Rupert Benjamin White Bell (1877-1951) was a man of principle and a prominent Dabber. Along with his brother Percy, his contributions in the Nantwich Chronicle give us a unique insight into life in Nantwich at that time.
The Nantwich Chronicle, on Saturday 17 February, 1951, provides us with an obituary:
Death of Mr. Rupert Bell
A composer of hundreds of poems, a passionate lover of animals, and an interesting character of Nantwich of years ago. Mr. Rupert W. Bell. of Raystede, Ringmer, near Lewes, Sussex, died in hospital on Wednesday last week, after a short illness. Mr. Bell, who attained his 74th birthday just a week before be died, belonged to a Nantwich family which can trace its ancestry back to the 17th century, and among the older generation a wide circle of friends will regret his passing.
A POET AT HEART
Son of a journalist, Mr. Bell was a cabinet-maker by trade, but a poet at heart, and for many years he wrote poems and verse, much of which was published As a lifelong reader of , “The Chronicle.” Mr. Bell had much of his work published in its columns. The eldest son of the late Mr. J. H. Bell. who was a journalist at Uppingham, Rutland, Mr. Rupert Bell was educated at the old Nantwich Wesleyan school, and as a youth began an apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker with Messrs. Stretch and Harlock Nantwich. The foreman at. that time was the late Mr. J. W. Mather, and when he commenced business on his own in Hospital-street, Mr. Bell went with him. Some years later, Mr. Bell and his only surviving brother, Mr. Percy Bell, of The Broomlands, Hatherton, near Nantwich, together with the late Mr. David Round, of Croydon. went into partnership as house furnishers and auctioneers, a business which survived for about 15 years. Almost a quarter of a century ago, Mr. Bell left Nantwich for the south, and retired some 20 years ago.
He was a grandson of the late Henry Bell, of Nantwich, who became Wesleyan missionary in India and a great grandson of the late Mr. Benjamin White. a prominent Nantwich shoe manufacturer and Wesleyan local preacher, and a strong opponent of the Nantwich Horse Races, which were inaugurated in 1729 and held annually for many years on Beam Heath land. In 1824, it is recorded in Hall’s History of Nantwich, Mr. White and Mr. Davies, a manufacturer, rented the Racecourse. and ploughed it up. The races were held afterwards, but they rapidly lost their popularity, and eventually were discontinued. Benjamin White was one of the first to be buried in the Nantwich General Cemetery (he died in 1849), and his gravestone, erected by friends and admirers of his work in fighting against cruel sports, is still to be seen. He was a prominent Liberal.
LOVER OF ANIMALS
A former secretary of the Nantwich Cottage Hospital Fete, Mr. Bell organised several pageants and fetes for the hospital, but it was to be his pen and his pets that he became deeply devoted. He was as passionately fond of animals as he was of writing, and at the time of his death he had two dogs, two ponies and a donkey. One of the ponies was presented to him several years ago by a lady who was aware of his love of animals, and who knew of no better course for it.
Ever since he left Nantwich Mr. Bell received “The Nantwich Chronicle” and maintained a keen interest in Nantwich and his old friends there. Mr Percy Bell, who is the only surviving member of the family, was a home furnisher and upholsterer. In Edleston-road, Crewe, for 25 years, before he retired six years ago. Like his brother, he is a regular contributor to “The Chronicle.” and as an antiquary has an extensive knowledge of Nantwich, its history, customs, and architectural features.
The remains of Mr. Rupert Bell were cremated at Downs Crematorium on Tuesday. The mourners were Mr. Percy Bell (brother), and Evelyn Round, of Croydon (niece). Miss Raymonde Hawkins, and a few other intimate.
(A Friend’s Tribute)
Nantwich has lost another loyal native by the recent passing of Rupert W. Bell, in his seventy-fourth year. Remembered by many in the old town he loved so dearly, he had for some years regarded Sussex as the county of his adoption, but he never lost his interest in Nantwich, and he has kept in touch with many of his contemporaries until as recently as a fortnight ago.
His ideal was to leave the world a little better having passed through it, and this he achieved in various directions. A serious fighter for righting of wrongs to his fellow-men. and to animals, he toiled unceasingly to improve conditions for humans and animals, and whenever an opportunity to fight for an ideal presented itself, he pursued his course with undaunted zeal. He was a Socialist, but more recently the international situation depressed him, and just before Christmas be was delighted to send out a thousand copies of one of his poems, “The Cost of War,” through a branch of the Pacifist movement.
His capacity for fighting on the Trade Union and Political front was balanced by his high ideals, and his literary and poetical achievements. His fierce press attacks on his opponents contrasted with his gentle love of the highest, and his constant care for the welfare of children and animals.
His life in the last twenty years had been more tranquil but his pen never tired, and of his passing, many grieve for a wise guide and philosophical friend and correspondent. Among his animals, in his garden in view of the kindly South Downs, his mind constantly roamed to the Cheshire plains. He died after a long and peaceful sleep. Perhaps his own poem, “Life’s Battle.” best sums up his life’s sincerity:
I care not who the actors are.
Nor where the stage,
I shall fight on—until I close
Through heat and burden of the day,
As in past years,
I will fight on regardless of life’s tears,
Nor ought desire of worldly wealth.
Or selfish gain,
Content to know I fought full oft in vain
That, weal or woe, I ran the race,
Life’s chequered course!
Seeking its truths, its duties, and
There may be no applause or cheer,
I look for none;
Suffice to know I fought,
not if I won;
My life’s account is to be audited
In higher sphere
My duty is to fight for Truth