The Border Reivers

The Bell clan were involved in the Border conflicts between England and Scotland and well known for sheep rustling.

Bell is one of the more unusual Border Reiver names as it falls into the four specific categories that surnames can derive from ie first names, descriptive nicknames, occupational names and surnames that occur from places of residence and locations.  It is for this reason that not all Bells share a common ancestor. 

Bell could be considered as a familiar term for Isabel and Hugo Bel (1148) who were considered to have a descriptive nickname taken from the French word “Belle” meaning beautiful, fair or handsome.  However Seaman Belle (1181) of London and Serlo Belle (1181) of Yorkshire are thought to have been bell ringers.  Some Bells took their name from places of residence, for example if they lived near a church or town bell. 

Due to these factors, it is difficult to know the exact origin of each individual surname. The name Bell can be found today in Scotland, Northumberland,Durham and Yorkshire.