‘The White Swan’, against the South Gate, St Paul's Churchyard, London; cabinet maker (b. circa 1698–d. 1740)
Henry Bell was the son of Thomas Bell, vintner of London. On 11 November 1712 he was apprenticed to John Coxed at the White Swan, presumably gaining his freedom about 1719. He probably stayed on at the White Swan workshop as a journeyman under Grace Coxed and Thomas Woster. In August 1735 Grace Coxed died, followed by Woster in December 1736.
From 1736 Henry Bell was registered at this address until his death in 1740. His trade card indicates that he made and sold ‘all Sorts of ye finest Cabinet Goods, all sorts of Looking Glasses, Coach Glasses & Chairs of all sorts’. He offered to alter old looking-glasses to the latest fashion.
Trade card of Henry Bell at the White Swan against The South Gate in St Pauls Church Yard (Heal,28.14), c. 1736-40. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Following the practice of Coxed & Woster he used his trade label to identify products from his workshops. This trade label has been recorded on several pieces of walnut and elm veneered furniture (illus. Gilbert (1966), figs 82-85). His successor at this address, Elizabeth Bell, was almost certainly his widow and Philip Bell his son.
Source: DEFM; Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840 (1996); Joiner’s Company records; Bowett & Lindey ‘Labelled Furniture from the White Swan Workshop in St Paul’s Churchyard’, Furniture History (2003).