rabbit and fox skins, and providing wire netting for property fencing.  


Politics    He was a Councillor of the Shire of Leigh from 1862 until his death in 1877. He was an original member of the East Riding School Board at Teesdale from 1873.

He died at age 48 in 1877. His eulogy in The Geelong Advertiser , 31 July 1877, included "his death will be more generally deplored than any.....in the Geelong district."Clara Johnstone Bell (Mrs. Miller)

Family    His wife, Mary Stewart Singer lived in the Geelong area, and is mentioned as coming from Morongo, Bell Post Hill (home of John Bell and Margaret Bell (née Chirnside). She provided treats for Teesdale children every Boxing Day for many years, and entertained the district at Christmas accompanied by her daughter and sister. She was the principal source of prizes for the Teesdale School; even in 1899 when travelling in Europe with her daughter Clara (Mrs. Septimus Miller) pictured at right, she left prizes and "edibles" for the prize-giving ceremony.  In 1930, she gave an interview to the Argus Newspaper. She was living at Glenferrie Road, Malvern, with her son Alexander. Her daughter Clara had predeceased her. Her son John Calvert Bell, was living at Addiscot.
Click here to read a transcript of the interview, also found at

James' son, John Calvert Bell, married Ellen Francis Wilson. They lived at the 8000 acre property "Addiscot" at Bells Beach Victoria from 1886. Six children were born. The eldest son Harold George Bell was killed in Ypres, Belgium in WW1, two daughters, Honor and Clara joined the Loreto Convent in Ballarat. Mary Kathleen Alexander never married, and Naomi Frances Woolbrook married Charles O'Byrne and moved to Dublin, Ireland. Naomi died the following year in 1920.
A son, John Wilson Bell died in infancy and is buried at Mt Duneed Cemetery. Francis Bell died in 1901, and John Calvert Bell married his wife's sister, Irene Bell Wilson, who helped rear the children. Bells Beach in Victoria was named after his family. 

Last Updated 27 October 2008


A different James Bell? - His relationship, if any, is unknown at present.

In 1884, a James Bell was the first President of the Mechanics' Institute in Teesdale - formed to encourage young men "not to idle their time away". It became a free library  in 1888. He was President of the Rifle Club, useful to check fox and rabbit numbers, established in 1884. 

Mercantine Bank Prosecutions 1893 (Courtesy State Library of Victoria Picture Collection)Click on images for more information. 

At top left of this 1893 engraving is a Mr. James Bell MLC. 

This James Bell was an MLC, a businessman and director of the Mercantile Bank. In the early 1890's, at the crash of the land boom and the banking establishments of Victoria, he was charged but not committed for agreeing to issue false balance sheets to shareholders of the bank. Alfred Deakin was his defence counsel.  The engraving  is of the Directors of the Mercantile Bank.