Among the eminent families in 19th century Guildford the Sells family had a significant impact.
In 1852 Thomas Jenner Sells participated in the investigation into the horrific murder of a 3 year old child in Albury. John Keene and his wife Jane were accused of drowning her illegitimate child, Charlie Broomer, in a well in February 1851. Mrs Keene’s mother, Ann Broomer, had reported her fears to Police Superintendent Josiah Hawkins Radley stationed at Guildford and he took a well-digger to Warren Well near Albury Heath. On finding remains, they summoned Dr Sells. Thomas Sells testified that the body had been in the well for at least a year and he produced the skull, which he had put back together, to show to the Court.
Other testimonies included that of Mr Ames, Master of Guildford Union Workhouse, who reported that Jane Keene had been admitted to the Workhouse after dark on January 10th 1851 accompanied by two children, 3 year old Charlie Broomer and a baby born a few weeks before to Jane and her husband John. She had left the Workhouse with her children on February 6th. On 16th February she returned to the Workhouse with her husband John and her youngest child, saying that Charlie was with her mother in Albury. In spite of the fact that all the evidence was hearsay, at the end of the trial Jane Keene was acquitted but her husband was condemned to death for murder.
In 1862 Thomas Jenner Sells purchased a large plot of land at the south-eastern end of Guildford with the intention of building many houses. Thomas Sells worked with Henry Peak, the town's first Borough surveyor, and the design for one of the first housing estates in the town took shape. Thomas Sells named the area after his wife, Charlotte, and many of the roads were named after famous physicians. Charlotteville, one of the earliest planned suburbs in Britain, was planned to have a social mix, with large villas to purchase and small terraced cottages to rent. The gradual building of this, “urban village,” continued after the death of T. J. Sells, but in 1867 at an anniversary dinner for the local Forresters’ Lodge, Thomas commented that, “He hoped he had shown his fellow townsmen the best way to spend their money. Every mechanic should live in his own home.”
You can read more about Charlotteville at www.users.waitrose.com/~iannicholls/Local-History.html
Diaries of Henry Peak edited by Roger Nicholas
Census and Parish records from www.Ancestry.co.uk
British Newspapers Archive
Times Digital Archive