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  • G.Wentworth Bell Smith

    How has asked me to post some information about one Henry Wentworth Bellsmith.

    As many of you will know, in August 1888 a Mr E Callaghan let rooms in Sun Street, Finsbury Square to a man whose name was reported as G Wentworth Bell Smith. The lodger's behaviour was sufficiently suspicious [see elsewhere for more details] that Callaghan was quoted as saying "without a doubt this man is the perpetrator of these crimes". Callaghan subsequently told Forbes Winslow of his suspicions, and Winslow came to the conclusion that Bell Smith was indeed Jack the Ripper.

    A couple of years ago I tried tracing Bell Smith in census, birth, death and marriages records. The only person who came close to matching was one Henry Wentworth Bellsmith - fortunately one of Henry's descendents had posted a family history on the web, so I contacted him to see if he knew anything of the elusive 'G Wentworth Bell Smith'. The information that he gave me led me to the conclusion that 'G' and 'Henry' must be one and the same, for example: -

    - HWB is known to have come to London from Toronto at exactly the same time as 'GWB'
    - The surname did not exist prior to Henry's artist father John Smith, who made it up as there were so many John Smiths around
    - 'GWB' was reported as walking peculiarly with his feet wide apart and knees bending in ... amazingly his family recognised this as a trait affecting HWB's direct descendents

    The reason for this further post is that a few weeks ago I obtained a copy of a book written by HWB in 1897 which adds further weight to the idea that he was Callaghan's lodger. The book is a semi fictional account called 'Henry Cadavere - A Study of Life and Work'. The central character is clearly based on HWB himself. I have noted the following points: -

    - 'GWB' was known for his religious outpourings, which is typical of the writing of HWB
    - 'GWB' was supposedly in London to raise funds - the purpose of HWB's book was to raise funds
    - 'GWB' claimed to be able to outwork many men - the central character in HWB's book made the same claim
    - 'GWB' was described as about 5ft10, dark hair, closely cut facial hair, dark complexion - HWB's character is 6ft, with black hair, a short beard and dark complexion.

    As posted a couple of years ago, HWB cannot have been guilty of killing Kelly as he was aboard a steamship at the time (as pointed out by R J Palmer) - however, he remains of interest as much of the evidence against him relates to the nights of non-canonical murders, furthermore his own son served time for attacking a female (his daughter, ie HWB's granddaughter).

    Some more info to follow...

  • #2
    Henry Wentworth Bellsmith was born in London on September 3, 1849. He was one of twelve children, two of his siblings becoming quite famous - the first born, Frederick Marlett Bellsmith [1846-1923] followed in his father's footsteps as an artist, and the youngest, Florence Rosalind Bellsmith [1864-1942] married a well known missionary, Jonathan Goforth, and wrote a number of books about his work.

    Henry married his first wife, Susannah Anne Sturch [1843-1921] in England in 1871. They moved to Toronto in 1878, the rest of the family having gone to Canada in the 1860s. Henry and Susannah had five children.

    Early in 1888 Henry and Susannah separated. The reasons for this are not known, although interestingly one record states that Susannah died in 1888 - this is certainly not true. Henry came over to London early in 1888, leaving for New York on November 4. Over the next couple of years he appears to have travelled backwards and forwards between England and New York (in 1889 he was in London working for George Eastman, the founder of Kodak). Also during this period he met his second wife, Caroline Taylor [1866-1953] although I have been unable to find a record that they were ever legally married. In 1891 they moved to New York, and thereafter appear to have stayed in New York, Caroline moving to Florida after Henry's death.

    Caroline had three children, Francis Taylor Bellsmith [1887 - ?], Gertrude Bellsmith [1893 - died in infancy] and Henry Wentworth Bellsmith jr [1894-1965] - it is not clear if Henry was the father of the first of these.

    In most records Henry's occupation is shown as either book-keeper or accountant. His 1897 book reveals that he was also a Socialist fund-raiser, and member of the Brotherhood of the Co-Operative Commonwealth.

    With regard to his Ripper candidacy, he will remain of interest to those who think that Kelly was not one of Jack's victims. Here is a quote from his book just for fun (albeit out of context!)

    "Murder, adultery, selfishness, hypocrisy, everything we call evil or sinful are equally meritorious with the most spotless purity of soul and body ... sin becomes a misnomer and crime another name for virtue"

    Thanks so much for supplying this material,Dave ! This is an excellent bit of work on your part.

    All of us.

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    • #3
      We might also remember that Callaghan claimed that HWB/GWB's behavior began to appear suspicious precisely on the night of the Tabram murder.

      In the book you found....is there any reference to the events that transpired in 1888 either directly or by inference?

      Great work,once more,Dave.
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      • #4
        It is also important that when Callaghan went to Swanson, Swanson noted that the date had been altered in the documents shown to him by Callaghan.

