Broad Street Wrington Archive
Reminiscences of Dr Bell's house, by Nick Joy
Wrington Website

I was particularly interested in reading [on the website] about Dr H A Bell, as our family lived there for many happy years having bought the house in Ropers Lane at auction after Mrs Bell's demise.

My father bought the old surgery owned and run by Dr and Mrs Bell in 1978. I remember that distinctly as I was the first to have a birthday in the new house and I was going to reach the grand milestone of 10 years old!

The interior when we moved in was more than slightly depressing, absolutely every piece of archtectural woodwork layered in deep, dark brown woodstain and varnish. The work to strip it all off back to the wood and repaint left the house reeking of burnt varnish for months! What was undoubtedtly 'de rigeur' for a working premises in the Georgian era was really far too sober and sombre to be contemplated as the inside of a large family house.

One of our first discoveries was indeed the ashes of Dr Bell's brother who died en route to America. As I recall, they were discovered underneath one of the myriad apple-storing racks in the garage. The apple trees were the dominating feature of the beautiful garden (in conjunction with a simply vast pampas grass dead centre of the lawn, fully 7 yards in diameter).

Dr Bell had hung bricks off all the branches of all the apple trees to train them to an easily reachable height for pruning and harvesting, ideal for someone heavily into apples - a confounded menace for myself as looking after the lawns was principally my responsibility during the school holidays. I acquired many cuts, scratches and bruises mowing beneath those damn trees! Indeed, my father excelled himself by imediately getting himself swept off a brand new ride-on lawnmower by a low branch! Fortunately only pride was wounded.

In later years we actually discovered a long lost well ( a 'bottle well' where the base of the well is much greater in diameter than the surface aperture) in the paddock to the south east of the house. I believe it suffered the ignominious fate of being filled with hardcore when the house and grounds were sold - which I always thought was a great shame.

But aside from the house and garden the over-riding memory of our time there was the tight huddle of a number of steel sheet sheds! Almost a mini-conurbation in their own right they had been erected by the Bells.

There was a summer house, several coal and wood storage sheds, an outside privy - presumably for the use of the staff (long since redundant by the time we moved in thankfully) - and a workshop which I believe is where Dr Bell tied his flies for fishing. I have particular memories of that workshop, first and foremost the great array of mouldering certificates and rosettes for homing pigeons all carefully and lovingly pinned to the low roof beams. The legacy of their fondness of poultry was also well represented both in terms of static and mobile chicken coops.

In the front garden (i.e. to the north) was an enormous fig tree, a copious fruiter. I still to this day miss the simply fabulous figs we used to pick from it. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, quite so fabulously delicious as a fig picked from that tree and consumed on the spot!

The drive to the house from Ropers Lane was very steep and I have fond memories of toboganning down it with my sisters and brother. Once I even managed to get all the way down to the bottom of the main garden, a distance of more than 100 yards! It was also instrumental in teaching me the fine art of the hillstart which stood me in good stead for my driving test which I passed second time around. The drive is still there today, though now a cul-de-sac, ideal for a learner driver wanting to learn how to do a hillstart in reverse!

I was stunned to see a photograph of Mrs Bell clad in wellies and mac standing beside a yawning great bomb crater dead centre of the vegetable garden with the tiles of the north face of the house clearly having suffered blast damage in Mark Bullen's 'Wrington at War'; a couple of yards closer to the house and there would almost certainly have been fatalities. We never found any obvious bomb debris!

Though I never knew Dr H A Bell as he died in 1973, 5 years after I was born, I still have dim memories of being held up on the way back from school by old Mrs Bell puttering along at '2 miles a fortnight' as Mum muttered at the time while her dog ran gamely along! As I said I never knew H A Bell, but my memories of Harbells run rich and deep.