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The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname Bell-Chambers
the chronicles of England, though sometimes shrouded by the mists of time, reveal the early records of the name Bell-Chambers as a Norman surname which ranks as one of the oldest. The history of the name is interwoven into the colourful fabric as an intrinsic part of the history of Britain.
Careful research by professional analysts using such ancient manuscripts as the Domesday Book (compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace poem, the Honour Roll of the Battel Abbey, The Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismals, family genealogies, and local parish and church records, shows of the name Bell-Chambers was found in Essex, where they were seated after 1066. The name is associated with the village of Belencombre in the Dieppe region of Normandy and took its present form after being transferred to England with the conquest.
Many alternate spellings of the name were found. They were typically linked to a common root, usually one of the Norman nobles at the Battle of Hastings. The name Bell-Chambers occurred in many references, and from time to time, tie surname included the spellings of Bellchamber, Belchamber, Bellchambers, Belchambers, Belencombre, Belencumbre, Belichambe, Belchambe, and many more.
Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded. It was not unlikely that a person would be born with one spelling, married with another, and buried with a headstone which showed another. All three spellings related to the same person. Sometimes preferences for different spelling variations either came from a division of the family, or, had religious reasons, or sometimes patriotic reasons.
The family name Bell-Chambers is believed to be descended originally from the Norman race. They were commonly believed to be of French origin but were, more accurately, of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870 A.D., under their Chief, Stirgud the Stout. Later, under their Earl Thorfinn Rollo, they invaded France about 910 A.D.
The French King, Charles the Simple, after Rollo laid siege to Paris, finally conceded defeat and granted northern France to Rollo. Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy, the territory of the North Men. Duke William who invaded and defeated England in 1066, was descended from the first Duke Rollo of Normandy. Duke William took a census of most of England in 1086, and recorded it in the Domesday Book. A family name capable of being traced back to this document, or to Hastings, was a signal honour for most families during the middle ages, and even to this day.
The surname Bell-Chambers emerged as a notable English family name in the county of Essex, where William Belencumbre was registered in 1235. During the Middle Ages the family in Essex included several prominent landholders, such as John and Robert de Belencumbre who were living there in 1273. From the late Middle Ages through to the industrial revolution the family was witness lo a chain of historical events which remade the face of England. The 14th century was a time of social upheaval marked by the spread of the Black Death and a peasant rebellion led by Wat Tyler.
The next century was dominated by the War of the Roses, which pitted the red rose of the House of Lancaster against the white rose of the House of York in a hitter struggle over control of the crown. By the 1500s, however, England was a state in transition from mediaeval to modern organization and it emerged as the leading naval power in the world. But political discord erupted during the 17th century as the English Civil War between the Crown (Cavaliers) and Parliament (Roundheads) shook the nation before it entered the industrial age. During these turbulent times the family branched to London, where Marv Belchamber was buried in 1654. Merrian Belchamber married Thomas Shelberry in London in 1677 and Samuel Belchambers married Elizabeth Grant there in 1794. Of note amongst the family at this time was William Belencumbre, a prominent 13th century landholder in Essex.
The surname Bell-Chambers contributed much to local politics and in the affairs of England or Scotland. During the 12th century many of these Norman families moved north to Scotland, following Earl David of Huntingdon who would become King of Scotland. Later, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, England and Scotland were ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament fought for supremacy. The unrest caused many to think of distant lands.
Settlers in Ireland became known as the "Adventurers for land in Ireland". They "undertook" to keep the Protestant faith, and were granted lands previously owned by the Irish. No record of this family migrating to Ireland was found, however this does not preclude the possibility of individual migration. The news of attractions of the New World spread like wildfire. Many sailed aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the „White Sails“.
In North America, migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the family name Bell-Chambers, or variable spellings of that same family name included W. Bellchambers who arrived in Ontario in 1877. From the port of arrival many settlers joined the wagon trains westward. During the War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the Crown and moved northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
Meanwhile the family name was prominent in the social scene. There were many notables of this name, Bell-Chambers, who established themselves through their cultural and professional achievements. Research has determined the above Coat of Arms to be the most ancient recorded for the family surname Bell-Chambers.