Sunday 9 April 2023

(542) Wilberforce-Bell of Portington Hall

Wilberforce-Bell of Portington Hall 
The Portington family took their name from the manor of Portington near Howden in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and were established there by 1195. The present Portington Hall was built by Henry Portington (d. 1680), but the estate passed out of the family hands only a generation later, on the death of his son, Michael Portington (1666-c.1697). The descent of the property in the early 18th century was unusually complicated, but in 1750 one third of the manor formed the dowry of Ann Johnson (d. 1781) when she married Richard Bell (1727-92), a grocer and merchant in Hull. The Bells were an extensive clan of farming families in the East Riding, several of whom also developed business interests in Hull. Richard Bell had a house at Kirk Ella (Yorks ER), just outside the borough, and in 1753 he and Ann settled the Portington property on his relative, Thomas Bell (1731?-73), who was probably Richard's younger brother. In 1759, Thomas agreed a division of the manor with William Burton (who owned the other two-thirds), securing the part of the estate which included the manor house, and it may have been soon after this that he added the north wing and refitted the interior. Thomas died, apparently unmarried and without issue, in 1773, and the property reverted to Richard Bell, who seems to have retired from business in the 1780s and moved to Welton Grange (Yorks ER), a little further out of Hull. In 1784 he handed his property over to trustees, who were instructed to pay his debts as he was too ill to attend to business, but the following year he had recovered and took back control. When he died in 1792 Portington passed to another relative, Henry Bell II (1730-1816), whose relationship to Richard is unclear: he was not a brother but may have been a cousin. His father, Henry Bell I (d. 1765) was a farmer at 'Spaldington Outside', the name given to the area east of Spaldington village, and Henry Bell II continued to farm there until he inherited Portington Hall. He became a Methodist, and the family were prominent supporters of the Wesleyan cause in the Howden area over several generations.

Henry married twice and produced five daughters before the birth of Henry Bell III (1767-1839), who proved to be the eldest of four sons. Henry Bell III farmed at Bubwith (Yorks ER) until he inherited the Portington estate, and although Burke's Landed Gentry gives he impression that he was childless, he and his wife Eleanor Wade (whose family were also Methodists) actually produced eleven children between 1793 and 1810 of whom six survived to adulthood, including a son, Henry Wade Bell (1793-1855). Henry Bell III suffered a stroke while working in the fields one day in 1835 and lost the power of speech, but he left a will prepared some years earlier, which made detailed provision for his widow and unmarried daughters, but named his son as his ultimate heir. It is therefore somewhat puzzling to find that Henry Bell III was in reality succeeded at Portington by his younger brother, John Bell (1772-1843), who was tenant of the adjoining Burland and Cavill Hall estates under Lord Galway, and also acted as Galway's agent in the locality. I can only suppose that Eleanor Bell and Henry Wade Bell agreed to sell their interest in Portington to John Bell, perhaps because they lacked capital, and Henry Wade Bell subsequently took on the tenancy of Cavill Hall and continued farming there until his death.

John Bell's eldest son, John Bell (1801-42), farmed at the northern tip of Nottinghamshire, but died in his father's lifetime, leaving his brother, William Henry Bell (1802-52), as the heir to Portington. By 1830, William was in business in Hull as an 'oil merchant and seed crusher' and was a member of the borough council, living at Drypool Hall (Yorks ER). In 1833 he married Jane Wilberfoss of Wetwang House (Yorks ER), who shared a common ancestor with William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the famous anti-slavery campaigner. William evidently shared the humanitarian instincts of his wife's relative, for he was a prominent member of the Polish Society in England, which sought to assist refugees from the 1831 partition of Poland. Perhaps because he was so involved with this work that he failed to give proper attention to his business, he became bankrupt in 1841. His creditors were not able to seize the estate on John Bell's death the following year (presumably because John, knowing of his son's bankruptcy, had left him only a life interest) but it was sold (to Lord Galway) immediately after William's death in 1852. 