        Stan

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        • #5
          For those unaware of this story within the story of the WM...

          Stan Russo's book "The Jack The Ripper Suspects" has information/reference on the date altering ( where have I heard that before? ) that was present on the statement presented by Forbes Winslow to Inspector Swanson ostensibly written by Callaghan. Winslow had by the time of his liasing with Swanson,become a believer in HWB's guilt.

          The date,according to Swanson,was altered to accomodate the August 7th murder of Tabram from what originally appeared to have been the 9th of August.

          Two questions...

          1. Stan....when did Swanson recieve Winslow and this statement from HWB?

          2. Despite there actually being no real proof that the date was altered intentionally...and it may have been Callaghan merely correcting an original and honest mistake...do you ( and of course,everyone else...) consider Winslow to be the perpetrator of the differences in the dates?

          By the way...Stan's book has an excellent condensation of this entire matter...one now updated by Dave's 5 star work.

          I also added the GOOGLE URL on Ripper Riting's on the main page...which has HWB's book.
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          • #6
            Yes, this is remarkable work, Dave, and my hat off to you, sir.
            I note you say that Bellsmith was not in England in early November of 1888, therefore he cannot have anything to do with the murder of Mary Kelly.
            You give the date, 4th November 1888, as his departure for New York. Any idea which ship?
            And was he travelling under his name as given in your posts here?
            It's just that I've heard the tale now so many times now that so and so could not have possibly done it because he was in America, South Africa or in mid Atlantic at the time, and then on closer inspection this claim is found to be quite false... as in the case of Deeming who certainly was not in South Africa when some folk claim he was in 1888, but in Liverpool, England.
            I'd just like to double check the name, date and ship... so any other information you have?

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            • #7
              How,

              I wouldn't say that there is anything in particular in the book that seems relevant to the events of 1888.

              Stan,

              I was not aware of Callaghan going to Swanson, only of Swanson going to Forbes Winslow after the latter had started boasting to the newspapers. With regard to date changing, it will be remembered that Winslow produced a letter supposedly received from the killer where the date had clearly been altered from 1889 to 1888 [see The Bloody Truth by Melvin Harris] so he may well have altered the 9th to the 7th.

              For those of you with Letters From Hell, take a look at the rhyming letter of 8 November 1889 to the Superintendent of Great Scotland Yard. This clearly relates to Bellsmith [whose book also contains large sections of rhyming verse]


              David

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              • #8
                AP,

                Aboard steamship Fulda, left Southampton November 4, arrived NY November 14 was one 'H W Bellsmith' age stated as 45 occupation merchant, so it could be argued that this was not the same man, Henry being a 39 year old book-keeper, but the scarcity of the surname suggests that it probably was him.

                David

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                • #9
                  Dave:

                  Well...regardless of whether it has anything visible now,I'm going to check it out as well just to become more familiar with that work.

                  Thanks again,buddy.
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                  • #10
                    Dave:

                    Just a shot in the dark here...

                    Is there a signature by HWB in the book you have?

                    I almost forgot..

                    "With regard to date changing, it will be remembered that Winslow produced a letter supposedly received from the killer where the date had clearly been altered from 1889 to 1888 [see The Bloody Truth by Melvin Harris] so he may well have altered the 9th to the 7th." -also on page 27 of The True Face

                    That latter book's reference is remembered. I don't have the Bloody Truth ( no joke intended...).
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                    • #11
                      Thanks David
                      despite a rough crossing the Fulda does do what it is supposed to do, leave Southampton on the 4th November 1888 and arrive New York on the 14th.
                      But Bellsmith's are few on the ground, or sea.
                      Where did this record come from?

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                      • #12
                        How,

                        No signature I'm afraid.

                        AP,

                        R J Palmer originally posted it, I would guess that he found it on Ancestry.com

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                        • #13
                          Dave,

                          My bad - it was Swanson and Winslow meeting about the matter. Winslow showed the letter to Swanson, as I remember,but Swanson dismissed it because of the date having been visibly altered from the 9th to the 7th, presumably by Winslow to bolster G.W.B. Smith

                          Stan

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                          • #14
                            Stan:

                            Then is Melvin's statement that Dave produced from the "Bloody Truth" incorrect?

                            According to what Dave posted OR what is in the True Face...Melvin claimed that the date was altered according to the year ( October 19,1889...to October 19,1888 ).

                            Either way,I understand that some sort of alteration is supposed to have occurred,but not the exact one.

                            So what do you think,amigo?
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                            • #15
                              How,

                              The way I remember the tale is that when Swanson saw the document, the date had been altered from August 9th, 1888 to August 7th, 1888, to promote better evidence against GWB Smith in connection with the Tabram murder.

                              Swanson received this info in 1889, perhaps because it took Callaghan that long to get it to Winslow, or Winslow that long to get it to Swanson.

                              Stan

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