Mr and Mrs Wakefield and Catherine Bell


Francis Wheatley (1749-1801), Norfolk Museums Service,  More information here

In 2009 I did post about this picture and received some comments. It was painted  around 1774 and depicts Edward Wakefield, his wife Priscilla (on the right) and Priscilla’s sister Catherine Bell in the centre.  Read about Catherine here

It is such an intriguing composition that seems full of hidden meaning. I welcome any further comment on the background, the position of the subjects, the hands, the objects they are holding and the clothing.

Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 2:05 am  Comments (1)  


Bell, Priscilla’s daughter Isabella, married Quaker Joshua Head in 1799. He was a brewer and the couple lived at Woodbridge near Ipswich. Little of the detail of Bell’s life is known but the obituary of her daughter Lucy provides a glimpse. It states that Lucy was ‘granddaughter to Priscilla Wakefield, the writer and philanthropist, and daughter to one who for many years was the foremost in all religious and philanthropic work in Ipswich’. The obituary goes on to state that ‘at the age of 16 [Lucy] followed her mother, who had received baptism a few years previously under deep spiritual convictions into the Church of England’.

Lucy was born in 1803 and would have been 16 years old in 1819 which means that Bell probably changed her religious affiliation at the time the aging Priscilla was living with her.

Source : ‘In Memoriam : Mrs Vincent Stanton’,  The Ipswich Journal, Issue 8069, 9 Jan 1883.

Published in: on April 29, 2012 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Bell’s children

Studying family history can be a rewarding but sometimes frustrating experience. In his quest one researcher has provided the marriage date  of Isabella and Joshua Head  (12th September 1794) and the birth dates of their children

Barclay HEAD born 03/01/1796
Alfred HEAD " 26/02/1797
Caroline HEAD " 1798
John HEAD " 28/03/1800
Benjamin HEAD " 02/08/1801
Lucy Ann HEAD " 06/04/1803
Edward HEAD " 16/02/1805
Henry HEAD " 10/10/1806
Maria Priscilla HEAD " 05/08/1808
Mary HEAD " 29/09/1810
Joshua Wheeler HEAD " 10/06/1812


Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 9:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Remembering Isabella

Isabella Head (b. 1841) was Priscilla’s granddaughter. The daughter of Alfred Head (b. 1797) and Elen Cooper.  Alfred was the second eldest child of Priscilla’s daughter Bell. I have come across this book for sale on the Internet. It is not listed in the British Library or the Library of Congress. The Library of the Society of Friends do not hold a copy.

I am wondering if Isabella continued the philanthropic works of her mother or grandmother? This book may be able to describe those activities and if so I would be interested in finding out more about Isabella.

Note: this post has been updated following new information. I had confused Priscilla’s daughter and granddaughter.

Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Bell – Isabella Head

Bell is Priscilla’s pet name for her beloved daughter Isabella (1773-1841).  From Priscilla’s journal entries it is clear they were very close. In 1799  Bell married Joshua Head and moved to Ipswich. At the news of the eminent arrival of a new baby Priscilla would aim to be on hand to assist her daughter. Priscilla’s health began to fail in her 60s and in 1813 she went to live permanently with Bell in Ipswich.

Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  


Priscilla’s journal for the year 1798 reveals some of the detailed aspects of her life. In her 48th year she was very active and busy. Family is always at the forefront of her concerns, from the health of her father, to the London lifestyle of her son Daniel and the upbringing of her grandchildren. She had a close relationship with her Bell sisters and brother and there is a constant round of visiting and dining.

Financial worries are a  theme. Occasionally a change of fortune seems to be on the horizon but never totally eventuates. Priscilla’s writing is an important component of the family’s finances. She writes not just for the money but it is also a creative outlet.

In the wider community she is always thinking of ways to assist people with soup schemes and the development of benefit clubs although she often has to struggle to see her vision realised.

Like many women in this century Priscilla was concerned with a lack of time especially to devote to her writing. Family demands always come first.  She gives the sense that she knows she is a successful woman but her Journals  also reveal occasional expressions of self doubt and personal admonishment.

Following is a link to a transcript of Priscilla’s 1798 Journal.

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  


Selections from Jonathan Bell’s memoirs provides some insight into the character of Priscilla’s sisters.

