RepositoryDerbyshire Record Office
Archive Reference / Library Class No.D3287
TitleGell family of Hopton Hall, Wirksworth
Date[13th-20th cent]
DescriptionThis collection contains papers relating to the main members of both senior and junior branches of the Gell family of Hopton from the 16th to the 20th centuries, together with title deeds and other estate records from the 13th to 20th centuries.

A significant proportion of the total collection was accumulated and organised by Philip Lyttelton Gell (1852-1926) and these papers document the whole of his commercial career and personal life. Of particular importance are Philip Lyttelton Gell's business papers. These include a good, though incomplete, series relating to Gell's involvement with the British South Africa (BSA) Company as Director (1899-1917,1923-1925), Chairman (1917-1920) and President (1920-1923). The significance of Gell's papers derives from the complexity of the Company's history in the early 20th century. The Company divided its business into Administrative - matters, which concerned the Colonial Office - and Commercial - other activities. The Colonial Office papers in the The National Archives at Kew comprehensively cover the relations of the Company with the British Government and include copies of the Company's administrative minutes and agenda up to the time responsible government was granted to Southern Rhodesia in 1924. Records in the National Archives of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe, comprise the administrative records of the Company during its rule of the area, but do not cover the activities of the London Office, a separate branch whose papers concern commercial activities and which document the internal organisation of the BSA Company and the interactions and conflicts amongst its Board of Directors. Many papers circulated to the Board were never included in its formal administrative agenda and minutes. It has been said that Philip Lyttelton Gell's papers are the most significant group extant to provide evidence of the internal policy of the BSA Company. Formal business papers include directors' reports and accounts together with reports of annual and extraordinary meetings of shareholders, 1899-1925 and board and committee minutes and agendas, 1902-1924. Other papers are grouped by subject. Especially noteworthy are the series D3287/BSA4: General papers relating to Southern Rhodesia and D3287/BSA5: Land Settlement. D3287/BSA4 contains documents which did not lend themselves to classification by specific subject such as Mining, Railways, and so on, and chiefly comprises political material - the Company's negotiations as to the future of its administration of the territory with the colonists themselves, the Colonial Office in London, the South African government and the diverse commissions and committees which deliberated on Rhodesia's future including the Cave Commission and the Buxton Committee. This group also contains Gell's correspondence with D O Malcolm, whose interests were strongly political and with Sir Drummond Chaplin at the time he was Administrator of Southern Rhodesia. D3287/BSA 5 relates largely to land settlement within Southern Rhodesia and to the commercial development of the area by the BSA Company. Many of the letters are from Mr P Inskipp, an Executive Director and later Commercial Manager of the Company.

Another series of business papers (D3287/RTC) relates to the Rhodesia Cold Storage and Trading Co. Ltd. Philip Lyttelton Gell was chairman of this company from 1903 to 1924. It was first registered in London in 1903. In 1908 its name changed to the Rhodesia Trading Company and it went into voluntary liquidation in 1926. The documents comprise printed papers of the company - annual reports, accounts, etc - plus a much larger series of Gell's own correspondence, notes, etc., dating from 1903-1924. Each week the company issued a newsletter, highly miscellaneous in content, with general observations on the state of trade and any matters of note. These newsletters give a valuable perspective on the company and its activities.

The founder of the company was Major, later Sir, Frank Johnson (1866-1943) whose ambitions were to amalgamate several cold storage and trading companies in the new colony and in Portuguese East Africa and then to develop links with a ranch in North Western Australia as a supplier of fresh meat to be transported to Rhodesia in the company's own ship. The company supported the development of Beira as the main port of entry for Southern Rhodesia in order to avoid over-dependence on Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The Mashonaland railway line to Beira was crucial to this and it was Cecil Rhodes himself who had suggested the Australian undertaking to Frank Johnson. Further on in the company's life, Gell wanted the Rhodesia Trading Company to be the supplier of coal to the British Admiralty at Beira and to develop and diversify its activities to become the agency for advertising on Rhodesian railways. The Rhodesia Trading Company was always precarious financially. Its early vicissitudes are fully documented in Gell's papers, but documentation is relatively scarcer for the final years of its existence.

