Benjamin WELLS (c.1820–1895)
His first wife Mrs Harriet WELLS, née Cox (c.1820–1870)
His second wife Mrs Elizabeth WELLS, née Belcher (c.1834–1874)
His third wife Mrs Marion WELLS, née Belcher (1841–1938)
His eldest son Benjamin Thomas WELLS (1843–1897)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 19, Grave D68½
IN MEMORY OF
THE BELOVED WIFE OF
WHO DIED JUNE 8 1870
AGED 50 YEARS.
ALSO OF ELIZABETH WIFE OF
WHO DIED JANUARY … 1874
AGED 40 YEARS
ALSO OF BENJAMIN WELLS
WHO DIED APRIL 17TH 1893
AGED 74 YEARS
ALSO BENJAMIN THOMAS
ELDEST SON OF THE ABOVE
WHO DIED NOV 8TH 1897 AGED 54
On reverse of headstone:
THIRD WIFE OF
WHO DIED JUNE 7TH 1938
AGED 97 YEARS
R. I. P.
Benjamin Wells was born in Oxford in c.1820, the son of the carpenter James Wells and his wife Martha, and was baptised at St Michael's Church on 31 March 1821. (They had an earlier child of that name baptised there on 17 October 1813, but he was buried in St Michael's churchyard on 11 August 1815.)
Harriet Cox, the first wife of Benjamin Wells, was born in Faringdon (then in Berkshire) in c.1820. She may be the Harriet Cox, daughter of George & Elizabeth Cox, who was born on 27 April 1821 and baptised at Faringdon Church on 20 May 1821.
On 17 May 1841 at St Ebbe's, Church, Oxford, Benjamin Wells, described as a joiner of New Street, married his first wife Harriet Cox of George Street. They had the following children:
- Benjamin Thomas Wells (born in Oxford in 1843 and baptised at St Michael's Church on 20 July)
- James Philip Wells (born at Bulwarks Alley, Oxford in 1845 and privately baptised by St Peter-le-Bailey Church on 20 June; received into the church on 21 December).
The family was evidently living in St Michael's parish in mid-1843, but had moved to Bulwarks Lane by mid-1845.
By the time of the 1851 census Benjamin (30), who was a master carpenter & joiner, was living in George Street with his first wife Harriet (31) and their sons Benjamin Thomas (7) and James Philip (5). Their house was then numbered 42 and was in St Mary Magdalen parish.
By the time of the 1861 census Benjamin was a cabinet maker, now living at 36 Broad Street, also in St Mary Magdalen parish, with his first wife Harriet and Benjamin (17), who was now a cabinet maker like his father, and James (15), and they now employed a servant. Their house at 36 Broad Street was one of the row of thirteen houses dating from the first half of the seventeenth century that were demolished to make way for the New Bodleian Library in the late 1930s. It can be seen here, immediately to the left of the pub on the western corner of the junction.
Their younger son was married in 1868:
- On 9 July 1868 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, James Philip Wells, now described as an upholsterer, married Martha Elizabeth Quelch, the daughter of the bootmaker John Quelch of that parish.
Benjamin Wells's first wife Harriet committed suicide in the bedroom of her other son Benjamin in 1870:
† Mrs Harriet Wells née Cox died at 36 Broad Street at the age of 50 on 8 June 1870 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 10 June (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).
The inquest was held at her home, 36 Broad Street. The only witness called was her unmarried son Benjamin, and Jackson's Oxford Journal of 11 June 1870 reported his deposition thus:
I live in these premises, and Harriett Wells, the deceased, was my mother. She has been mentally afflicted since last September, when she came home from the sea-side. Her bodily health was, however, very good. For the last three months of her ailing my father applied for her admission to Littlemore Asylum, and also to the Warneford, which was refused. She had lately improved, so that we did not even watch her. My mother lately drove a pony and trap over to Wolvercot, and then appeared all right. On Wednesday morning she breakfasted with the family, and opened and read several letters. After breakfast we went upstairs, and spoke about business, and made out several accounts. I afterwards went into my bed-room to wash, and from thence I went to the yard. As I passed the front room I called to my mother, and she answered me, but I did not see her. When I returned from the yard to the kitchen I called to my mother again, but, receiving no answer, I went upstairs. Not seeing my mother in the front room I entered my own bed-room and there I found her hanging from a staple in the roof. I at once cut her down, and sent for medical aid, but it was too late, as she was dead. She was 50 years of age. When she was ill, after returning from the sea-side, we had a nurse to watch her; indeed we never left her for some time; but during the last three months she had seemed to need no watching.
The verdict was that “The deceased destroyed herself while insane.”
At the time of the 1871 census Benjamin Wells, a widower of 50, was described as a master cabinet maker employing two men and three apprentices, living at 36 Broad Street with his son Benjamin Thomas Wells (27) and their servant.
On 22 August 1871 at St Michael & All Angels Church in Summertown, Benjamin Wells married his second wife Elizabeth Belcher (born c.1834), the daughter of the carpenter John Belcher, and they appear to have moved to Summertown.
Benjamin's second wife died just over two years after the marriage:
† Mrs Elizabeth Wells née Belcher died at Summertown at the age of 40 in January 1874 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 18 January (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).
