Extract from Book One of the "Duffields of Bicton 1776-1974"

This book was apparently privately published by "OD", a member of the Duffield family. The extract was sent to me from W Australia by Edward Keenan, a descendant of Rosetta Bell, who was his great grandmother and FW's aunt. Edward Keenan died in early 2004.

Note: In October 2003 John Bissett in WA sent me the following details about the book: John said that the pages sent to me by Edward Keenan are the only ones with reference to FW. In August 2004 Peter Enlund sent me photocopies of the relevant pages - 96-105 - which included the Family Tree from 1819 when George Bell, the first of the Australian branch, was born. Family Tree

"Duffields of Bicton 1776 -1974 was compiled by Oliver and Pauline Duffield of South Australia. It is a 128 page bound book published in 1974. Additional publication came out in the early nineties. Both Oliver and Pauline have, I believe, passed over. (JCB: the relevant pages are 96-105)
John Duffield came out to WA in 1830 with his family and settled on land now known as Bicton, Perth Western Australia. John was given one of first land grants along the Swan River. John was a cooper (maker of barrels). It would appear that he was born in Bicton in Devon and worked on the estate of Bicton Gardens. The book has family trees and photos of family members."

Lydia Charlotte Duffield was born at Plymouth on the 4th June 1829. She was baptized on the 2lst June of that year by the Rev. Robert Hawker in the Parish Church of Charles. She was an infant of four months when her father, John Hole Duffield, left Plymouth for Western Australia. When she arrived with her mother at Fremantle, she was only two years of age and would, therefore, have had no recollection of England. On the 24th January 1846, and at the age of sixteen, Lydia married George Bell, who was then twenty-seven. They were married in St. John's Church, Fremantle, by the Rev. C. King; the record of the ceremony appears in Volume 1, page 3, of the matrimonial records of Western Australia. George Bell was the third son of Henry Thrubshaw Bell of Greenwich, England. George arrived at Fremantle in 1840 in the old sailing ship "Napoleon", which was commanded by Captain Rutledge, his brother-in-law. In the Western Australian Almanac of 1865 George was listed as a carpenter. He was forty-six years of age at the time.

George Bell owned land in Hay Street, Perth, and he and Lydia lived there for many years. When their home in Perth was demolished, they moved to a cottage in Church Avenue, Subiaco. Lydia carried on the traditional name of "Bicton" by giving it to this house, which, incidentally still stands to this day. (Recently I have endeavoured to further perpetuate the name by calling my own home, here at Glenelg North, South Australia, by the same name. It is my sincere hope that others, in years to come, will continue the practice).

Few people have the joy of celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of their wedding and Lydia and George were the first couple married in Western Australia to achieve this distinction. Their diamond wedding was celebrated at home and the accompanying photograph (on p. 97) was taken there. It is worth remembering that George Bell was eighty-seven years when this photograph was taken. What a wonderful specimen he looked at this age - a grand old man. He died on the 29th November 1908 at the age of eighty-nine. Lydia lived on for almost another seven years. Her death occurred on the 23rd July 19l5. She was eighty-six and a colonist of eighty-four years. They were buried at the old East Perth pioneer cemetery. The cemetery and the church of St. Bartholomew, which stands in its grounds, have been placed on the classified list of the National Trust as a place to be preserved as an essential part of the nation's heritage.

Lydia and George had twelve children. One of their daughters, Evelyn Foss, married James McFarlane Lapsley, a master plumber. The success of the goldfields in Western Australia was largely due to him. Health problems in the early days of the goldfields were closely associated with the lack of good water. Lapsley solved the water problem by condensing salt water from the shallow lakes and wells sunk near by. He built his first small plant at Kurnalpi early in 1894. This became known as the "desert condenser". It could be taken to pieces and easily packed on a camel or horse. Many people throughout the diggings survived the long, hot summers solely because of these machines. Lapsley's idea was quickly developed and condensing plants on an immense scale were built at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. They produced thousands of gallons of good drinking water daily. It has been said that James Lapsley is the forgotten man of Kalgoorlie's history. It was he, and his mate, who cut, soldered and welded the maze of pipes and tanks and maintained the numerous condensers in the desert. Without them, the mining towns of the West would not have existed. In later years, Lapsley was the Superintendent of Metropolitan Fire Brigades in Perth, where he and Evelyn were popular and very well-liked.

One of Lydia's grandsons, Lieut. F. W. Bell, was the first Western Australian to win a Victoria Cross. It was awarded on the 16th May 1901 for outstanding bravery at Brakpan during the Boer War. When the War broke out in 1899, he enlisted as a private with the 1st Western Australian contingent. He fought in several major engagements, was seriously wounded and invalided to England. After a partial recovery he returned to Western Australia. Still not fit, it is said that he bluffed his way through another medical examination and returned to South Africa with the 6th (Mounted Infantry) contingent, and then came the occasion at Brakpan which won him his Victoria Cross. While retiring under very heavy fire, after holding the right flank, Fred noticed a man dismounted. He returned and picked him up, but the horse was not equal to the double weight and fell with them. Fred remained behind and covered his mate's retirement until he was out of danger. During the 1914-1918 War he served as an officer of the British Army. In 1915, as a temporary captain, he was commandant of an Army rest camp, and later of embarkation troops at Plymouth. He attained the rank of lieut.-colonel. After the War he led an adventurous life whilst in the employ of the British Colonial Office in Somaliland, Kenya and Northern Nigeria. His skill as a big game hunter was well known - on one occasion, in British Somaliland, he was severely mauled by a lion. His body was ripped open, a lung collapsed and his skull injured. He retired from the Colonial Office in 1925 and resided in England. Lieut.-Colonel Bell died at Bristol (England) at the age of seventy-nine. Two of his brothers served in the A.I.F. and were killed in action - Private Edgar Watson Bell at Gallipoli in May 1915; and Lieut. Bert Adam Bell at Pozieres in July 1916.

