Florence Bell

 

Born: On 9th September 1851 Florence Eveleen Elenore Olliffe was born in Paris. She was the youngest of four children of Sir Joseph Olliffe, physician at the British Embassy in Paris, and Laura Cubitt, daughter of Sir William Cubitt who became Lord Mayor of London.

 

Educated: Florence was privately educated in Paris.

 

Married: On 10th August 1876 Florence Olliffe married Thomas Hugh Bell, son of Isaac Lowthian Bell of Bell Brothers, the ironmasters.

 

Family: Hugh Bell had two children, Gertrude and Maurice, by his first wife Mary. Hugh and Florence had three children, Hugh, Elsa, and Mary.

 

Home: Florence used the Olliffe family home in Knightsbridge as her London residence throughout her life. After their marriage in 1876 the Bells lived at Red Barns in Redcar. In 1905 they moved to Rounton Grange in East Rounton and in the 1920s they lived at Mount Grace Manor.

 

Known for: Lady Bell published more than forty works including novels, plays, childrens’ stories and essays. She is especially remembered for “At the Works”, a study of the working families of Middlesbrough that was published in 1907. As well as her own observations on the ironworks and the men and women of Middlesbrough it contains much that was gained from interviews with local people.  This work was almost unique for its time. Lady Bell also pioneered the Winter Gardens in Middlesbrough which provided a cheap indoor place for relaxation as an alternative to public houses.

 

Died: Lady Florence Bell died in Knightsbridge, London, on 16th May 1930 and was buried at Rounton in North Yorkshire.

 

Further Information:  “Lady Bell’s Survey of Edwardian Middlesbrough” J.W.Leonard in The Bulletin of the Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society vol. 29 (1975):  Dictionary of National Biography