The Bells' connection with Portington might have ended there, for William's eldest son became a customs officer in Liverpool, his second son emigrated to Australia, and his youngest son, Harold Wilberfosse Bell (1849-1927) went into the army. But it did not, for William's younger brother, Edward Sale Bell (1806-75) remained as a tenant at Burland Farm on the Galway estate, and his sons also farmed in the vicinity. Harold Wilberfoss Bell, having risen through the ranks to become Serjeant-Major of the 15th Hussars, became the Quartermaster of his regiment and was given an honorary commission in 1893. After he retired in 1906 he lived at East Grafton (Wilts), but in 1919 he was appointed as one of the Military Knights of Windsor, a notable honour for one who had spent most of his army career as a non-commissioned officer. Harold and his wife Lucy took the name Wilberforce-Bell by deed poll, and produced three sons and three daughters, the eldest of whom, Sir Harold Wilberforce-Bell (1885-1956), kt., followed his father into the army but quickly transferred to the Indian Political Service and held a range of senior positions before his retirement and return to England in 1939. His younger brother, Percy Frederick Wilberforce Bell (1888-1966), also an army officer, bought back Portington Hall in 1926, but let it, and at some point before 1939 apparently sold it to his brother, Sir Harold, who made his home at Portington after returning to England. He became very active in public affairs in the East Riding, but although he was married he had no children, and after his death Portington was once again sold; it has changed hands several times since.

Portington Hall, Eastrington, Yorkshire (ER)

A fine small manor house, built about 1670 for Henry Portington (d. 1680), which was recorded in the 1672 hearth tax returns as the 'New House', with nine hearths. It replaced the former manor house, which stood on the moated site now occupied by the early 18th century Portington Manor Farm, and which had seven hearths in 1672.

Portington Hall: a rather naive mid 19th century view of the house, showing what was probably the original fenestration.

The present house is a two-storey five-bay building of red brick with stone quoins and has a hipped pantiled roof. The plan is E-shaped, for there is a central porch and projecting single-bay wings at either end. None of the original windows survive, and there are now sash windows on the first floor and 20th century three-light mullioned and transomed windows on the ground floor. In the mid 18th century a north wing was added and the interior refitted, perhaps after the Bell family gained possession in 1759. A further extension was built at the rear in the 19th century, when the lower windows of the original house were replaced with casements. The dormer windows on the entrance front may be of the same date. Harold Wilberforce-Bell employed Sir William Milner to restore the house and raise the 18th century wing in the late 1930s. The drawing room is said to retain 18th century panelling and plasterwork.

Portington Hall: the house in recent years.

Descent: John Portington (d. 1579); to son, Thomas Portington; to brother, Michael Portington (fl. 1612); to son, Michael Portington (d. c.1644); to son, Henry Portington (d. 1680) who built the present house c.1670; to son, Michael Portington (1666-c.1697); to Edward Wilbert (fl. 1728); to daughter Mary (d. 1731), wife of [forename unknown] Nelson; divided among her three children: John and William Nelson and Elizabeth, wife of William Blanshard; the latter's one-third share passed to John Johnson of Beverley (d. 1737); to cousin Ann, wife of Dr John Johnson, who gave it in 1750 to their daughter Ann, wife of Richard Bell (1727-92); settled in 1753 on his brother?, Thomas Bell of Hull (1731?-73), but reverted to Richard Bell, who bequeathed it to cousin?, Henry Bell (1730-1816); to son, Henry Bell (1768-1839); to son, Henry Wade Bell (1793-1855), who probably sold it to his uncle, John Bell (1772-1843); to son, William Henry Bell (1802-52); sold after his death to 6th Viscount Galway...sold to Pennyman family; sold 1918 to J. Shaw... sold 1926 to Percy Wilberforce-Bell (1888-1966), who sold in the 1930s to his brother, Sir Harold Wilberforce-Bell (1885-1956), kt.; sold after his death...

