Identifying local girls from bygone era in Bell-Smith painting

As this is Heritage Week, Isle of Rumleski is revisiting an issue to see if we can get all of the girls identified in the painting by Frederic Bell-Smith titled Return From School.

Above are some of the names to get us started. Thanks to M for this clipping. If you know any more names of the females in this painting (you can see it in the link below), please leave them on this blog and also contact Museum London.

Cut out of some of the real local girls

The link to the original story is here.

Letter from O’Dell family to a family member of the Elizabeth (Puss) Browne line submitted by M



20 thoughts on “Identifying local girls from bygone era in Bell-Smith painting

  1. M also wonders as I do ,why the reporter on this story didn’t include which image belongs to which, while actually talking to these 50ish women just after the Great War.
    The citizens of London own this artwork, widow Cooper gave it to them in 1940.
    Local art/historical museum staff are only baby-sitting it for us..
    They were someone’s grandma in 1923…

  2. M points out that some of these girls are models, painted in separately.
    The painting is from 1884 but we wonder how long it would have taken Bell-Smith to paint it.
    Wouldn’t it be fabulous to get the “real” females from London’s past identified for future generations. Would provide a great history lesson to a boy or girl to discover that a great-great grandmother is in the painting.

  3. Gleaned from posting to a Reaney LFP blog last year –
    “….archeologist/social historian J. Grainger book comes up with
    something about the journalist “Dick” RF Matthews in the Heritage
    Week genealogy/art feature, as future spouse-of Miss Maude Kidner.
    Someone in the Kidner/Matthews line identified the leaning over girl
    as Maude Kidner, b 1871, m at Port Hope 1895 , but born in London,
    as was the groom. If anyone has anything to cross-verify this helpful
    identification of one the 1884 Girls of FM Bell-Smith, it would help
    researchers.” (no response to blog)
    -Matthews operated a short-lived newspaper called the “Nudger”, the
    connection of course being after litte Maude posed for a character
    her school’s art teacher’s panoramic view. Wonder if Mama Kidner
    chaperoned the sitting ?
    Kathy This ID matches the much-circulated Donnelly diagram, so maybe
    Museum can accept it for working purposes.
    “Little Miss Malcolmson” viewed with adjacent social note re a Wingfield,
    visiting, suggests a family connection with Poet Alex. Wingfield, Hamilton
    Little girl, white hood, light coat looking back. Which will bring us to another
    local family’s teen-aged daughter.
    Hope you are marking these up on the picture for reference.

  4. Lenore Crawford did story on this when the Gallery issued a set of postcards
    from the collection. 1971, and by now ‘3 local girls” are mentioned as modelling.
    The story is not if the Girls caught Husbands – but who were those Victorian
    Parents who permitted their delicate daughters to model for a male artist??
    B-S leaves town shortly after apparently..
    – Here’s Maude Kidner from online data for Durham Co.:
    ” Richard F. MATTHEWS 30, editor, London Ont., same., s/o R.F. & Jane MATTHEWS
    married Maude KIDNER, 24, London Ont., Port Hope Ont., d/o Wm & Mary KIDNER ,
    witn: Herbert and Ida MATTHEWS, both of London, Ont., 19 June 1895 at Port Hope.”
    Kidner summer residence apparently…
    Can we hope that a journalist’s family at least kept good family records, including
    Mother’s anecdote about her schooldays and that well-known painting ??

  5. Congratulations, Google is starting to pick your blog up at letter K.
    Try it yourself.
    Anyway, a diary of one of the Friends of Maude, also a Girl, notes
    Dick Matthew’s birthday, wedding date and birth of a son late
    1896 (so no finger counting there as with Sweden’s Throne’s
    heir Princess Victoria (news today).
    “June 19 1895 Dick Matthews wedding day
    “Aug 26 1891 Dick Matthews 27 years
    “Dec 5 1896 Little Dick Matthews
    So there could be Kidner/Matthews descendents around with
    many other surnames.

  6. Just re-searched ‘Isle of rumlesk …..5 seconds while the little man
    in your computer scurries around in the ISLEof RUMLESK file
    until he retrieves you, and asks ‘Did you mean: isle of rumleski’
    and displays your listing.

