Elizabeth (Bella) PHELPS 1820 - 1893
Born 25th October 1820, Funchal Madeira.
Died 14th May 1893, Clapham London. Buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Woking
In her early twenties Bella was kicked by a horse and a tendon in her leg was severed. For ever afterwards she found she needed to lie down every afternoon.
In spite of this, and the obesity which resulted partly from lack of exercise, she achieved lasting fame as being responsible for enabling a valuable source of income for the local peasant women. Embroidery had been practised in Madeira before her involvement, but Bella persuaded friends in England to sell the work of the islanders. She also imported fabrics and thread and drew designs for them and eventually established a flourishing trade which continues in Madeira to this day.
Bella's mother describes her in a letter as having the most powerful mind of all the children and a tenacious memory, as well as being more widely read than most people. In a family where every other member played at least one musical instrument, Bella was the exception, describing herself as "the Miss Phelps who does not play".
An example of Madeiran embroidery
Bella made a number of trips to England in connection with the embroidery business, sometimes going on to Ilkley in Yorkshire to take a Water Cure. In 1860 she moved with her parents to Clapham in London when they retired there. She became an associate of the Anglo-Catholic Sisterhood of Saint Margaret, founded by John Mason Neale who had met the Phelps family while visiting Madeira. Bella would often go and spend time at their convent in East Grinstead.
After their parents' death Bella and her sister Mary continued to live at the Carmo, Clapham, and she died there aged 72.
Carmo, 46 Larkhall Rise, Clapham, 2021
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