Bell (later Wilberforce-Bell) family of Portington Hall

Bell, Richard (1727-92). Son of Thomas Bell, gent., of Kingston-upon-Hull, baptised at St Mary Lowgate, Hull, 10 January 1727. Grocer and merchant in the High Street of Kingston-upon-Hull, and a member of Kingston-upon-Hull Borough corporation from 1761-92 (Alderman; Mayor, 1760-61, 1767-68 (when he took over from George Thompson, who died in office) and 1773-74). He married, 2 October 1750 at Sigglesthorne (Yorks ER), Ann (d. 1781), daughter of Dr. John Johnson of Beverley (Yorks ER), but apparently had no surviving issue.
He lived at Kirk Ella (Yorks ER). He inherited a one-third share in Portington Manor in right of his wife on his marriage, but in 1753 settled it on Thomas Bell of Hull, who was probably his younger brother; it reverted to him on Thomas' death. In 1784 he assigned the estate to trustees to pay his debts, being 'to ill to attend to business', but in 1785 he took back control, having recovered. He lived latterly at Welton Grange (Yorks ER).
He was buried at Welton (Yorks ER), 6 May 1792. His wife died 15 January and was buried at Cherry Burton (Yorks ER), 20 January 1781.

Bell, Thomas (1731?-73). Probably a younger son of Thomas Bell, gent., of Kingston-upon-Hull, baptised at Cottingham (Yorks ER), 13 June 1731. He was apparently unmarried and without issue.
In 1753 Richard and Ann Bell settled their one third-share of Portington Manor on him, and in 1759 he agreed a divison of the manor with William Burton, owner of the other two-thirds, by which he obtained the manor house and the eastern portion of the manor. He may have added to the house after gaining possession. After his death his property reverted to Richard Bell.
He died in 1773 and was probably the man of this name buried at Kirk Ella (Yorks ER), 8 February 1773.

Bell, Henry II (1730-1816). Son of Henry Bell I (d. 1765) of Spaldington, yeoman, born at Lincoln Flatts, Seaton Ross, and baptised at Seaton Ross, 11 October 1730. He became a Methodist in religion, was an acquaintance of John Wesley, and was one of the founders of the Howden Methodist Circuit. He married 1st, 7 September 1755 at Howden, Jane (1727-61), daughter of Robert Blanshard of Thorpe Hall (Yorks ER), and 2nd, 28 December 1761, Mary (1735-1813), posthumous daughter of Anthony Guy of Spaldington (Yorks ER), and had issue:
(1.1) Elizabeth Bell (b. 1756), baptised at Bubwith, 22 August 1756; married, 15 September 1777 at Bubwith (Yorks ER), George Blanshard (b. 1754) of Breighton, farmer, son of William Blanshard, and had issue;
(1.2) Margaret Bell (1759-1807), baptised at Bubwith, 16 July 1759; married, 16 November 1776 at Eastrington, Thomas Surr (1746-1816), son of William Surr, and had issue at least five sons and one daughter; died 3 March and was buried at Eastrington, 6 March 1807;
(1.3) Mary Bell (b. 1760), baptised at Bubwith (Yorks ER), 12 December 1760;
(2.1) Jane Bell (1763-67), baptised at Bubwith (Yorks ER), 3 February 1763; died young and was buried at Bubwith, 16 September 1767;
(2.2) Anne Bell (1764-92), baptised at Bubwith, 19 March 1764; married, 9 November 1786 at Bubwith, Samuel King (d. 1829) of Hull (Yorks ER), ironmonger, son of Henry King, ironmonger; buried at Holy Trinity, Hull, 20 July 1792;
(2.3) Henry Bell (1767-1839) (q.v.);
(2.4) Thomas Bell (1770-1807), baptised at Bubwith (Yorks ER), 9 September 1770; married, 3 January 1793 at Finningley (Notts), Mary (d. 1849), daughter of James Smith of Temple Hirst, and had issue four sons and four daughters; buried at Eastrington, 24 March 1807;
(2.5) John Bell (1772-1843) (q.v.);
(2.6) William Bell (b. & d. 1775), baptised at Bubwith, 19 June 1775; died in infancy and was buried at Bubwith, 30 August 1775.
He settled at Spaldington and lived there until he inherited Portington Hall in 1792.
He died 18 December and was buried at Eastrington, 23 December 1816; his will was proved at York in 1817. His first wife was buried at Howden, 1 July 1761. His second wife died 20 September and was buried at Eastrington, 29 September 1813.