  7. .26 seconds just now. 4 possibles, 2 with your name.
    Suspect this can be speeded up if you regular viewers Google-searched,
    your blog, instead of just clicking on your server’s emailed link.

  8. .19 seconds now-
    To Girls again:
    The tall one looking back, above Maude Kidner, in grouping that
    seems made up of modelled vs imaginary characters, has been
    suggested as Annie O’Dell. Family confirmation of her being
    permitting her to pose but , without circling the image, comes as
    late as 1969, family now in Windsor.
    Thank heavens for high class searchable namings -“(Middlesex Co):
    “Burley Wellington BENNETT 28 railway conductor Walsingham London,
    s/o Andrew M. BENNETT & Hannah LAYMAN, married
    Annie O’DELL, 28, London, same,
    d/o John O’DELL & Catherine McMASTER,
    witn: William A. O’DELL & James E. KEENLEYSIDE, both of London
    14 April 1897 at London.”
    – Annie said to have lived across Hamilton Rd (WoE) from the Big Hat
    central figure. More of her later.
    – Friends datebook entry:
    Feb 4 1903 Baby Boy Bennett born
    Feb 8 1909 Baby Anna Bennett died age 14 mos.
    Apr 14 1897 Annie O’Dell married
    Aug 21 1936 Annie O’Dell BENNETT (death?)
    Dec 18 1907 Anna BENNETT born.

  9. Bell-Smith London 1884 Return from School / Daughters of Canada [c3x5 feet !]
    William Forsey 1975/6 re London Public Library and Art Museum collection,
    1940 Gift to City London of Annie W.G. COOPER
    -Forsey mentions diary of teacher Miss C.A.C. CANNELLa notation that a
    number of pupils posed for “Going Home from School” (location of diary
    apparent unknown now). He notes Bell Smith skill with photography…
    He states “At least ten of the foreground figures have been identified
    (although admittedly with little agreement),..Puss BROWN, Clara MUCHMORE,
    Addie COLVILLE, Clara BUCKE, Mable BAPTY… etc.”
    What does he mean “etc”? !! Did he do further work when he was hired
    by LRAG at the Forks? Does Museum London have further information ?
    Next Girl – the WINGFIELD/BROWNE daughter.

  10. @Girls of 1884…your knowledge of Google search algorithms, and SEO (search engine optimization)PaeRank (page ranking methodology) is naive or ill-informed at best.

    How quick K or Isle appears on your computer is independent from any one else’s. It is simply Google reponding to your indicated search preferences and your personal frequency of visits to that page.

  11. Sir, address your comments to the blog host, as we did. No claim to expertise,
    just reporting our experience to her.
    Insulting her followers is one way to make sure people don’t correspond with
    her blog.

  12. The 1923 article was published 6 weeks after the death of the artist.
    As a friend, Mr. Cooper may well have decided to pay his respects
    to the Victorian families who enabled the large school scene he’d
    housed for about 40 years. He and his wife too lived on Waterloo St.
    near Dufferin, and it’s unlikely they would have been pleased if the
    identifications of now-neighbour housewives were wrong. Wonder if
    any art expert has ever followed the Bell-Smith family line and asks
    what their handed-down family story is about the people in the painting ?

  13. This from M:
    The 14-year-old in the big black hat has long been identified to local library/art people as Miss Elizabeth Wingfield Browne, youngest daughter of Boilermaker Browne and Elizabeth Wingfield, sister of Alexander
    Wingfield, Scots poet in Hamilton. The c.1848 three-generation emigration from Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland via Blantyre through Glasgow to New York State USA split off, ‘Wingfield’ surname staying
    in Hamilton and ‘Browne’ coming to London. Oldest son would become Postmaster Thomas Browne, also in 1889 County of Middlesex History aka Goodspeeds.
    This pair appear again in Bell-Smith works (see image). It is said that her parents said “Of course not”, when first approached and something/someone got them to change their minds. A guess is that the artist knew people in Hamilton and London and got someone to vouch for him and the propriety of having the young lady pose for his school scene. This could have encouraged other families to agree – in those
    days, everybody knew everybody through one community group or another.

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