Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More on Henry James Bell of the Whau

I love receiving emails from those whose family history research leads them to come upon Timespanner, and share a bit of information on their ancestors. Such is the case today regarding Henry James Bell, of the Bell & Gemmell tannery at the Whau during the 1870s-1880s.

Previous posts: here, here, and a reference here.

Hi Lisa,

I have been researching my family and have just stumbled across a post you wrote on Sunday October 26th 2008. I knew my great great grandfather Henry James Bell had worked in a leather tannery in Whau Creek and I had also been told by family that they owned their own tannery there too. So it seems it could be them you are talking about. This is what I know about him and his family. There was a history of curriers, leatherworkers and shoemakers in the Bell family going back several generations in London and earlier in Lincoln, England to at least the late 1700s.

Henry James was born in London to James (a currier) & Elizabeth Bell in 1845. He trained as a currier and emigrated to NZ probably in January 1867 on the ship "Maori". He married a Sarah Ann Absolum in Parnell in 1872 and settled in Whau Creek. His parents emigrated to NZ later (probably on the 'Fernglen" in 1880 and I understand his father also worked with him in the tannery although James having been born in 1814 he would have been around 65 by this stage. Henry and Sarah had 5 sons and 3 daughters between 1873 and 1887. My uncle talked about them drying hides in later years around Panmure basin so whether they worked there at some stage I dont know. Eventually Henry and Sarah, James & Elizabeth and probably some of their now grown children moved to Mangapiko near Pirongia (Alexandra) and farmed in the area. One of the sons owned a general store there with his father in law. I'm not sure why they went farming. Possibly it was to follow one of their sons to the area. James & Elizabeth are buried at Pirongia where they both died in 1901. Henry returned to Avondale after his wife Sarah died in 1905 and married again but was eventually buried with Sarah in Pirongia when he died in 1915. As far as I know nobody in the family continued in the leather industry. Henry painted many oil paintings of landscapes and country scenes in the 1870s (rather English looking) and they are scattered around his many descendants. I hope this may be of some interest to you.

Kind Regards
Nicola Bell

A further email tonight from Nicola:

I dont know the exact date that Henry moved down to Mangapiko so maybe by then he was retired and his children were the only ones farming. I dont know. And like I said the way I worded my email made it sound like they worked at Panmure later but I'm not 100% sure on that later so it could have been earlier ...And one more point (but its not really relevant to the tannery side of things but may be of interest to any Absolums out there), Henry's wife Sarah wa the daughter of William Absolum who was a whaler who arrived in Auckland around 1848 but later farmed at Otahuhu. And her mother was Catherine Leslie who came out on the Ship "Ann" with her parents to Auckland from Northern Ireland. Her father was William Leslie one of the fencible soldiers at Otahuhu.

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