Bell, Henry III (1767-1839). Eldest son of Henry Bell II (1730-1816) and his second wife, Mary, daughter of Anthony Guy of Spaldington (Yorks ER), baptised at Bubwith, 1 October 1767. Educated at Hull under the Rev. Joseph Milner, but became a Methodist in religion. Farmer at Bubwith and later at Portington Hall. He married, 29 February 1792 at Aberford (Yorks WR), Eleanor (1767-1851), daughter of Edward Wade of Stourton Grange, Leeds (Yorks WR), and had issue:
(1) Henry Wade Bell (1793-1855), baptised at Bubwith, 18 January 1793; farmer at Caville Hall, Portington as a tenant of Lord Galway; apparently inherited Portington Hall from his father but sold it to his uncle, John Bell; married, 1 July 1823 at Sandal Parva, Isabella (1791-1875), daughter of Thomas Thorpe of Faxfleet (Yorks ER), and had issue (including a son, Thomas Bell (1829-1912) of Caville Hall, who also farmed Portington Hall Farm); died 5 February and was buried at Eastrington, 9 February 1855;
(2) Edward Bell (b. & d. 1794), baptised at Bubwith, 3 March 1794; died in infancy and was buried at Eastrington, 25 December 1794;
(3) Ann Bell (1796-1867), baptised at Bubwith, 27 September 1796; married, 12 April 1824 at Eastington, Thomas Thorpe (1789-1864) of Higham Park (Northants) and later of Leighton Bromswold and Woolley (Hunts), farmer, and had issue three sons and two daughters; buried at Woolley, 30 September 1867;
(4) Maria Bell (1798-1877), baptised at Bubwith, 7 June 1798; married 1st, 10 October 1820 at Eastrington, Robert Thorpe (d. by 1843) of Hadley Green, Chipping Barnet (Middx), brewer, son of Richard Thorpe (1757-1844) of Knotting (Beds), farmer, and had issue two sons and two daughters; married 2nd, 27 March 1841 at Monken Hadley (Herts), James Adcock (d. by 1851) of Wellingborough (Northants), draper, and had issue one daughter; after the death of her second husband she lived with her elder son until he married and then moved to York; died 3 June 1877; will proved 30 April 1878 (effects under £300);
(5) John Bell (1799-1800), baptised at Bubwith, 2 July 1799; died in infancy and was buried at Eastrington, 7 February 1800;
(6) Mary Bell (b. 1800), baptised at Bubwith, 2 December 1800; living and unmarried in 1832; death not traced;
(7) Margaret Bell (1802-36), baptised at Bubwith, 20 July 1802; died unmarried, 16 March, and was buried at Eastrington, 17 March 1836;
(8) Edward Bell (d. 1805); buried at Eastrington, 9 July 1805;
(9) Helen Bell (b. & d. 1806), baptised at Bubwith, 20 November 1806; died in infancy and was buried at Eastrington, 4 December 1806; 
(10) Helen* Bell (1808-74), baptised at Bubwith, 12 March 1808; from 1829 she became a Methodist in religion and in the 1850s and 1860s undertook missionary work among army recruits passing through York; married, 18 July 1843 at Whitgift (Yorks ER), William Leak (c.1817-87), grocer in Swinefleet and later a draper and milliner in York, son of William Leak, schoolmaster, but had no issue; died 16 January 1874 and is commemorated by a monument in the Methodist Central Hall, York;
(11) Rebecca Bell (1810-73), baptised at Eastrington, 9 December 1810; married 1st, 27 December 1831 at Howden (Yorks ER), John West Hodgson (1805-45) of Swinefleet (Yorks ER), and had issue two sons and three daughters; married 2nd, 9 February 1860 at Naburn (Yorks), as his second wife, David Hill (1809-76) of Fulford, York, JP, leather merchant and banker, son of William Hill, gent.; died October 1873.
He lived at Spaldington until he inherited Portington Hall from his father in 1816. After his death his widow moved to Swinefleet with her remaining unmarried daughters, and his son apparently sold the Portington estate to his uncle, John Bell (1772-1843).
He suffered a stroke in 1835 which deprived him of the power of speech; he died 3 February and was buried at Eastrington, 7 February 1839; his will was proved August 1839. His widow died 10 October and was buried at Eastrington, 16 October 1851.
* Her baptism was registered in the name of Ellen, but all later references are to Helen.