D3287/BXA comprises the main series of papers relating to Philip Lyttelton Gell's business interests in Australia. British Exploration of Australasia Ltd was registered as a limited company in December 1900 and went into voluntary liquidation in June 1909. Its objectives were exploitation of mineral deposits in North Western Australia, largely dependent on the early development of rail access from Port Hedland to its mines in the Pilbara goldfields. Gell was Chairman of the board of directors from its inception, resigning in protest at the time of liquidation. He was an energetic Chairman, involved in all aspects of the company's administration and policy formation. However, the series of records is incomplete. There is much correspondence but no copies of directors' meetings minutes, nor is there a comprehensive set of the letters sent regularly to the Company Secretary by AE Morgans, the Managing Director throughout the life of the business. Chief correspondents with Gell are (John) Henry Birchenough (1853-1937) a director of the company from 1900-04; Sir William Sinclair Smith (1843-1916), another director of the company from 1897-1901 and NR Beeton and LA Brodrick (1864-1915) partners in the firm of Woolston, Beeton, Brodrick and West, stockbrokers to the company.

D3287/MIL chiefly comprises letters from Alfred, later Viscount, Milner to Philip Lyttelton Gell. Milner and Philip Lyttelton Gell were friends and contemporaries and the former had hoped to find a post for Gell in his famous 'Kindergarten'. It was not to be and instead Gell became a director of the British South Africa Company. Milner's letters, which survive amongst Gell's papers, complement those of Gell to Milner in the Bodleian Library. In Derbyshire Record Office there are 696 letters, some fragile, dating from 1871 to 1925 on a wide variety of topics, including Balliol College matters and personal concerns. The two men corresponded less frequently as time passed and, in general, the letters after 1902 are less informative. There is also a small group of papers about Milner after his death, chiefly concerning a memorial to him, 1925-1928.

Another section, D3287/1-131, comprises extensive series of family and estate papers of the Gells of Wirksworth and Hopton and related families from the 13th to the 20th centuries. These documents, more fully described below in Administrative History, are diverse in date and content but complement series held under the Derbyshire Record Office reference D258.

The final section, D3287/114-131, comprises a small group of miscellaneous personal, family and business papers, 1835-c.1960, mostly accumulated by Philip Lyttelton Gell and either strays from or complementary to the main series of his business papers. These include more British South Africa Company material related to that in D3287/BSA.
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Archive CreatorGell family of Hopton Hall, Wirksworth
Administrative HistorySir John Gell, 1st Baronet (1593-1671) was a well-known parliamentary commander in Derbyshire during the Civil War. He was the eldest son of Thomas Gell (1532-94) of Hopton and Millicent Sacheverell, daughter of Ralph Sacheverell of Stanton by Dale, who later married John Curzon of Kedleston. In Derbyshire Record Office the bulk of papers of his time are to be found in the collection referenced D258, but there are a few stray items in D3287 including a military treatise supposedly stained with his blood.

Sir William Gell (1777-1836) was a noted traveler and antiquarian, topographer of Troy, Pompeii, and classical other sites. He was the younger son of Philip Gell of Hopton and Dorothy his wife, nee Milnes, who later married the historian Thomas Blore. Knighted in May 1814, he was Chamberlain to Princess (later Queen) Caroline (of Brunswick), the estranged wife of George IV, and accompanied her into exile in August 1814. Having left her service, Gell eventually settled in Naples where he died unmarried. The majority of papers relating to him in Derbyshire Record Office are in the collection referenced D258, but some significant Items in Derbyshire Record Office collection D3287 include: the manuscript of the second part of 'Pompeiana', letters to William Hamilton, Secretary of Dilettanti Society, 1831-35 and letters to Lady Blessington, 1821-35 (all D3287/3). Some of these items are fragile and awaiting conservation before they can be made available.

The Revd John Philip Gell (1816-1898) was educated at Rugby School (where he was supposed to be the original of 'Old Brooke' in 'Tom Brown's Schooldays', published in 1857) and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He traveled to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) to become the first warden of a new educational institution, Christ College, in 1846. In 1991 this became part of the University of Tasmania. Gell's lasting contribution was to establish its library, using both his own books and donations from friends and relatives. In 1849 he returned to England to marry Eleanor Isabella Franklin (1824-1860) whom he had met while her father was Governor of Van Diemen's Land. Almost all the papers of John Philip Gell in Derbyshire Record Office are to be found in the collection referenced D3287 and include an account of his life at Rugby School, correspondence about Queen's School and Christ College, Tasmania, and diaries of journeys, respectively from Adelaide to Hobart town, 1845, in Tasmania, March 1846 and from Tasmania to England 1848. Letters to him also survive from Dr Arnold while Headmaster at Rugby, c1832-44. There are also two stray letters referenced D3311/127.

Eleanor Isabella Gell, nee Franklin (1824-1860) was the only child of John Franklin and his wife Eleanor nee Porden. Eleanor Isabella accompanied her father and his second wife when they went to Australia in 1843. She was close to her father and continued to write letters to him after he had left on his ultimately fatal Arctic expedition in 1845. After her marriage in 1849 to John Philip Gell, the couple lived in Buxted, Sussex. Eleanor Isabella Gell died in 1860 and is buried in Monmouthshire. Papers associated with Eleanor Gell in Derbyshire Record Office chiefly comprise family correspondence in the collection referenced D3287.

