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Phelps, Bella (1820-1893)

The Art of Madeira Embroidery, by Lillie McAnge. The Art of Madeira Embroidery, by Lillie McAnge.

Bella Phelps (1820-1893) was the daughter of the wine shipper, Joseph Phelps and his wife, Elizabeth Phelps. They lived on the island of Madeira and Joseph Phelps co-owned a firm (since 1804 called Phelps, Page & Co) that had established a wine trade network between Britain and Madeira.

Bella Phelps was born at Funchal, Madeira, and when grown up she became concerned with the negative effect on the local population of Madeira of a cholera epidemic. She carried out charitable work and helped teach the girls to embroider. She developed Madeira embroidery and took it to Britain in the late 1840's via her sister Kitty (1824-1895) and Lady Marian Alford (who was later involved with Kensington School of Needlework). It proved to be highly popular at the Great Exhibition in London, mainly because of its high quality. Madeira embroidery, being a type of embroidered lace became a standard part of any Victorian lady's trousseau. 

On the island, Bella Phelps helped to make the production of Madeira embroidery into a cottage industry of bordadeiras, mainly for the British market, which employed large groups of women. She had received severe leg injury after a horse riding accident and was in constant need of treatment, and finally she moved to Clapham Common in 1860 and died in 1893.

Source: FORREST, Penelope (née Phelps; 2011). A Memoir in Letters.

Digital source (retrieved 21 October 2016).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 21 October 2016).

WV

 

Last modified on Thursday, 20 October 2016 18:38