BELL, James (1818-1872), architect and politician. ROYAL CORNWALL POLYTECHNIC SOCIETY MEDAL 1833. Bronze medal, First Class, engraved around the rim in italics "To Mr James Bell for Original Sketches in Water Colour, Octr. 1851". 45mm. EF. Eimer 1272. Very nicely toned.
James Bell (1818 –1872) was a son of John Bell (1774–1849) and Eliza Smith (died 1839), a Quaker family who lived and worked in London in the pharmacy business of Eliza’s father Frederick Smith of Haymarket. James’s elder brother was Jacob Bell (1810-1859), the famous pharmacist, politician and art collector.
James Bell trained in architecture under William Railton (best known as the designer of Nelson's Column), but never went on to practice as a career, and entered politics as a British Liberal Party supporter, serving as MP for Guildford 1852-1857. He married Mary Ann Spencer in 1858, by whom he had 8 children. In 1866 he changed his name by Royal Licence to James Spencer-Bell.
In his early years James gained the Royal Academy silver medal for measured drawings, and in 1847 the Royal Institute of British Architects silver medal for an essay – he was elected a Fellow of RIBA in 1850 and was also to serve as its Honorary Secretary. In 1851 he evidently won the present First Class prize of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society for his sketches – his obituary notice for RIBA noted that he “travelled much, and was indefatigable with his pencil”. James gave practical help and support to a wide number of learned, benevolent and religious societies throughout his life.