Edmund Kell (1799-1874) was born in Wareham in January 1799, the son of the local Unitarian minister. He took an MA at a college in Glasgow and then studied divinity at York. He followed his father in becoming a Unitarian minister, his first post taking him in 1823 to Newport on the Isle of Wight where he remained for 30 years. He moved to Southampton in 1853. Soon after arriving in the town he purchased land which had formerly been part of the Bellevue House estate on which he built a new church to replace the Methodist chapel in Canal Walk, which the local Unitarians had acquired for worship in 1851. The new building, the Church of the Saviour (image 1), was opened in 1859 and survived until 1940 when it was destroyed during the Blitz. It was then replaced in 1956 by a new church built on the corner of London Road and Bellevue Road.
Kell was involved in many reforming projects in the mid to late-19th century, including the anti-slavery and temperance movements. He was a supporter of drinking fountains which he promoted as an alternative to beer drinking. He was a member of the Society of Antiquarians and a keen archaeologist and historian.
His wife Elizabeth Kell (1803-1872) was also active in reform movements, notably in work with the town’s prostitutes. In particular she campaigned against the provisions of the Contagious Diseases Act, under which women suspected of being prostitutes were forced to undergo degrading examinations. After her death in 1872 Edmund built a school adjoining the church in her memory (image 2).
Roadshow: Newtown and Nichol’s Town, by Jean Cook, Chapter W, p9-11. (HS/h)
Southampton Memorials of Care for Man and Beast, by A. G. K. Leonard, p1-8. (HS/k)
Memorials of the Reverend Edmund Kell and Mrs Kell of Southampton. (HS/t)
‘Elizabeth Kell 1803-1872’, by Barbara Currie, in Hampshire Field Club Newsletter (New Series), No. 21, Spring 1994, p22-23. (H/h)
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