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Bell, Philip (1758-1774)

Bell, Philip

St Paul's Churchyard, London, cabinet maker and upholder (fl. 1758–74) 

A member of the Vintners' Company and the successor to Elizabeth Bell, Philip was probably her son and his father probably Henry Bell, who also traded at the same address. For a time he traded in partnership with Elizabeth but appears to have been in sole charge by 1758. Initially he used the trade sign of ‘The White Swan’ as his predecessors had done, but it was during his tenure that street numbering was introduced to this part of London. Initially the premises appear to have been numbered 18 St Paul's Churchyard but this was soon changed to 23. 

In 1758, 1761 and 1764 he took out licences to employ limited numbers of non-freemen, never more than three. The trade labels used by Henry and Elizabeth were considered out-dated and he employed Matthias Darly to engrave a new one which reflected the Rococo taste of the age. This featured illustrations of a fine cabinet in the Chinese Chippendale taste, an upholstered chair and a pole screen.

Trade card
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
© The Trustees of the British Museum
Trade card of Philip Bell at the White Swan Against the South Gate in St Paul's Church Yard, c. 1758-74 [D,2.1266]. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The label states that in addition to cabinet making, Philip also performed funerals. His labels have been found on a wide range of furniture, one saying he was ‘Removed to No 9 Paternoster Row, Near Cheapside’ though no other reference to such a move has been noted and he appears to have been still trading from 23 St Paul's Churchyard until 1774 when Henry Kettle took over, proclaiming himself to be Bell's successor. 

Philip Bell bound William King as an apprentice, 1766– 1774. T

The notebooks of Nathaniel Ryder, 1st Lord Harrowby of Sandon Hall, Staffordshire record payments to ‘Bell’ between 27 March 1762 and 23 July 1774 but none of the amounts are large. The total for the seven payments made is only £52 8s 6d and the only items specified are a dressing glass and three chests of drawers, two of these being noted as ‘for Shiplake’.

His labelled pieces are mostly of mahogany and include chests of drawers, a clothes press, tallboys, a secretaire tallboy, a Pembroke table, a medicine chest, a bureau bookcase, a tripod reading stand and a toilet mirror on a base of three drawers. One chest of drawers with canted corners had these carved with blind fret, while a tallboy with restrained Gothic decoration is known. 

Three of the trade labels known to have been used by Philip Bell and many of the pieces of labelled furniture cited above are illustrated in Gilbert (1996) figs 86-111.

Sources: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996).

The original entry from Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 can be found at British History Online.