The Bell/White 2 collection at Newcastle University comprises 326 pages of printed broadside material. Bound in an unpublished volume this collection of traditional Tyneside songs dates to as early as 1795. Although it is possible that some additions to the volume may have been made by Robert White, it is more likely that Bell himself was responsible for the compilation of the entire volume.
There appears to be no pattern or method to Bell's selection of the material, other than his genuine interest in all things regional. The material covers a broad spectrum of subjects, from political, historical and biographical songs to crimes and criminals, odd characters and strange events. The volume has the added interest of having been annotated by Bell, his manuscript notes revealing much about the events and characters referred to in the songs.
It is to John Bell in particular that we owe much of the wealth of collected material available in the North East. A voracious collector of all things and books in particular, Bell amassed a huge collection of broadsheets, chap books and notated songs throughout his life. Unfortunately in 1856 Bell was bankrupted, forcing him to sell Bell/White 2, along with a number of other items, to book collector Robert White. The volume was eventually donated to Newcastle University Special Collections where it is now housed.