CFHS code : PL57

Parish : St Paul

Inscription : WILLIAM JAMES SELL ScD [FRS] b Oct [14] [1847] d March [7] [1915] also MARIAN beloved wife of WILLIAM JAMES SELL d [Jan 20] 1933 age [85]

Monument : Stone cross (base only)/Kerb stones

Above information amended from Cambridge Family History Society Survey



William James Sell (14 October 1847 – 7 March 1915)

William was the son of James and Catherine Sell.  James was a shoemaker and when William was born they lived at 16 South Street.  Catherine Sell died when William was 13 years old.  He married Marian Reeve on 4 January 1870 at St. Paul’s Church.  The couple had four daughters: Alice Marion (1870-1950), Lilian (1872-1874), Edith May (known as May) (1875-1953), Helen Catherine (known as Nellie) (1876-1961).

In 1871 the family were living at 12 Downing Terrace and William was working as a laboratory assistant to the Professor of Chemistry.  He went to Christ’s College as a mature student in April 1873 and was awarded a 1st Class in the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1876.  He got his B.A. in 1877, his M.A in 1880 and a Doctor of Science (Sc.D) in 1906.  He worked as a university demonstrator in Chemistry from 1877-1904, and was then a senior demonstrator and University in Chemistry (1904-1915). He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1900.

William and Marion later lived at 1 Benet Place (1881/1891), 11 Downing Grove (1901) and then 38 Lensfield Road (1911).  He died at Lensfield Road after ‘a long and trying illness’. The Cambridge Independent Press printed a short obituary:

‘Dr Sell was originally Assistant to the Professor of chemistry, and had held the appointment of Demonstrator since 1871, thus constituting a record. He made various communications in organic chemistry of much importance, but as he was of a  retiring disposition and disinclined for publicity, his worth was not recognised as much as it otherwise might have been. His genial disposition made him very popular among the students, and his personal qualities made him many friends, by whom he will be greatly missed’.

He was buried at Mill Road Cemetery on 11 March 1915.  The University laboratory closed for the day, so that the staff could attend the funeral.

Marian Sell (née Reeve) (c.1847 –  20 January 1933)

Marian was the daughter of Thomas and Frances (née Willis) Reeve. She grew up at Downing Terrace, where her father was a carpenter/joiner. She married William Sell when she was 23 years. After she was widowed she lived at 38 Lensfield Road (1920/1925) before moving to 38 Laundress Lane (1927). She died aged 85 years old at 25 Chesterton Hall Crescent, and was buried at Mill Road Cemetery on 23 January 1933.

None of William and Marian’s daughters married.  Alice was privately hospitalised in Norwich for many years.  May and Nellie continued to live at 25 Chesterton Hall Crescent together.



Newspaper archives

by Claire Martinsen

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Marian Sell; William James Sell