Anne Olivier Bell

I sadly missed the memorial event at the British Library last week devoted to the life of Anne Olivier Bell, the last of the so-called Monuments Men, editor of Virginia Woolf’s diary, and co-founder of Charleston Farmhouse. I thought I knew her well, but learned a lot that I had not known by listening to the recording: about the trickiness of her childhood split between her mother in Dorset and her father, who was Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum; that she was a motorbike despatch rider in the war, before she worked for the Monuments Commission, which she always downplayed (this I knew) and only did for a year and a half; about her sitting at her desk at the Arts Council with her pencil poised to pounce on any error in the catalogues; about her dressmaking in the late 1960s at Cobbe Place; and how little she wrote herself and how much she hated public speaking. What comes across is how loved she was, and admired, by the people who were asked to speak about the different aspects of her life up until her death last year aged 102.


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