Philip Lyttelton Gell (1852-1926) was the son of John Philip and Eleanor Isabella Gell. He had a long and varied career, the highlight of which was his involvement in overseas development from 1899 until 1925, as a Director (1899-1917, 1923-25), Chairman (1917-1920) and President (1920-23) of the British South Africa Company. In these capacities he was closely associated with the settlement and administration of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), a country named after the Company's founder, Cecil Rhodes (d 1902). Gell's main ambition was to establish the British way of life in South Central Africa, an area he never visited and of which he had no first hand experience. The value of his papers lies in the light they shed on colonialism in the early years of the 20th century through Gell's extensive business and personal correspondence with a wide range of people - fellow Board members, Company employees, British and South African politicians and administrators, clergy, family members, friends, acquaintances and members of the public.

At King's College, London, and at Balliol College, Oxford, Gell was a close friend of Alfred, later Viscount, Milner (1854-1925) who tried unsuccessfully to make Gell one of his famous 'Kindergarten' during his early days in 1897 as High Commissioner in South Africa. Until 1896 Gell had been employed in publishing, firstly with John Cassell & Son and later as Secretary to the Oxford University Press. His philanthropic interests included Toynbee Hall, Whitechapel, of which he was Chairman from 1884 to 1896, and the Co-operative Movement in which he was a colleague of Earl Grey. Politically, he was active in support of the Liberal Unionists, especially while he was living in Oxfordshire, and he maintained links with Oxford University not least through his position as one of the literary executors of Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893), Master of Balliol College.

In an African context, Gell was also on the board of the Rhodesian Lands Company and was associated with the Scottish Sharpshooters' Association, both organisations intended to promote British land settlement. A detailed journal and associated photograph album of a tour down the Zambezi River in 1903 by an officer of the British South Africa Company also survive in PL Gell's papers. Other business interests in addition to the Rhodesia Trading Company Ltd. (see D3287/RTC) and the British South Africa Company Ltd (see D3287/BSA) included the Victoria Falls Power Project. Outside Africa, Gell sought to promote commercial development in Siberia, Spain and, especially, North Western Australia (see D3287/BXA).

Philip Lyttelton Gell's domestic interests included: the government and finance of the Church of England, especially in the context of Welsh disestablishment; history, especially of Merton College, Oxford (where his brother in law GC Brodrick was Warden); genealogy, especially of the Gell family; contemporary politics, especially Ulster Unionism. Gell contributed articles to a number of publications including the 'Nineteenth Century Review' and the 'Pall Mall Gazette'.

Virtually all Philip Lyttelton Gell's business and personal papers in Derbyshire Record Office are to be found in the collection referenced D3287. Letters from him to Milner survive in the Milner MSS in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Edith Lyttelton Gell was born in 1860, married in 1889 and died in 1944.
Before her marriage to Philip Lyttelton Gell, she was the Hon. Edith Brodrick, daughter of the 8th Viscount Midleton of Peper Harow, Surrey, and sister of William St John Fremantle Brodrick, 1st Earl Midleton (1856-1942), a distinguished politician who was Secretary of State for War from 1900-1903 and Secretary of State for India from 1903-1905. Edith shared her husband's interests and took an active role in political and Church of England fundraising and charitable activities, nationally as well as locally. An indefatigable writer of devotional poems, hymns, and moralistic pageants and tracts, Edith Lyttelton Gell strongly supported traditional family values. She was prominent in organisations such as the Mothers' Union, the Central Church Union and the Union of Women Workers. Derbyshire church matters were another interest and she involved herself in both Carsington and Wirksworth parishes. Deeply conventional in outlook, Edith Lyttelton Gell for many years published or circulated her writings amongst her extended family and social circle. She reached a wider readership with her memoirs, 'Under Three Reigns'.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of her papers relates to the work Edith Lyttelton Gell undertook to complement her spouse's involvement in Rhodesia. Females were thought to outnumber males in the population of Britain and, to address this 'surplus', emigration was widely promoted as a remedy not only for the scarcity of well paid employment for women but also for the shortage of potential husbands. Edith was a member of the British Women's Emigration Society and in 1901 became Chair of the South African Emigration Expansion Committee. She played a key role both in encouraging women to settle in the new country of Rhodesia and in vetting their suitability. She provided practical advice to intending female emigrants and her correspondence in the opening years of the 20th century includes much on the management and staffing of the Salisbury Hostel in Bulawayo, a facility for new women arrivals. All Edith Lyttelton Gell's papers in Derbyshire Record Office are in the collection referenced D3287, except for a travel journal with the reference D3311/125.