Bell, John (1772-1843). Third son of Henry Bell (1730-1816) and his second wife, Mary, daughter of Anthony Guy of Howden (Yorks ER), born 23 August and baptised at Bubwith (Yorks ER), 1 September 1772. Farmer and agent for Lord Galway at Eastrington and Portington. He married, 9 April 1800, Mary Anne (1779-1856), daughter of William Baxter of Owstwick Hall, and had issue:
(1) John Bell (1801-42), born 6 March and baptised at Eastrington, 15 March 1801; lived at Beech Hill, Misson (Notts); married, 25 May 1825 at Blacktoft (Yorks ER), Mary (1800-50), daughter of Edmund Latham of Wressle, and had issue two sons and one daughter; died in the lifetime of his father and was buried at Misson, 2 October 1842;
(2) William Henry Bell (1802-52) (q.v.);
(3) Edward Sale Bell (1806-75), born 21 July and baptised at Eastrington, 8 August 1806; farmed Burland Farm in succession to his father; married, 25 July 1837 at Eastrington, Mary Anne alias Marianne (1809-96), daughter of Capt. Charles Bains, quartermaster in the Royal Artillery, and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 27 November and was buried at Eastrington, 2 December 1875; will proved 23 February 1876 (effects under £1,500);
(4) Hannah Bell (1813-66), baptised at Eastrington, 22 November 1813; died unmarried and was buried at Eastrington, 6 September 1866.
He probably purchased Portington Hall from his nephew, Henry Wade Bell (1793-1855) in or soon after 1839. He leased the adjoining estates of Burland and Caville Hall from Lord Galway from 1818.
He died 17 October and was buried at Eastrington, 21 October 1843; his will was proved 13 January 1844. His widow died 5 August and was buried at Eastrington, 7 August 1856.

Bell, William Henry (1802-52). Second, but eldest surviving, son of John Bell (1772-1843) and his wife Mary Anne, daughter of William Baxter of Owstwick Hall, born 18 March and baptised at Eastrington, 25 May 1802. An oil merchant and seed crusher in Kingston-upon-Hull, in partnership with John Petchell to 1832 and thereafter on his own, who became bankrupt, 1841. A member of Kingston-upon-Hull Borough Council (Alderman, 1830; Deputy Mayor, 1836). He was one of the original members of the Polish Society in England and with Lord Dudley Coutts Steward (1803-54) sought to arouse active sympathy in England for the Polish nation after the partition of 1831; he established a branch of the society at Hull that offered relief to Polish refugees. He married, 4 September 1833 at Wetwang (Yorks ER), Jane (1815-88), daughter of Thomas Wilberfosse of Wetwang House (Yorks ER), and had issue:
(1) Jane Bell (1834-35), baptised at Drypool (Yorks ER), 8 September 1834; died in infancy and was buried at Drypool, 10 May 1835;
(2) Wilberfosse Bell (1835-36), born 8 October and baptised at Drypool, 18 October 1835; died in infancy and was buried at Drypool, 23 April 1836;
(3) Frederick Wilberfosse Bell (1838-1913), of Carlton House, Great Crosby (Lancs), baptised at Wetwang, 3 June 1838; joined HM Customs service as a clerk in 1856 and served in Hull and later Liverpool; married, 15 December 1863 at St Saviour, Liverpool, Elizabeth (1833-1906), daughter of Henry Adam of Belem Towers, merchant, but had no issue; died 8 March 1913; will proved 18 June 1913 (estate £4,246);
(4) Agnes Adela Bell (1840-1908), born Oct-Dec 1840 and baptised at Drypool, 17 June 1842 and again at Sledmere, 22 October 1850; teacher in a private school; lived with her mother at Driffield (Yorks ER); died unmarried, 21 May 1908; will proved 16 July 1908 (estate £1,081);
(5) Reginald Henry Bell (1842-43), baptised at Drypool, 17 June 1842; died in infancy and was buried at Drypool, 28 February 1843;
(6) Alfred Wilberfosse Bell (1844-1916), born 11 April 1844 and baptised at Sledmere (Yorks ER), 22 October 1850; emigrated to Australia; married, 22 March 1869 in Victoria (Australia), Frances Martha Burden (1847-92), and had issue four sons and three daughters; died at Broken Hill, New South Wales (Australia), 1916;
(7) Clara Bell (1847-1927), born Jul-Sept 1847 and baptised at Drypool, 6 May 1852; housekeeper to Dr. Richard Wood in Great Driffield; died unmarried, 26 June 1927; will proved 28 July 1927 (estate £4,804);
(8) Harold Wilberfosse Bell (later Wilberforce-Bell) (1849-1927) (q.v.).
He lived at Drypool Hall on the outskirts of Kingston-upon-Hull, and later at an address in Holderness Road, and never moved to Portington Hall, which he  inherited from his father in 1843. It was sold in 1853 after his death.
He died 13 March and was buried at Drypool, 16 March 1852. His widow died 6 July 1888 and was buried at Driffield Cemetery (Yorks ER); her will was proved 7 August 1888 (effects £1,731).

