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Photo of Sarah Jane Bell

Sarah Jane Bell

Munitions Worker
Birthplace Cumberland Longtown England Date of Birth: July 21, 1895 Date of Death: January 19, 1972


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : 


Sarah Jane Bell 
Gender  Feale  
Date and place of birth  21st July 1895 Kirklinton, Longtown, Cumberland 
Date and Place of Death: 


Quarter 3 1972, Northumberland, South 



Photo sourced from public Ancestry tree

Childhood  11 siblings, early life on  a farm just N of Carlisle then family moved to Northumberland to mine when Sarah was about 6 or 7. 
Parents  William Bell and Annie Maria nee Bell 
Parents occupations  Farmer the Coal miner. Mother as dressmaker   
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance:  


Not known  
Occupation  Munitionette 
Place of residence at Gretna: 


Not known  
Marital status  Married twice :- 1923 and 1946. 
Children  Possibly 7 definitely 6 


None known  
Positions held  As above 
Trivia / any other information:  



  • Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):  
  • Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):  



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  • Websites about the individual:  


Further links, notes, and comments: 








Sarah Jane Bell 1895-1972 


Sarah Jane was born on 21st July 1895 at Kirklinton near Carlisle, to William Bell and Annie Maria nee Bell. It  appears that Sarah Jane was the 8th of 12 children born to William and Annie between 1881 and 1902.  

William and Annie married in 1881 , it is assumed in the Rockcliffe-Kirklinton area North of Carlisle. William was a farm labourer . His  father William was a farmer of 110 acres of Milltown farm in 1881. They are listed as living on his parents farm at the time along with 4 of his brothers and an unmarried sister and child, Margaret Storey Bell and child John Andrew Bell, 1. There is a photograph of him in uniform in the attached folder. William was one of 14 children.  

Annie has a fascinating background having been born in 1859 and baptised in Everton. Her father Joseph Bell  was described in the 1861 census as a corn miller , born in Durham , his wife Sarah was born in Aglionby near Wigton North Cumbria . In 1861 she was a dressmaker with 1 year old daughter Annie and a 5 year old son Joseph. 

By the time Annie was 12 in 1871 she was living at 6 Laws Lane, Carlisle with her dressmaker aunt, Catherine Tiffen, 43,. Catherine Bell , 22 described as a niece and also a dressmaker born Carlisle, Jane Ellen , 29 born in Scotland- another niece  and a hat trimmer by trade , John George , nephew 16 a cabinet maker born in Carlisle  and finally Annie , a scholar listed as 12. Laws Lane was one of the many City centre Lanes incorporated into “ The Lanes” , modern day shopping centre.  

By 1881  Annie Maria, Jane Ellen and John George are still in Laws Lane but Annie is now also a dressmaker alongside Jane. John George continues with his cabinet making. The aunt is not listed nor is Catherine Bell who was there is 1871.  

This is the year that Annie married William and the year that they had their first child Robert Storey Bell on 13th April 1881. William followed in 1882, John in September 1884, Thomas Andrew in January 1887, Margaret Ann in 1889, Joseph Edward 1891, Edward Wilson 1893, Sarah Jane 1895, George Benjamin 1897, Mary Eleanor 1898, Elizabeth Isabella 1901 and finally Frederick Arthur in 1902. By the time Sarah Jane was 8 years old she would witness the arrival of 4 siblings and the death of 3 of them. George born in 1897 died the same year, Mary died the year after she was born and Frederick born in 1902 died in 1903. There is a family portrait taken about 1898 in the attached folder- Sarah Jane being the youngest. 

The 1891 census shows William, Annie and children living at Parcelstown Cottage, near Longtown ,William being a  farm servant. A this point they have 5 children.  

By the time of the 1901 census, William and Annie have 9 children, he is a 42 year old farm labourer and they are living at Priest Hill, Beaumont near Longtown. Only the younger 6 children are living at home. 

Robert aged 19 is listed as a farm servant at a farm at Whitehill Cottage , Scaleby. There is no obvious evidence for eldest son William or John for 1901. 

We believe from anecdotal evidence of a family member that this family left farming and Cumberland in 1903/4 to begin a new life in the mining community of Earsdon, Northumberland. Remembering that they have lost 3 babies in the last few years.This is where we find them in 1911. 

At the time of the 1911 census they are living in 5 rooms at 16, Drydens Buildings, Earson , Northumberland. It is likely that these were colliery houses , many collieries built and owned “Rows” or “ Buildings”. This is where we learn that they have been married for 30 years , have had 12 children, 9 of them living. The 10 occupants of the dwelling are William a miner – underground, and Ann, John now 26 a miner , Thomas Andrew 24, miner, Margaret Ann, 21 no occupation, Joseph 19, miner, Edward Wilson 17, miner, Sarah Jane 15 no occupation, Elizabeth Isabella 10 and Joseph 3.Elizabeth is at school. 

We know from a photograph of Sarah Jane taken in  her work attire and from anecdotal evidence from a  family member that she worked at H M Factory Gretna as a munitionette for a period of time between 1916 when production of cordite began to at least 1918. It is highly likely that she lived in one of the many women’s hostels.  

In the second quarter of 1923 Sarah Jane married for the first time. She married Robert Henry Johnson, a miner although the only evidence of this occupation is in the 1939 register.  Robert was born in 1881 , 14 years Sarah’s senior. She was 28 and he was 42.  

Retrospectively from the 1939 register we learn that they had 6 living children. Unfortunately the details of 3 are blacked out.  

Thomas J was born on 19th February 1926, Jean on 5th April 1929 , another child in 1930, William H on 20th October 1931 then a further 2 children.  

Sarah’s father died in 1932 aged 74 and her mother in 1936 aged 76. Her uncle John Andrew photographed smartly in his uniform probably at the time of the second Boer War, (1899-1902), died in Pretoria, S Africa in 1935.  

In 1939 Sarah and Robert are living ay 65 South Street, Seaton Valley, Northumberland. Robert is an unemployed miner. With 6 children times must have been very tough.  

The 1939 register gives us an insight into Sarah’s siblings. Her brother Robert Storey is married and living in Newcastle. A hewer in a coal mine. He has at least 3 offspring, one of whom is employed locally as a domestic servant and a son who is an incapacitated coal miner.  

Edward Wilson is also a coal hewer living in Newcastle. 

Thomas Andrew is a gardener living on the Isle of Wight, “Private service .”   

Tragedy struck Sarah in 1942 and 1943. Firstly her son Thomas died aged 16 in 1942 and her husband Robert died the following year. Robert was 62. Sarah was still only 48. 

Within 3 years she remarried James W Mason, a 45 year old widower and neighbour. James was born in February 1901 , widowed in 1942 when he was living at 15, South Street , Seaton Valley. The 1939 census describes James as a duffer in a coal mine. 

Very little information is readily available regarding either of Sarah’s husbands. Living in a close knit mining community Sarah will not have had an easy life bringing up her family although the community will have been supportive.  

We don’t know whether she had any grandchildren. James died in 1968 aged 67 and Sarah survived him by 4 years dying in the third quarter of 1972 at age 77.  Her son William died in 1974 when he was just 43. 

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Related by County - Cumberland

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