Item 8 to 44 - Letters : Bessie Wells to father

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Letters : Bessie Wells to father


  • 1884-1893 (Creation)

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37 letters

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William Levitt Wells (1853-1918), and his wife Elizabeth (Bessie) Lucy Lidbetter (1852-1925), both Friends (Quakers), sailed for Tasmania in 1884 on the SS. Bonnington with their children, Edith (1879-1917), Frank (1880-1957), Arnold (1882-1938) and baby Mary (born 17 Sept. 1883). Two more children were born in Tasmania, Martin (1885-1965) and Hugh (1888-1922). W.L. Wells was the son of William Wells, draper and tailor of Kettering and his wife Mary (formerly Levitt) both members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Bessie Lidbetter was the daughter of Martin Lidbetter headmaster of the Friends School, Wigton, Cumberland, where she also had been a teacher. The Wells family were accompanied by two Friends (ie Quakers), Margaret Elizabeth (Maggie) Greer (1854-1901) and Mary Ellen (Minnie) Greer (1859-1939), daughters of Thomas Jackson and Eliza Greer of Belfast. Maggie Greer married William Lewis May in 1887 and Minnie married Richard P. Furmage in 1888. On arrival in Hobart the family were welcomed by the Mather family, also Friends and relatives by marriage (lFrancis Mather had married Margaret Ann Lidbetter in 1874). William Wells worked in Mather's store for a time. In February 1886 Wells was appointed manager of the Don branch store of the Don Trading Company by John Henry, the owner, and about 1888 he took over the store, which became William Wells & Co. Wells moved to Latrobe in 1893.

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Letters written by Elizabeth Lucy (Bessie) Wells to father, Martin Lidbetter, and mother 1884 - 1886. Bessie's letters to her parents were intended for all her family, as she says in her first letter on the voyage (6 May 1884) which was addressed to Father, Mother, Robert & Sophie, Tom & Lizzie, Willie, Harry & Mary. Her first letter was written from Greenhithe before sailing and describes their boarding, seen off by the Wells father, Prissie, Uncles James Wells, Henry & Louie and her two children, Mabel and Arthur. Her letters supplement the journal of the voyage and describe their lives on the voyage, in Hobart and later at the Don River. There are references to the children's schooling, their hopes for a Friends School and eventual arrival of Samuel Clemes and family and the start of the School and the attendance of Edith and Frank, although the expense was almost too much but Edith gained a scholarship. There are references to visits from other Friends and occasionally relatives, visits to Melbourne, etc. A letter of 13.12.1891 was written on Wells Store printed letter-head.
• Nos. 8-12, 1884 - voyage
• Nos.13-18, 1885 - January 1886 - Hobart
• Nos.19-25, 1886, February-August Don River store (including incomplete letter from Melbourne with postscript from Don, 8 June 1886 - Arnold's eye)
• Nos.26-44, 1887-1893 Don River (including two undated letters c1891- Edith got scholarship, c1892 wedding of Walter Lean at Table Cape, Minnie Furmage and 2 children, Willie going to Latrobe daily, Frank possibly not returning to Friends School after Christmas as fees £50 now he had turned twelve)

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This material is made available for personal research and study purposes under the University of Tasmania Standard Copyright Licence. For any further use permission should be obtained from the copyright owners. For assistance please contact

When reusing this material, please cite the reference number and provide the following acknowledgement:
“Courtesy of the UTAS Library Special & Rare Collections”

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CE September 2018




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