Details of ANDREW BELL

Born: 1753

Died: 1832

Source: Chaplains in the Jurisdiction of the Presidency of Fort St George from 1647 to 1805 (Rev Frank Perry, The Church In Madras 1904)

Biography: ANDREW BELL was the second son of Alexander Bell of St. Andrew's N.B. He was born in 1753 and was educated first at the Grammar School and then at the University of his native town. He entered the University in 1769 and graduated M.A. in 1772. From 1774 to 1779 he held a tutorial appointment in Virginia. He continued to take pupils on his return to England till 1784 when he was ordained at Mongewell by Bishop Barrington and licensed to the curacy of Cookham in Berkshire. The same year he was elected to the ministry of the episcopal chapel at Leith. He was ordained Priest at Carlisle in 1785. He remained at Leith till 1787 when he was tempted by his relative, Captain Dempster, who commanded the East Indiaman Rose, to go with him to Bengal. Before sailing he applied to his University for a Doctor's degree; and they conferred upon him the degree of M.D. This was a degree which at that time St. Andrew's University was accustomed to confer upon literary men who did not follow any special professional line. It reserved the degree of LL.D. for distinguished persons only. He arrived at Fort St. George in 1787, and found himself wanted and kept. His scientific lectures at that factory and at Calcutta in 1788 increased his reputation; so that in 1789 he was made Chaplain of Fort St. George and a member of the Asiatic Society. He was the first superin tendent and Chaplain of the Male Asylum; it was here he made his celebrated experiment in education. The system of making one half of a class teach the other half is most ex cellent, so long as the education does not go beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. When it goes beyond that the pupil teachers need special instruction and training. The system has been pursued with great success in elementary schools since Dr. Bell explained it to educationists in England. In 1793 he accompanied the army of General Brathwaite to Pondicherry; when the town capitulated he entered it side by side with Col. Floyd of the 19th Dragoons. It was exposure to the sun in the trenches at this siege which undermined his health. Before leaving Madras in 1796 he offered the master ship of the Male Asylum to Paezold the Vepery Missionary, a graduate of Wittenberg, who arrived in 1793. But Paezold could not see that the work could be done concurrently with his mission work; so he declined it. In consideration of his important educational work in Madras the East India Company gave him a special pension. He became Rector of Swanage, co. Dorset, in 1801; but as he wanted to devote himself to pushing his educational method, he accepted the Mastership of Sherburn Hospital (3 miles from Durham) in 1809 in exchange for his Rectory. The light duty of the Hospital enabled him to travel through Great Britain and Ireland explaining the Madras system of education. In 1818 the Archbishop of Canterbury offered him a canonry in Hereford Cathedral. There was a difficulty about his acceptance of it; for the statutes of the Cathedral made it necessary that all the prebends should be graduates of one of the English Universities. By this time Dr. Bell's University had conferred upon him the degree of LL.D.; the Archbishop of Canterbury had conferred upon him the degree of D.D.; but these were not considered to be what the statute required. The difficulty was got over by Lord Liverpool nominating him to a canonry of Westminster on condition of being allowed to nominate to the vacancy at Hereford. He held the Canonry till his death, at Cheltenham, in 1832.