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William Bell Esquire

William Bell, a partner with his older brother, Thomas, in 'Thomas Bell & Sons,' was engaged in the manufacture of wide canvas floor cloth at Belmont Works. The firm, at one time, was one of the largest export merchants in Dundee.

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Personal details and history

Full name

William Bell

Date of birth

09-04-1818[1] - baptised 23-04-1818[1]

Place of birth




Marital status


Name of spouse

Anne Thoms[2][3] - wed at Clepington 02-09-1857[2]


William Arthur (1858): Edith Mary (1860): Herbert Graham (1862): Henry Jobson (1864): Anna Margaret (1867): Alfred Brown (c1870):

Home address

7[4] Airlie Place[5][6]


Hawkhill House[7]
10 Hawkhill Place

Age at death:

60 years[3]

Place of death:

Hawkhill House, 10 Hawkhill Place, Dundee[3]

Date of death:



Western Cemetery[9]

Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers

Religious affiliation

Established Church[2][1]

Political affiliation


Clubs / societies

Dundee Guildry - a Member (1863-1871):[10] Hawkhill Bowling Club - President:[5]

Public offices


Related subscribers

Subscriber   25 – James Henderson Bell – brother of William Bell

Subscriber   25 – Alexander Brown Bell – brother of William Bell

Subscriber   30 – Thomas Bell – brother of William Bell

Subscriber 107 – George Ireland – his partner, Henry Boase (of Ireland & Boase), was husband of William Bell’s sister in law, Mary Thoms

Subscriber 109 – George Jameson – brother in law of William Bell, married to Grace Brown Bell

Subscriber 166 – James B Nicoll – brother of Charlotte Nicoll, sister in law of William Bell, 1st wife of James Henderson Bell

Subscriber 213 – John Sharp – father in law of Thomas Bell, nephew of William Bell

Subscriber 241 – Rev Andrew Taylor – brother in law of William Bell, married to Mary Hope Bell


Career and worklife


Merchant[5][6] / Floorcloth manufacturer[11][12]


Partner - in partnership with older brother Thomas[11]

Place of work

Belmont Factory[5][6]

Work address

118[7] Hawkhill[6]

Career to date:

The 1841 census listed William Bell as a merchant when aged around 20 years of age.[13] It can be assumed that he may well have been working for his father in the firm of 'Thomas Bell & Sons.' The following census record identified him further as a 'Merchant of Linen.'[14] His father, Thomas, having died in 1844, William appears to have been taken into partnership with his older brother, Thomas (junior), in the manufacturing of wide canvas floorcloth at Belmont Works. William Bell's first listing within the local directory did not appear until that of 1858-59, only listing his address but not his occupation or place of work.[15] Not till 1861 did the listing confirm William's association with Belmont Factory.[5]

More information

William Bell was born the sixth son of Thomas Bell of ‘Belmont’ and his wife, Grace Brown, in 1818.[1] At the time of his birth, his father was a partner in the firm of ‘Bell & Balfour’ (merchants, Shore, Dundee).[16][17] From 1821, ‘Bell & Balfour’ also operated ‘Chapelshade Mill,’ located in what became known as Bell Street. Between the years 1821-32, ‘Bell & Balfour’ continued their operation and gained the reputation as being the first mill to spin jute by machine.[18]

Circa 1833, ‘Bell & Balfour’ was dissolved. William’s elder brother, Thomas, had joined his father in business, whereupon the Bells subsequently built and operated ‘Belmont Works.’ The works were described as;

‘A large factory situated at the North of Belmont in which are employed 120 hands for the weaving of canvas for cloth. The weaving is wholly by hand looms. A small steam engine is used in the process of winding. William Robertson is the foreman, the proprietor, Mr Bell.’[19]

Belmont Works, established by 1833, was, at first, a hand loom factory although, by 1857, power looms were added, as was a steam powered winding house and warping room.[18] The firm of Thomas Bell & Sons was, for a time, one of the largest export merchants in Dundee.[11]

The works continued to expand into the latter part of the 19th century, long after the death of William Bell.[18]

The manufacturing business of ‘Messrs Thomas Bell & Sons,’ begun by his father and further developed by William and his brother Thomas, was continued by succeeding generations at ‘Belmont Works’ and later, long after William’s death, also at ‘Heathfield Works.’ Ultimately, it was amalgamated into Sidlaw Industries, continuing into the 20th century.

William Bell died on 17 December 1878. After his death, his widow, Ann Thoms and his family (apart from the eldest, William Arthur) moved to Edinburgh. They remained at 27 Greenhill Gardens, Edinburgh for many years.



  1. Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Births. (1818). 282/100 269. ScotlandsPeople website
  2. Statutory Registers. Dundee. (1857). 282/ 1 229. ScotlandsPeople website.
  3. Statutory Registers. Dundee. (1878). 282/1 494. ScotlandsPeople website
  4. Census Returns. Dundee. (1861). 282/2 15/53. ScotlandsPeople website.
  5. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1861-62. pp.50 and 116. National Library of Scotland website.
  6. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1864-65. p.97. National Library of Scotland website.
  7. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1869-70. p.100. National Library of Scotland website.
  8. Dundee Year Book. (1878). Chief Local Events. Page 49. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
  9. Memorial Stone Inscription. Western Cemetery
  10. Local History Records. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
  11. Dundee Obituaries. Book No 1. Page 20. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
  12. Legal Records. Wills & Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. (1879). SC45/ 31/ 28. ScotlandsPeople website.
  13. Census Returns. Dundee. (1841). 282/32/13. ScotlandsPeople website.
  14. Census Returns. Dundee. (1851). 282/23/11. ScotlandsPeople website.
  15. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1858-59. p.106. National Library of Scotland website.
  16. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1809. p.40. National Library of Scotland website.
  17. Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1818. p.16. National Library of Scotland website.
  18. Watson, Mark. Jute and Flax Mills in Dundee. (1990). Tayport. Hutton Press Ltd.
  19. Ornance Survey Name Books. Forfarshire. (Angus). Volume 30. ScotlandsPlaces website.

The information above about William Bell has been collated from a range of digital and hard copy sources. To the best of our knowledge it is correct but if you are relying on any information from our website for the purpose of your own research we would advise you to follow up the sources to your own satisfaction. If you are aware of an inaccuracy in our text please do not hesitate to notify us through our Contact page.