Inspirational great aunt Evie drove Barnstaple teacher’s new soap making business

Retired teacher Frances Bell MBE has set up a new soap making business from her home in North Devon,

Retired teacher Frances Bell MBE has set up a new soap making business from her home in North Devon, inspired by her amazing great aunt Evie Kay. - Credit: Archant

A retired Barnstaple teacher’s new soap-making lockdown business was inspired by a truly selfless ancestor who had a great love of North Devon.

Evie Kay as a young nurse - this impressive woman raised her brother's children and her life inspire

Evie Kay as a young nurse - this impressive woman raised her brother's children and her life inspired her great niece Frances Bell to name her new business after her. - Credit: Archant

Frances Bell MBE set up Evie Kay Skincare just as Covid-19 was beginning to get going, turning her love of crafting family gifts into a new venture.

Evie was Frances’ great aunt, who ‘adopted’ her dad Brian and his sister when their mother died, when he was only 18 months old.

Frances said: “Evie was just 22 herself, yet she took on the role of ‘mum’ to her brother’s two children. It was just one example of what an extraordinary young woman she was.”

The soap-creation began as a means of making Christmas presents for family but she received such a positive reaction that she decided to go into business and soon the kitchen and conservatory was filled with soap-making paraphernalia.

Evie Kay in her later years, pictured with her nephew and Frances' dad Brian Kay.

Evie Kay in her later years, pictured with her nephew and Frances' dad Brian Kay. - Credit: Archant

Now she also makes vintage style soap slices, shampoo bars for short hair, two types of hand cream and a special guest size soap, with more creams, liquids and bath salts planned for the future.


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Evie Kay is described by Frances as an enigma – she was almost a dreamer at times yet clearly had been extremely practical as well as compassionate, training as a nurse during the First World War and then raising two young children herself in the Sheffield area.

She devoted huge amounts of time to sitting with the seriously ill and wounded. Frances said: “There are so many amazing stories about her.

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“My sister tells me that Evie saved the life of a friend of hers when he was a child. He had suffered from extreme burns and long before the days of widely available antibiotics his life was in danger. What saved him was Evie’s devotion, visiting every single day for two years to dress his wounds.”

Seashore soap by Evie Kay Skincare

Seashore soap by Evie Kay Skincare - Credit: Archant

Despite coming from a poor working class family, Evie raised both ‘her’ children to go to university – in fact, Frances’ father went to Cambridge, and indeed many other family members ended up in professional jobs.

Frances named her soaps Tranquillity, Hedgerow Secret, Seashore and English Rain after Evie’s love of nature and said: “Evie Kay is an enigma. Massively dedicated, hard-working and totally selfless, yet her spiritual side was almost dreamlike in its qualities.

“It was here in North Devon, with our beautiful countryside, moors and coastline that Evie really came to life. She adored being here, it brought out this other side to her, one which admired and respected the natural world in all its glory.”

There is an Evie Kay Skincare website at www.eviekayskincare.co.uk .

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