Catherine: a closely devoted religious Quaker. Florid complexion, dark eyes and hair more a Bell than a Barclay in looks. Her mind possessed every engaging quality … under strict regulation her thirst of knowledge was ardent and she was extensively accomplished in mental attainments. She was greatly admired. She married John Gurney a merchant of Norwich. They had a numerous family: Catherine, John, Rachael, Elizabeth, Hannah, Richonda, Louisa, Samuel, Daniel, Joseph, Priscilla. She died at a young age – her daughter Elizabeth Fry was the well-known prison reformer.

Elizabeth: elegant and stately, very handsome and graceful, endowed with talents energy and feeling over taking the strongest interest in everyone’s affairs and pursuits. She wrote some novels that were highly spoken of but never published. She did publish a book on home nursing. The death of her daughter from measles at the age of 14 or 15 is said to have nearly broken her heart. She married John Hanbury and lived to over 70 years of age. Her children were: William, Kitty, John, Capel Charles, George.

Lucy: died unmarried although she had many suitors. She suffered for many years with palpitations from an enlargement of the heart. She adopted the closest demeanor in dress and conduct and appeared as the plainest of Quakers. She had a natural cheerfulness and affectionate disposition. Of middle stature, brown complexion with black expressive eyes.

Charlotte: was more of a Friend from her youth than her sisters. She married a close friend Capel Hanbury (brother of John) and had two sons Cornelius and Daniel. She was slight and rather tall, neither brown or fair, a sensible countenance without the energetic character of her sisters and without the attractiveness they possessed. There was a reserved coldness in her disposition. She was extremely read in all kinds of literature.

Rebecca: the handsomest, a fine expressive countenance, stately in person, more brown than fair, the finest temper and disposition possible, animated and affection overflowing. Married Abel Chapman who was not a Quaker and this was a point of disagreement. They had a large family: Abel, Hannah, Mary, Catherine, Emma, Ellen, David, Jonathan, William, Daniel, Edward, Alfred, Frederick and Henry.

Christianna or Chrissy Bell: very popular, animated countenance and cheerful – very clever – quick in ideas and expressive in manner. Married twice. First to David Springhall the children Nathaniel and Catherine died young. Second husband was Thomas Hankin and she had Hannah, Chrissy, Maria, Daniel, Emma and George. She had a mind panting after knowledge and good in which her husband did not harmonise. She died a victim of extreme nervousness.  

Caroline: fair with blue eyes and flowing auburn hair. She was all sweetness and simplicity. Married John Head of Ipswich some years older than herself. She died within a year of the marriage.

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 4:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Hill

In Priscilla’s journals there are many reference to ‘The Hill’ – this was ‘Stamford Hill’ the residence of her father Daniel Bell (1726-1802).  It was located between Hewington and Tottenham with about 70 acres of land with a wharf and a warehouse on the River Lea. He ran a successful business as a coal-merchant.According to Jonathan Bell’s memoirs the property had been purchased by some of the Barclay family and he became a tenant of The Hill.

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Priscilla, Edward and Catherine Bell in 1774

In the English Country House Gallery of Norwich Castle is a portrait of Priscilla, Edward and Catherine painted by Francis Wheatley c1774.

The link to the pictures in this gallery is here

Click on the image for more information.

Priscilla is seated on the right and would have been about 23 years old. In the centre is her sister Catherine, later wife of John Gurney and mother of Elizabeth Fry.

Published in: on June 21, 2009 at 2:41 am  Comments (3)  

Priscilla’s sisters

‘Priscilla, like her mother – not tall fair and light hair, very expressive countenance, not much animation, was preceptress, I may say to her sisters, which her fine talents warranted …’ Jonathan Bell Memoirs.

Catherine (1754-1792) married John Gurney and she is described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as ‘a pious woman and serious Friend’. Her brother Jonathan Bell relates that ‘her thirst for knowledge was ardent’. She died at the age of thirty-eight and had twelve children. Her daughter Elizabeth Fry is known for her campaign to reform prisons.

Lucy died in 1796 around the time Priscilla’s journal is first available. In her summary of the year she notes ‘five siblings of the original eight survive’.

Like Priscilla, Elizabeth Bell Hanbury was an author and wrote The Good Nurse, or Hints on the Management of the Sick and Laying-in Chamber published in 1825 and dedicated to Mrs Priscilla Wakefield.

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 8:46 am  Leave a Comment