Category: Builder, Architect
Matthew Bell was a builder, stone carver and architect. His work is featured on numerous buildings throughout the city, including several of his own residential homes on Albert Street and Water Street, as well as the Basilica of our Lady and the portico of "Moreton Hall", the residence of F.W. Stone, now a central architectural feature located on Johnston Green at the University of Guelph. Bell's work is also featured on Old City Hall at 59 Carden Street (1856-57, architect Willam Thomas).
Bell was born March 1820 in Newcastle-on-Tyne, Northumberland Co., England. He arrived in Guelph c. 1850 and operated a stone quarry. Early maps show the quarry location along the western boundary of the city along the Speed River. Today, remnants of the Bell quarry are still visible along the trail between the river and Water Street West. Bell and his sons worked as building contractors, which gave him the opportunity to add some of his signature craftsmanship to each commission. Some of his work is rather whimsical, such as the incorporation of a carved bird and cherubs into the sidewall of a stone home at 193 Norfolk Street.
One of Bell's last commissions was the apsidal chapels at the Basilica of our Lady (constructed 1876-1888). He fell ill and died on 28 June 1880 and was not able to see the completion of this iconic Guelph landmark. He is buried in St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery where his grave is marked with a monument he designed and carved prior to his death.
Source: Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada.