Harry was a real character, and well known in the local area for transporting the sheets of glass using his motorbike and sidecar, with his brave wife Norah, crouching in the sidecar beside him, clinging onto the glass for dear life as he zoomed along the Kentish roads. As business improved, Harry was able to invest in some small vans to replace the famous motorbike…much to Norah’s relief, no doubt!
Within a couple of years, the family business had already grown enough to employ 18 members of staff, but his family remembers him as not having been overly keen on having a business at all - wishing to avoid the stress that often comes with it. However, the demand was there and the success of the business snowballed and, much to the appreciation of younger members of the family, he decided to stick with it.
Sadly, Harry’s life was cut tragically short in a gliding accident at Rochester airport in 1967 aged just 52, and his son Mike Bell, who shared his passion for gliding as a hobby, was left to pick up the pieces of the business after the loss of his father.
Although Mike initially felt he had no choice in the matter of taking over the family firm, he soon developed a great passion for the business and with a strong worth ethic he pushed the company forward into new directions. By the 1980s, Mike had grown the company to having 95 employees and several branches, but still thought of it as a family business and employed people who he thought would love working with him and whom he saw as extended members of the family.
Michael retired in 1996 and now the business (these days trading as Bell’s Glass & Glazing in Rainham) is managed with pride and passion by Michael’s son, Alan Bell, who continues it as a largely family-run business; with his own children, Charlotte and Thomas, learning the glass trade with plans to follow in the footsteps of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather before them. Alan believes the lasting success of the business is down to following in the work ethic of his father and grandfather before him, being the first one in and the last to leave each day; high standards of work with good, consistent customer relationships and a really personal service that you get from dealing with a reliable Kentish family business.