The Revd Frederick Gell (1820-1902) was the younger brother of John Philip Gell and was educated at Rugby School under Thomas Arnold (Head Master, 1827-1842) and at Christ Church, Oxford. After ordination, he served as chaplain to the Bishop of London. From 1860 the remainder of his career was in South India following his appointment as Bishop of Madras. The diocese was extensive and Gell took his duties seriously, making many tours over the next thirty-seven years. He was clear about his main objective 'the evangelisation of the world'- but he also engaged with local issues and concerns, particularly the caste system in Hinduism and the plight of children orphaned by famine Gell became Acting Metropolitan of India and corresponded with clergy colleagues in India and England on theological and administrative matters. For much of his time on the subcontinent he was accompanied by his unmarried sister, Caroline Mary Gell, whose papers include an illustrated journal of her brother's visitation of his diocese from October 1862 to January 1863 and her posthumous biography of him, 'Memorials of Bishop Gell'. Photographs include views of South Indian landscapes, especially hill stations such as Ootacamund and Cooncore, and of Todas natives in the Nilgiri Hills showing the traditional huts of this tribe. His papers in Derbyshire Record Office are to be found in the collection referenced D3287.

The four sisters of Philip Lyttelton Gell, named Edith, Helen, Augusta and Marian, entered into an agreement in 1896 to write to each other at least fortnightly. This they maintained until 1935 and long series of these letters between these dates survive in Derbyshire Record Office under the reference D3287/12-17.

George W Maunsell and his wife Pauline nee Thomas were the parents of Aileen Elizabeth Maunsell who married Philip VW Gell. George Maunsell wrote and published 'The Fisherman's Vade-Mecum', a standard work. George Maunsell's papers in Derbyshire Record Office are to be found in the collection referenced D3287 and include: letters from George W Maunsell to his wife Pauline nee Thomas from 1894 to 1917 including his service in India, 1894 (D3287/20/8), in South Africa during the 2nd Boer War, 1900-1902 (D3287/20/9-12,15-16) and while on active service during World War I, 1914-1917 (D3287/14,17,19). There is also a copy letter from Rev John Gell, army chaplain, from Lechtenburg, 19 Dec. 1900 commenting on reported rising of Cape Colony and recommending 'the harshest measures' to suppress it.

John Franklin Gell (1851-1884), known as Franklin, was the elder brother of Philip Lyttelton Gell. He died in India in 1884 aged 33.Most of John Franklin Gell's papers in Derbyshire Record Office are in the collection referenced D3287, with oddments in D3311. These include: his diary of a visit to Isle of Man 1868 (D3287/10/1), a journal relating to his illness and death, 1884 (D3311/10/6), business and personal correspondence 1870-83 (D3287/11/9), and letters of condolence on his death (D3311/11/10)

Lt. Col. Philip Victor Willingham Gell (d 1970) was the nephew and heir of Philip Lyttelton Gell. His papers in Derbyshire Record Office are in the collection referenced D3287 and include reports from his preparatory school and from Eton, 1903-11 (D3287/19/49), exam papers 1911-16 {/21/6]. Letters while on active service in World War I, 1914-18 (D3287/19/3), and other correspondence, 1925 (D3287/19/19), 1922 (/19/21) 1920 (/19/22), 1920-25(/19/50). Philip VW Gell served as High Sheriff of Derbyshire and was especially interested in promoting horseriding for disabled people.

Philip Anthony Maunsell Gell (1921-98), known as 'Anthony' or 'Antho', was son of Philip VW Gell and his wife Aileen nee Maunsell. Born on 8 Sept 1921 in Birmingham, he was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a degree in jurisprudence. While at Oxford, he was President of the University Boat Club. During World War II Gell was commissioned in 1942 into the Coldstream Guards and served until demobilisation in 1946. Major PAM Gell then worked for the family firm, British Heat Resisting Glass Company, and became its managing director. In 1958 he started in Kingswinford a firm called Elemelt which pioneered electric melting furnaces, but sold his interest in the business in 1984. He died in July 1998. No business papers survive in collections in Derbyshire Record Office but there is early personal correspondence including: letters while at Eton, 1930s (D3287/19/28,47), school reports from Eton 1934 (/19/48) letters while in the army in WWII (D3287/19/1,28), and letters to his parents, 1940s (D3287/19/2).