The second child of Lydia and George was Henry Thomas Bell. One of his daughters, Myra Lydia Bell, married Cuthbert Morton Playne, whose family came to Australia from Gloucestershire about 1890 and settled at Albany. The Playne family originally migrated from France to England in the 16th or 17th century. At that time, skilled weavers were encouraged to enter England in an attempt to improve the woollen industry. The Playnes owned and operated woollen mills for two hundred years. One of these mills, "Longfords", is still a thriving business, operating under the name of William Playne and Co., although the family no longer retains its connection with it. It exports beautiful woollen cloth all over the world and also makes the material for the Guardsmen's uniforms, covering for tennis balls and tops for billiard tables at the factory at Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. Myra and Cuthbert Playnes' daughter, Dorothy Eva, (now living at Claremont) married into another old Western Australian pioneering family. Her husband, Peter Mews, is a great-grandson of Thomas William Mews, who arrived with his wife and family at Fremantle in the "Rockingham" in 1830. They came from Dorset, England, and are direct descendants of Doctor Peter Mews (1619- 1706) who was Bishop of Winchester in the reign of Charles II. They brought with them a wooden house, built in sections for easy erection. The Mews family were a family of shipwrights and they built some fine vessels including the schooners - Scud, Ione, Star and Comet - and many lighters and pearling luggers. About the year 1855, Thomas Mews built the Swan River's first steamer, "The Speculator", at the foot of Mt. Eliza. Mr. John Watson, the pilot who took the wheel for "The Speculator's" maiden voyage, was the father of Henry Bell's wife, Alice Watson. He had been a petty-officer in the Royal Navy and was regarded by the early colonists as an authority on nautical matters. It was a momentous trip. "The Speculator" struggled throughout the entire morning down the Swan River as far as the Canning Bridge and then laboured for another five hours to make the return trip to Perth.

Thelma Brearley, grand-daughter of Rosetta Bell, tells the story of the rather unusual circumstances leading to the courtship of Lydia Duffield and George Bell. One day, as he was riding his horse to work from Fremantle to Perth, George saw Lydia seated on a log and weeping. Although he had seen her many times before at this particular spot (near where Claremont is now - she went there regularly to collect mail), he had never spoken to her. Noticing her distress, however, on this occasion, George dismounted. He discovered the reason for her tears was that her parents wished her to marry a man she did not like - he was too old for her, and, moreover, she hated his beard. Subsequently, George told Lydia he had admired her from afar and suggested that she marry "him". Thereupon, she confessed that she admired him too, and was willing to marry him if they could get parental consent. How long this took is not known, but obviously they did succeed. It could not have been very long, for Lydia was only sixteen when they married; George was twenty-seven.

An amusing incident, also related by Thelma Brearly, occurred at the reading of Lydia Bell's will. As was the custom in those days, all the family assembled for the occasion, including Lydia's daughter, Rosetta (Mrs Brearley's grandmother). Rosetta knew full well she wouldn't be mentioned in the will as her mother disapproved of her (she was quite right, because she didn't receive a cracker). However she went along purely to see the fun and to keep the kettle boiling for afternoon tea. Several members of the family, bitterly disappointed on realizing that they also were not beneficiaries, began to swoon and Rosetta calmly deposited them on chairs under the pepper-trees in the garden, with smelling salts etc. When she ran out of chairs she attempted to put the last casualty on the grass, but when this particular lady found she was to go on the grass, she promptly came out of her swoon. She wasn't going to have her new dress dirtied on the ground. (Oh, that I had a photograph to show the despair of these poor souls - O.D.)

Rosetta was the third child of Lydia and George. By all accounts she was a most remarkable character. Her grandson, Mostyn Young (brother of Thelma Brearley) was killed in the fighting on Crete in 1941, during World War II. The fourth child of Lydia and George was George William Bell, Headmaster of the Perth Boys' School in St George's Terrace, Perth. This building is to be preserved by the National Trust. On retirement, an illuminated address was presented to George by the boys of the school. George married Sarah Stinton and they had three sons and four daughters. Sarah was a grand-daughter of John Stinton who built, and operated for many years, a wind driven flour mill at Picton, near the Leschenault Estuary.

None of the daughters married. George's eldest son, Aubrey William Bell, was a bank officer, firstly with the State Savings Bank of Western Australia and later with the Commonwealth Bank, when it took over the State Bank during the depression of the 1930s. The State Bank was in Hay Street, Perth, under the old Town Hall. The Commonwealth Bank was in St George's Terrace. Hay Street was crowded when a trolley drew up with two immense office safes, ostensibly full of money from the Commonwealth bank. Many believed that this was nothing more than a "show" and that there was not a bean inside the safes. Nevertheless, the effect was acclaimed and faith and stability restored. I have been unable to discover anything regarding the life of the fifth child of Lydia and George - Wesley Bell, who married Elizabeth Corrigan. However, his youngest child and only daughter, Ivy, became a Roman Catholic. She was a brilliant pianist and entered the Convent of Mercy, Victoria Square, Perth. She is now deceased.

In August 2018 I received the following from Phil Alberts in Hong Kong:

I am a distant relative of the Mews line in Western Australia, and recently came across the enclosed photo. I think your web site helped me to identify the line of Peter Mews, so thought I would send on the photo in case it is of any interest. It came from the colleciton of a niece of Emily Maud Green, who married Sydney Alfred Mews in 1909.

The text above from The Duffields of Bicton show how the Mews fit into the Bell family. They were decended from one of Fred's aunts. Search for Mews in the Duffield's text above to find the references.