Bell (later Wilberforce-Bell), Harold Wilberfosse (1849-1927). Fifth son of William Henry Bell (1802-52) and his wife Jane, daughter of Thomas Wilberfosse of Wetwang House (Yorks ER), born 15 January and baptised at Drypool, Yorks (ER), 11 February 1849. Joined the army in 1869 and rose through the ranks to be regimental Serjeant-Major of the 15th Hussars by 1889; later appointed Quartermaster of the regiment, with an honorary commission (Lt., 1893; Capt.,1903); he retired in 1906. He was appointed as one of the Military Knights of Windsor, 1919-27. He took the additional name of Wilberforce by deed poll. He married, 23 December 1884 at Kensington (Middx), Lucy (1864-1934), daughter of Rev. Dr. Frederick Wilson (d. 1877), vicar of Sledmere (Yorks ER), and had issue (with two other children who died in infancy):
(1) Sir Harold Wilberforce-Bell (1885-1956), kt. (q.v.);
(2) Reginald Herbert Wilberforce-Bell (1887-1916), born at Piershill Barracks, Leith (Midl.), 19 June 1887; educated at St Kenelm's Academy, Cowley (Oxon); emigrated to Canada where he became a fruit and wheat merchant in Saskatchewan, but returned to England to serve in the First World War with the Canadian army (Lt., 1914); died unmarried while recuperating following the explosion of an enemy mine at Kemmel (Belgium), 26 January 1916, and was buried at Danygraig Cemetery, Port Tennant, Swansea (Glam.); will proved 25 March 1916 (estate £120);
(3) Percy Frederick Wilberforce-Bell (1888-1966), born 26 September 1888; educated at Ellesmere College; joined the army, 1907 and became an officer (2nd Lt., 1910; Lt. 1913; Capt., 1915; Maj., 1923) who served in the First World War (mentioned in despatches twice; severely wounded) and the Afghan Expedition of 1919; awarded MC, 1915; Military Sec. and ADC to Governor of Newfoundland, 1922-23; Private Sec. and ADC to Governor of the Leeward Islands, 1924-25; repurchased Portington Hall in 1926; married, 6 October 1924 at Christ Church, Down St., Westminster (Middx), Muriel Mary, daughter of Charles Windsor of Banbury (Oxon) and widow of E.S. Holland of Eydon Hall (Northants); died 22 August 1966; administration of goods granted 19 January 1968 (estate £11,845);
(4) Madeline Lucy Wilberforce-Bell (1889-1919), born at Cahir Barracks (Co. Tipperary), 11 November 1889; died unmarried, 30 December 1919, of illness contracted while serving in a military hospital during the First World War;
(5) Phyllis Dorothy Wilberforce-Bell (1893-1956), born at Dundalk (Co. Louth), 7 September 1893; worked as a VAD Red Cross nurse, 1917-19 and later studied and worked (1923-27) at Kings College Hospital and qualified as a nurse; antique dealer by 1939; died unmarried, Oct-Dec 1956;
(6) Daphne Wilberforce-Bell (1895-1973), born at Marlborough Barracks, Dublin, 6 April 1895; educated at Lansdown Ladies College; served in Second World War with WRNS; married, 19 September 1914 at Holy Trinity, Chelsea (Middx), John Nevile Chaworth-Musters DSO (1890-1970) of Wiverton Hall and Annesley Park (Notts), son of John Patricius Chaworth-Musters, and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 20 January 1973; will proved 14 September 1973 (estate £48,836).
He lived at the White House, East Grafton (Wilts) from his retirement until 1919, and then in the lodgings for the military knights at Windsor Castle.
He died 22 August 1927 and was buried at Windsor Cemetery. His widow died 30 May 1934; her will was proved 10 July 1934 (estate £4,032).