The Brodrick family, Viscounts and Earls Midleton of Peper Harow, Surrey, included Edith (1860-1944) who married Philip Lyttelton Gell in 1889. Apart from a few items with some political content, papers in Derbyshire Record Office collection referenced D3287 comprise chiefly family correspondence, 1833-c1924 (D3287/19/5-19) 1842-60 (D3287/19/23-27), 1853-1925 (D3287/19/29-42,44-47).

When the Gell of Hopton family papers were first surveyed at Hopton Hall by the Historical Manuscripts Commission in 1884, they were described as 'in the utmost confusion'. During the next hundred years, the situation became even more complex. Changes in ownership of the Hopton property led to division of papers formerly kept there between two different branches of the family. The junior branch then transferred its own papers to Hopton where they remained until the late 1980s. In addition, representatives of both lines broke up existing series. This protracted and extensive disruption means that it is difficult to identify items or groups of documents described in the past by the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

The senior Gell male line ended in 1719 with the death of the 3rd baronet, Sir Philip. His heir was his sister Temperance who died unmarried in 1730 when Hopton Hall and estate passed to her nephew John Eyre, son of William Eyre of Highlow, who then took the name Gell. This line also ended with a woman, Isabella, great-granddaughter of John Gell, formerly Eyre. She married William Pole Thornhill of Stanton in Peak, but they had no children. Their heir was Henry Pole who moved into Hopton in 1863 and adopted the surname Chandos-Pole-Gell. He died in 1902 leaving a son and heir, Brigadier Harry Anthony Chandos-Pole-Gell.

In 1884 the bulk of the family papers were at Hopton Hall. From 1904 to 1918 the Hall was let to Philip Lyttelton Gell by its then owner, Brigadier Chandos-Pole-Gell. In the immediate post-war period the property passed out of Chandos-Pole-Gell ownership, but it was eventually purchased in 1920 by the former tenant, PL Gell. Brigadier Chandos-Pole-Gell gave up the surname Gell and moved to Newnham Hall in Northamptonshire. He took with him many important series of family papers, including early correspondence. Some were filed and guarded in volumes kept in the Library at Newnham Hall.

Philip Lyttelton Gell (1852-1926) claimed descent from John Gell, brother of Ralph Gell (d 1564), and this branch of the family was established at Wirksworth from the 16th century. To the residue of papers, which remained in Hopton Hall of the senior branch of the Gells, Philip Lyttelton Gell added those he had inherited and those originating with himself and his wife Edith, both prolific writers and correspondents. He also purchased items, which he added to the archive. After the property at Hopton had passed to Philip Lyttelton Gell's nephew, Lt.Col. Philip VW Gell (d 1970), his wife, Mrs Aileen E Gell (d 1986) embarked on researching and re-organising all the papers. Her distinctive writing in blue ink is to be seen on many labels, wrappers and even original manuscripts. She also arranged for the British South Africa Company papers of Philip Lyttelton Gell to be transferred to the archives at Hopton. It also appears that she dispersed some of the papers. Three years after the death of Mrs AE Gell, the archives remaining at Hopton were transferred to Derbyshire Record Office under the reference numbers D3287 and D3311.
Custodial HistoryThese records were acquired by Derbyshire Record Office in 1989. In the early 1950s title deeds were transferred to Derbyshire County Council and thus to Derbyshire Record Office, to be followed at various times from the 1960s to the 1990s by further deposits of papers. These documents, held under the reference D258, were accepted in lieu of inheritance tax in 1999.
ArrangementD3287/BSA Philip Lyttelton Gell business papers: British South Africa Company, 1899 -1925;

D3287/RTC Philip Lyttelton Gell business papers: Rhodesia Trading Co. Ltd. 1903-1924;

D3287/BXA Philip Lyttelton Gell business papers: British Exploration of Australasia Ltd, 1900-1910;

D3287/MIL Philip Lyttelton Gell personal papers: correspondence, chiefly with Alfred, later Viscount, Milner, 1871-1959;

D3287/1-113 Gell family and estate papers including Sir John Gell (1593-1671), Sir William Gell (1777-1836), John Philip Gell (1816-1898), Eleanor Isabella Gell (1823-60), Frederick Gell (1820-1902), Philip Lyttelton Gell (1852-1926), Edith Lyttelton Gell (1860-1944), Philip VW Gell (d1970), PAM Gell (1921-1998) and related family members including George W Maunsell;

D3287/114-131 Philip Lyttelton Gell: miscellaneous business, family and personal papers, 1835 -c.1960
Organisation Sub-TypeFamily and estate
RelatedMaterialFor related material in Derbyshire Record Office relating to the Gell family, see D258, D3311 and D5783
Ethnic groups
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