Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Hands off Our Explorer!

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Hands off Our Explorer!

Article excerpt

Byline: HANNAH GRAHAM @HannahGraham21

PLANS to commemorate a noted explorer and writer in London have sparked criticism from those who say she's being "appropriated" from the North-east.

English Heritage announced plans to set up a blue plaque in honour of 19th century explorer Gertrude Bell as part of their drive to recognise more of history's most impressive women.

Bell, who helped establish the state of Iraq among her many remarkable achievements, will be honoured at a house she was "associated with for over 40 years" the charity says.

But its choice of location has dismayed some of Bell's admirers.

The plaque will be installed on a house in Knightsbridge, London - but Bell was born in Washington, her family home was Red Barns in Kirkleatham Street, Redcar, and she never lived full-time in the capital.

Even her archive is held in the North-east - at Newcastle University.

Her former home in Redcar has a blue plaque dedicated to her life as a scholar, traveller, administrator and a peacemaker, a friend of the Arabs.

Graham Best, who wrote a biography of Washingtonborn Bell, told The Guardian: "She didn't really have anything to do with London apart from her grandmother living there in a house in Cadogan Square. Is this a case of cultural appropriation? The thing with Gertrude Bell is that everyone is trying to appropriate her as a person.

The plaque at Bell's former Redcar "She is deeply misunderstood," he told the paper.

He added: "The thing is everyone is trying to grab hold of Gertrude Bell and say yes, she's one of us. But she's not."

Permission is still being sought from the owners of the building to erect the plaque, but it is expected to happen in 2019.

Howard Spencer, senior historian at English Heritage, told The Guardian: "When considering anyone for a blue plaque, English Heritage thanks to the family fortune, made in iron. …

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