William (1822 – 1894) was born at Annan, in Dumfriesshire, and landed in Sydney in 1843. In the following year he came to Geelong, and after a little time spent at Hexham, in the Western District, he settled down in Geelong as a grocer. He was successful in his business undertakings, acquired a good deal of Geelong town property, and built the block known at one time as Massingham’s corner, after local photographer George Massingham took over the site in 1887. Years later it became the T&G Corner.
In 1865, he dabbled in pastoral pursuits with the purchase of a station at Glenthompson in the Western District. Encouraged with his success, he later purchased Morago station in New South Wales. William entered the Geelong Town Council in the eighteen fifties, and was elected Mayor 1860-62. For a number of years he lived upon his Morago station, but on returning to Geelong he re-entered the council, and was elected Mayor in 1886. William was an energetic member of the council, and indefatigable in his representation of the Bellarine ward. William retired from the council through ill health six months before his death.
In the 1860s, Gundry’s pre-emptive right at Jan Juc (Bellbrae) was split up into smaller allotments suitable for farm properties. Around 1864 William Bell took up some of this property which covered the area we know today as Bells Beach, named after William. During the 1880s and 1890s reference was made to ‘Bells Beach’ in newspaper reports and maps. By 1899, this land had been acquired by D. Cyril Lewis which he then sold to John Calvert Bell (no relation to William Bell) in 1905.
William established the ‘Geelong Times’ which he handed over to his son James in 1887 before he separated from his second wife Marie.
In Torquay, William built the house later used as an accommodation house called ‘St. Heliers’ originally managed and owned by Elizabeth Woolf (widow Edwards) in 1914, then much later by Tom and Ada Bray. He was a member of the Torquay Improvement Association (TIA), and it was through his membership that he became the prime mover in the establishment of a public hall for the district. William produced a plan of a Public Hall, estimated to cost £250 and stated it was desirable that a public hall be erected at a cost of £300 for land, building, fencing and seating, and that a limited company be formed.
William died at the home of his son James, on 24th October 1894, aged 72 years. He was twice married, with a family of six children, of which only two sons survived him. His property at Torquay and Morango were gifted to his sons prior to his death.