Sir Harold Wilberforce-Bell (1885-1956) 
Wilberforce-Bell, Sir Harold (1885-1956).
Eldest son of Harold Wilberfosse Bell (later Wilberforce-Bell) (1849-1927) and his wife Lucy, daughter of Rev. Dr. Frederick Wilson, vicar of Sledmere (Yorks ER), born 17 November and baptised at Sheepscar (Yorks WR), 16 December 1885. Educated at St Kenelm's Academy, Cowley (Oxon), Ellesmere College and Pembroke College, Oxford. An officer in the Connaught Rangers and (from 1908) the Indian army (2nd Lt., 1905; Lt. by 1912; Capt., 1914; Maj., 1918; Lt-Col., 1931; retired 1940), who served in the First World War; and in the Indian Political Service (Asst Military Sec. to the Commander-in-Chief, India, 1918-19; Deputy Sec., Political Dept, Government of India, 1928-30; Political Secretary to Government of India, 1930-34; Resident Agent to the Governor-General of the Punjab States, 1934-39). JP and DL (from 1942) for East Riding of Yorkshire; Chairman of Goole, Howden and Selby Hospital Management Committee, 1948-56 and of Yorkshire branch of Royal Society of St. George; member of Council of Hull University. He was also the author of 
books on the history of Kathiawar, the Marathi language and poets, and on his experiences during the First World War. He was appointed CIE, 1931 and knighted (KCIE) in 1937. He married, 18 April 1912 at St Philip & St James, Oxford, Margaret Vera (1882-1965), daughter of Capt. Michael Morton Metcalfe Festing of Oxford, but had no issue.
He purchased Portington Hall from his brother Percy in the late 1930s and employed Sir William Milner to restore it. His widow lived latterly at Bridlington (Yorks ER).
He died 24 January 1956; his will was proved 13 April 1956 (estate £10,968). His widow died 13 July 1965; her will was proved 19 October 1965 (estate £7,291).

Principal sources

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, p. 133; 'Memoir of Mrs Helen Leak', The Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, 1876; Sir N. Pevsner & D. Neave, The buildings of England: Yorkshire - York and the East Riding, 2nd edn., 1995, p. 399; D. Crouch (ed.), Victoria County History of York: East Riding, vol. x part 1, 2019, pp. 219-26;

Location of archives

Bell family of Portington Hall: estate plans, 1754-1855 [East Riding of Yorkshire Archives, DDTR]
Wilberforce-Bell, Sir Harold (1885-1956): scrapbooks and papers relating to career in the Indian army and political service, 1904-56 [British Library, Dept. of Asian & African Studies, MS. Eur G57]

Coat of arms

Quarterly, 1st and 4th, sable a chevron couped ermine between three church bells argent; 2nd and 3rd, argent, an eagle displayed sable, charged with a chevron and semée of cross-crosslets or.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone confirm how and why, on the death of Henry Ball III (d. 1839), Portington Hall passed to his brother John rather than his son, Henry Wade Bell?
  • Can anyone tell me when Percy Wilberforce-Bell sold Portington Hall to his brother Sir Harold, or provide more information about the ownership history of Portington Hall since 1956?
  • Can anyone provide portraits of the people whose names appear in bold above, for whom no image is currently shown?
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 9 April 2023.

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