Week 30 #52ancestrs 52 weeks

In 1815 Thomas BELL was lost at sea. He was on the Providence as a mate sailing from Great Yarmouth to Newcastle. His wife Hannah’s petition[1] provides us with information about Thomas that would be missing otherwise.

Thomas was a sailor who first went to sea at the age of eighteen in 1780. he worked in the Merchant Navy for many years, the widows form doesn’t provide many details. Being a sailor implies that he had a colorful life, with a girl in every port and a chance to see the world. Where is reality it was a hard life although the pay on a merchant ship was higher than the navy. The American Revolutionary War was happening when Thomas joined and even thought he was in the merchant navy, they were part of the British fleet.

Thomas started his life as an apprentice around 1780, while this is on the Trinity House Petitions no birth record has been confirmed.

thomas bell marriage
Marriage Certificate

We know that Thomas BELL married Hannah SPARSHALL on 18 Mar 1789 at Saint Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth  and that they were both of this parish. While a baptism record has been found for Hannah no record has been discovered for Thomas.

Hannah and Thomas has 6 children that has been discovered. Harriet BELL married Edward Waller LOADES in the same church that her parents had been married in 1819. Her mother would have still been alive at the time of her marriage, so we can imagine that she was present at the wedding.

GirdleNess Aberdeen

Thomas along with all his crew members perished at sea on that fateful day in January 1815. The Providence had sailed from Yarmouth to Sunderland and taken on a load of coal then moved on to Aberdeen. The papers of the time tell of the intense front that occurred, and that 3 ships were destroyed and many lives were lost during this 2 day period.


Hannah did not make a claim until late in life after she had worked as a housekeeper for much of her life. She was 78 when she made a claim for support. During the 1841 census Hannah was living with her son Benjamin J Bell in 125 The Rows, Great Yarmouth. Hannah applied for support in 1845, this entitled her to 20 pounds support per-annum. We can only assume she received the funding to support her in her old age. She passed way and was buried at St Nicholas in February 1847.

The Rows, Great Yamouth


[1] The Corporation of Trinity House (1845). Widows Form Hannah BELL. Trinity House, Tower Hill (photocopy of the original). The Trinity House Petitions. London, England: Society of Genealogists, 1987

[2] Marriage Certificate Thomas BELL Hannah SPARSHALL, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

[3] Creative Commons. Chris Downer. File:Aberdeen, sea in sun, sand in shade – – 598039.jpg

[4] The Rows, Great Yarmouth. Photo taken by the author.


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