On 1 June 1874 at All Saints Church in Faringdon, just four months after his second wife's death, Benjamin Wells married his third wife, Marion Belcher (born in Faringdon in 1841 and baptised there on 9 May). Their marriage was announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 6 June 1874, and repeated the following week with a correction. Marion Belcher is likely to have been related to his second wife Elizabeth Belcher, but they were not sisters, as Marion was the second daughter of the labourer William Belcher and the servant Mary Bowler who were married at Faringdon on 17 October 1839.
Marion came back with Benjamin to Summertown, where they had the following children:
- Edward Thomas Barton Wells (born at Osmington House, Summertown on 13 April 1877, with the birth announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal, and baptised there on 30 April; died soon after birth)
- Beatrice Mary Wells (born in Summertown in 1880 and baptised there on 12 September).
Benjamin's elder son by his first wife, Benjamin Thomas Wells, was married in Bristol in 1875: see below.
At the time of the 1881 census Benjamin (60), who was still working as a cabinet maker, was living in Summertown at Osmington House in Rogers Street (then called Church Street) with his third wife Marion (39) and their daughter Beatrice (eight months), plus a servant.
In 1891 Benjamin (72) was retired, living at Osmington House, Sunnymeade with his third wife Marion and their daughter Beatrice (10).
Benjamin Wells died in 1893:
† Benjamin Wells died at Sunnymeade, Summertown at the age of 74 on 17 April 1893 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 22 April (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).
His effects came to £292 9s., and probate was granted to three executors including his widow Marion.
His son Benjamin Thomas Wells died just four years later and was buried with his father: see below.
Benjamin Wells's third wife Marion is hard to find in the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Her daughter Beatrice Mary Wells (27) was living in Ealing in 1911 as the companion to Miss Mary Rous (33), the daughter of an artist.
Benjamin Wells's third wife Marion died at an advanced age in an Oxford mental hospital in 1938:
† Mrs Marion Wells née Belcher died at Littlemore Mental Hospital at the age of 97 on 10 June 1938 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 10 June (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).
Her effects came to £711 3s., and her executor was her daughter Beatrice. Her name was added to the back of her husband's grave marker.
Benjamin Thomas Wells, eldest son of Benjamin Wells and his first wife Harriet
Benjamin Thomas Wells was born in Oxford in 1843: see above for his early life.
On 27 July 1875 at St Barnabas's Church in Bristol, Benjamin Thomas Wells married Mary Jane Cornish, the third daughter of Mr James Gough of 22 Marlborough Street, Bristol. The marriage was announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal. Around the time of his marriage, he took over his father's cabinet-making business at 36 Broad Street.
At the time of the 1881 census Benjamin Thomas Wells (37) and his wife Mary Jane (29) were living alone at 36 Broad Street. They went on to have two children there:
- Benjamin James Wells (born at 36 Broad Street, Oxford in 1883 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 17 November): birth announced in Jackson's Oxford Journal)
- Mabel Harriet Wells (born at 36 Broad Street, Oxford on 5 July 1886 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 29 September).
In 1891 Benjamin and Mary Jane were at home with their two children, plus a boarder and a general servant.
Benjamin Thomas Wells died in 1897:
† Benjamin Thomas Wells died at 36 Broad Street at the age of 54 on 8 November 1897 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 12 November (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).
His effects came to £106, and his wife Mary Jane was his executor. She continued to run his family business and was listed in directories as a cabinet maker and upholsterer at 36 Broad Street.
At the time of the 1901 census Mary Jane Wells (49) was living at 36 Broad Street with her children Benjamin James Wells (17), who was a telephone fitter, and Mabel Harriet Wells (14), who was a pupil teacher.
Mrs Mary Jane Wells née Cornish died at 36 Broad Street at the age of 32 and was buried on 6 April 1904. As her burial is recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church, it seems likely that she would have been buried here with her husband; but her name does not appear on the grave marker.
The two surviving children of Benjamin Wells
- James Philip Wells (born in 1845 to Benjamin's first wife Harriet) was an upholsterer at the time of the 1871 census, living at 47 Holywell Street, Oxford with his wife Martha and their daughter Agnes (1): they had an undergraduate lodger and a servant. They were still there in 1881 and had two more children: James (9) and Henry George (3). By 1891 James and his wife were living at Kingston Road with their son Henry (13) and two lodgers. He died at 45 Hythe Bridge Street at the age of 52 on 16 January 1898. His effects came to £388 5s., and his executor was his wife Martha.
- Beatrice Mary Wells (born in 1880 to Benjamin's third wife Marion) never married. She died in Oxford at the age of 86 in 1967.
The two children of Benjamin Thomas Wells and his wife Mary Jane
(grandchildren of Benjamin & Harriet Wells)
- Benjamin James Wells (born 1883) married Rosaline Meredith in the Eton district near the end of 1907. At the time of the 1911 census Benjamin James Wells (27) was an electrical engineer, living at 30 Barge House Road, Woolwich with his wife Rosaline (30) and their first child Benjamin Meredith Wells (2). They had at least three more children: Mary M. Wells (1914), Gladys I. E. Wells (1915), and Charles Wells (1916). Benjamin James Wells died at Orient, Milner Road, Burnham, Buckinghamshire at the age of 45 on 3 March 1929. His effects came to £469 3s. 5d., and his executor was his wife Rosaline.
- Mabel Harriet Wells (born 1886) was aged 24 in 1911 and living at 12 Portland Road in north Oxford, where she was the servant of Gilbert Slater, Principal of Ruskin College, and his family. She is hard to trace after that date.