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Bella Burge (Bella Lloyd) (Bella of Blackfriars) (née Leah Belle Orchard)

(1877-1962), Music Hall entertainer, dresser to Marie Lloyd and boxing promoter at The Ring

Sitter in 1 portrait

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Denise Kennedy

07 January 2021, 13:14

Bella Burge was born Leah Belle Orchard in New York on 29th September, 1877 to English parents. She was brought back to Whitechapel, London when she was 4 after her Solicitor father died. She fell in love with the musical hall at an early age, being employed for the first time aged 11 at the Whitechapel Pavilion. There she met the Lloyd Sisters Gracie and Alice and went on to be 'adopted' by Marie Lloyd aged 12, becoming her Dresser, touring the music halls with her. She later teamed up with another of Marie's sisters Rosie to form the Sisters Lloyd act. Bella would be further down the Bill, continuing to be Marie's Dresser for her top billing They continued to be close friends until Marie's death on stage in 1922. Aged 24 she met the ex professional boxer Dick Burge in June 1901, marrying him a few months later. After only three weeks of marriage, her new husband was arrested for his involvement in the Liverpool Bank Fraud and sentenced to 10 years hard labour. Bella went back on the boards as Ella Lane until his release in 1909. Dick and Bella opened Blackfriars Ring (the first boxing venue at prices the working classes could afford) in May 1910. When Dick Burge died of pneumonia in 1918, Bella carried on running the Ring until it was destroyed in Oct 1940 during The Blitz. She is thought to be the world's first female boxing promoter. In 1958, Bella was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in the audience as part of the 'This Is Your Life' series. Bella Burge died in 1962 aged 85.

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