James (1831- ) & Emma Bell nee Day (1830-1896)

As I have explained earlier my great grandfather changed his surname soon after he was born from BELL to HOBBS.

Information about my great great grandparents JAMES and EMMA is sparse to say the least. For a number of years the evidence I had led me to believe that they were married in 1849 at St Georges in Hanover Square London and that five years later in 1854 EMMA had remarried a THOMAS HOBBS.

However in May 2006, research into 1851 and 1861 Census led to believe that EMMA may not have been married at the time of my great grandfather's birth. I have never been able to find a record of any marriage between JAMES BELL and EMMA. The 1851 Census taken on 30th March clearly shows that EMMA was a 19 year old unmarried servant working in a Victorian household in London. (REF H0107/1493 13 Folio 434 No 236). And so if EMMA did marry JAMES it would have to be in the period April 1851 - November 1852. The birth certificate of 1852 shows that EMMA herself registered the birth which seems to indicate that the father was not present or in the vicinity at the time of birth. Admittedly this is a supposition but it does give credence to the belief that EMMA was an unmarried mother and she choose to conceal this fact on the certificate by saying to the Registrar that she was married to JAMES BELL.   

The birth certificate of 1852 indicates that James Bell and Emma were married at the time of Edwin's birth (James) but the 1854 marriage certificate states that EMMA was a spinster and no mention is made of the surname BELL. I now believe that the 1854 marriage certificate is correct and the 1852 birth certificate misleading  


The only other confirmed information I have to date states that a JAMES BELL was baptised in Chipping Barnet, Hertfordshire on 20th November 1831, the son of JAMES and ANN BELL with JAMES' occupation in the Parish Register given as Labourer. (JAMES BELL appears as an unmarried Agricultural Labourer living in Barnet Common in both the 1851 and 1861 Censuses)As EMMA DAY was also baptised in Chipping Barnett a year earlier there is a possibility that the families were known to one another. It is of course feasible that this JAMES BELL is the father of EDWIN FREDRICK BELL but we have no proof beyond the name of the father on Edwin's 1852 birth certificate.

By the same token EMMA may not have wanted for a number of reasons to disclose the name of the real father (she was unmarried at the time) and so invented a name from her past, similar to the way she invented a marriage. The other explanation that occurred to me was the possibility that EDWIN may not be her son anyway. She took over the care of the child from his natural mother very soon after birth and registered it has her own.

This explanation may not be as far fetched as it sounds for the following two reasons. Firstly, Emma herself registered the birth with the Registrar on the very day that she gave birth - the father did not. And the address that she gave as the place of birth does not tie in with the details we have prior to the birth. The second reason is that EMMA, if she is the mother, did not have another child for fifteen years after the birth of EDWIN. There may have been stillbirths, miscarriages etc, in the intervening period but the next child she had that survived childhood was in 1867 when Emma was 36 years old. Emma may have had trouble conceiving a child anyway.    

emmaday.jpg (31164 bytes)

The above photograph was taken from an oil painting of EMMA. The approximate date of the painting is 1885. Emma died eleven years later on 14 February 1896 at No 18 Wharf, North Wharf Road, London

EMMA was baptised on  10th October 1830 at St John The Baptist Church, Chipping Barnet, Herts. Her parents JOHN and ELIZABETH DAY (nee WOODWARDS) were married in the same church five years earlier on 28th February 1825.  EMMA had two older brothers and two younger sisters


Chipping Barnet Parish Church of St John the Baptist (1560)

In Saxon Times the site was part of an extensive wood called Southaw, belonging to the Abbey of St Albans. The name of the town appears in early deeds as Bergnet, the Saxon word Bergnet signifies a little hill, monticulus. Its elevated position is also indicated in its alternate name of High Barnet, which it bears in many old books and maps, and which the railway company restored. It is the belief of the older natives the "Barnet stands on the highest ground betwixt London and York." The town consists of a straggling street over a mile long, chiefly of small commonplace houses, with two or three shorter streets diverging from it. From its situation on the main road, as the centre of an agricultural district, the seat of a county court and petty sessions, and having a barracks close at hand., Barnet is a busy-looking place, and has some good shops; one or two excellent inns, Red Lion and Old Salisbury Arms, and an undue proportion of public-houses; but on the whole it is a shabby and not a very picturesque appearance: it is, however, improving. In coaching days, 150 stage coaches passed through it daily. Since the opening of the railway, the town has increased considerably, especially on the west about the Common; or as it is now called, Arkley.

Barnet Church, St John the Baptist, which stands in what was the centre of the town, was erected by John de la Moote, abbot of St Albans, about 1400, the architect being Beauchamp. It consists of a nave and aisles separated by clustered colons which support four pointed arches; a chancel with an east window of good Perpendicular tracery; a vestry, built in the reign of James I by Thomas Ravenscroft; and at the west end, a low, square embattled tower. The living of Barnet is a curacy, held with the rectory of East Barnet till the death of the late incumbent in 1866, when the livings were separated. The town also includes parts of the parishes of Monken Hadley and South Mimms. - From James Thorne - The Handbook to the Environs of London (1876).

                    "BARNET, a residential district in the mid or St Albans parliamentary division of Hertfordshire, England; 10 m. N. of London, served by the main line and branches of the Great Northern railway. The three chief divisions are as follows :(i) CIUPPING or HIGH BARNET, a market town and urban district (Barnet), pop. (1901) 7876. The second epithet designates its position on a hill, but the first is given it from the market granted to the abbots of St Albans to be kept there, by Henry II. Near the town, round a point marked by an obelisk, was fought in 1.471 the decisive battle between the houses of York and Lancaster, in which the earl of Warwick fell and the Lancastrians were totally defeated. The town is on the Great North Road, on which it was formerly an important coaching station. A large annual horse and cattle fair is held. (2) EAST BARNET, 2 m. S.E. of Chipping Barnet, has an ancient parish church retaining Norman portions, though enlarged in modern times. Pop. of East Barnet Valley urban district, 10,094. (3) Nxw BARNET lies I m. E. by S. from Chipping Barnet."

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This page was last updated on 24/06/19 17:37