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Archive Reference / Library Class No.D8760/F/FEG
TitleRecords of Eleanor Isabella Gell nee Franklin, daughter of Sir John and Eleanor Franklin and wife of Reverend John Philip Gell
Date1828-[early 20th cent]
DescriptionThe records of Eleanor Isabella Gell passed to her husband, John Philip Gell, and were then handed down to their descendants until their deposit in the Derbyshire Record Office.
Extent500 items
RepositoryDerbyshire Record Office
Archive CreatorEleanor Isabella Franklin, later Eleanor Gell (1824-1860)
Gell family of Hopton Hall, Wirksworth
Administrative HistoryEleanor Isabella Franklin was born on 3 June 1824, the only child of Sir John Franklin and his first wife, Eleanor Anne (nee Porden). Her mother died on 22 February 1825, before Eleanor had reached her first birthday. During her infancy she was largely brought up in the household of her aunt Isabella Cracoft, as Franklin was absent on his second Arctic land expedition (1825-1827). After his second marriage, to Jane Griffin on 5 Nov 1828, Eleanor was briefly brought up by the newly married couple in their home at Devonshire Street before Franklin took up the command of H.M.S. Rainbow in the Mediterranean in August 1830. Although she remained with Jane Franklin (now Lady Franklin) for a little while, she returned to the care of Isabella Cracroft, when Lady Franklin decided to go on her own travels in August 1831. When Franklin took on the post of Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land [now Tasmania] in 1836, Eleanor finally had the opportunity of being long term with her father and step-mother; they travelled out as a group, together with her cousins Mary Franklin and Sophia Cracroft, on H.M.S. Fairlie (which sailed on 26 Aug 1836). The family lived at Government House in Hobart, Tasmania, from January 1837 to November 1843. In 1840 John Philip Gell arrived in Tasmania on the appointment of Sir John Franklin to become headmaster of Christ's College. He lived at Government House with the Franklin family, and soon formed an attachment with Eleanor Franklin. By the time Sir John Franklin had been replaced as Lieutenant Governor by Sir Eardley Wilmot and returned to England, Gell and Eleanor had become engaged, much to to the approval of both Sir John and Lady Jane.

The Franklins arrived back in England in June 1844. During the first few months their time was taken up with SIr John Franklin trying to obtain satisfaction for his grievances at the circumstances surrounding his recall, which included preparation of a pamphlet defending his conduct and actions. In December 1844, however, SIr John landed the appointment of commander of another expedition to the Arctic. He set sail from England in May 1845 in command of two ships, H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror, and their crews. With Sir John's not expected back home for another couple of years, Eleanor and her step-mother took the opportunity to travel, first to France in September, then the West Indies, United States of America and Canada in 1846, and Italy and Belgium in 1847.

With no news of Sir John's expedition yet, there was ever-incresaing anxiety about his welfare, and people started to encourage search expeditions to be sent to the Arctic, with Lady Franklin being at the forefront. Late in December 1848 John Philip Gell arrived back in England, and the decision was taken by Eleanor and Gell to get married as soon as possible. In spite of Lady Franklin's apparent reluctance, the marriage ceremony took place on 7 June 1849 at the church of St George, Bloomsbury. With John Gell now a clergyman with little income, increasing tensions surfaced between the Gells and Lady Franklin over the expenditure being laid out on search expeditions which the latter financed. Relations between the two parties became increasingly strained and their divisions were openly exposed. Following the discoveries on the fate of the Franklin expedition made by John Rae late in 1854, reconciliation was made between the Gells and Lady Franklin, and in 1855 there was a settlement over the estate of Sir John Franklin, now officially regarded as dead. The relationship between Eleanor and Lady Franklin never became cordial again.

Eleanor and John Philp Gell had 7 children: Elizabeth Eleanor Franklin (1850-1909), John Franklin (1851-1884), Philip Lyttelton (1852-1926), Mary Frances (1854-1946), Henry Willingham (1856-1942), Alice Honora (1857-1927) and Lucy Dorothea (1859-1939). Eleanor Isabella Gell died at Tredunnoc, Monmouthshire on 30 Aug 1860. The family had been taking a holiday there, ironically for the sake of Eleanor's health, when she took on the nursing of sick children there. Unfortunately, she contracted scarlet fever from them, which resulted in her death.

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Related Names
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Gell; Eleanor Isabella (1824-1860); daughter of explorer Sir John Franklin
HMS Erebus; 1826-1848; Royal Navy ship
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