Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Monday, 19 October 2020

Hilaire Belloc: The Man Who Saw The Future


One hundred years ago Sussex writer, poet, essayist and former Member of Parliament, Hilaire Belloc, made a number of predictions about the future of this country and the world. At the time people thought him archaic in his thought, absurd in his arguments, and on the wrong side of history. Today, though, his sense of direction seems to have been uncannily accurate on many fronts. Local historian, Chris Hare will also focus on Belloc the Sussex man. He will read some of Belloc’s Sussex poems, sing some of Belloc’s songs and read extracts from Belloc’s Sussex book, The Four Men.

Event Location:

Ropetackle Arts Centre, High St, Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex. BN43 5EG

Box Office: Wordfest


Box Office: Ropetackle


Book Now!

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Belloc and Poland...


Homage to Hilaire Belloc would be incomplete that omitted mention of his friendship to Poland. With that “Catholic conscience of history” which impregnates all his writings, Belloc, long before the first World War, sensed the tragic consequences for Europe of Poland’s absence from the comity of free nations. He was in Poland only twice—in 1912, when gathering material for his book on The Campaign of 1812, and again in the ‘thirties. Of this latter journey he recorded his impressions in Return to the Baltic, published in 1938. His knowledge of history and his acquaintance with ethnic and cultural realities, which in Central and Eastern Europe before 1914 were af the uttermost variance with the political map, no doubt reinforced his Polish sympathies and convictions.”Catholic Poland,” he wrote in The Campaign of 1812, “by all her inheritance and traditions leans on Western Europe” ) it was one of the “most highly differentiated nations in Europe ; this nation, however, was partitioned ; it was a crime, he said (writing in 1912), “from which so much of our own near future is to develop.” To a map of Poland accompanying this book, with frontiers between Germany, Russia and Austria cutting across the Polish national entity, Belloc added a line marking an “approximate limit of Polish language and culture” in the West. With prophetic insight he drew almost the ,Polish-German frontier which Roman Dmowski, the great Polish statesman who headed the Polish Delegation, demanded in 1919 at the Peace Conference of Paris. Although the experts of the Peace Conference, including Sir William (later Lord) Tyrrell, accepted the bulk of the Polish demands, the passionate and ill-advised intervention of Lloyd George considerably changed the proposed frontiers to the detriment of Poland. In his Return to the Baltic Belloc recalls this incident and comments : “That solution was advised by the experts who understood their business ; it was turned down by ignorant politicians . . . who had for the Poles an antipathy almost as strange as their lack Of European knowledge was profound and wide.”

If Belloc was asking justice for Poland it was also because, as he stated in The Two Maps of Europe, published in 1915, a rearranged map of Europe would be in accordance with the ideals and interests of the Allies. “It is essential to Prussia,” he said, “that no really independent Poland should re-arise, even mutilated. . . . It is a matter of life and death to the Allies to prevent the re-establishment of Prussian power, with its ideal of domination over others.” In his pamphlet, The Catholic and the War (1940), he repeated his warning almost word for word, and added : “Unfortunately, the English did not understand the situation.”

In many of his writings Belloc stresses the historic services Poland rendered to Europe. “Poland is a bastion,” he says in Return to the Baltic, “. . . It saved us in the Battle of Warsaw as it saved us more than two hundred years earlier in the Battle of Vienna. . . . When Pilsudski won his famous battle he . . . saved everything east of the Rhine. . . . It looks as though the Germans may not have been saved for a much better fate. It looks as though another barbarism, almost as bad as the modern barbarism of Moscow, were to take place of the German culture.”

When in 1935 a Warsaw journal, Pologne Litteraire, published a special number devoted to Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, Belloc contributed an article in which he wrote : “Until he, Pilsudski, gathered power into his hands, the conception of Poland in the English mind was indeterminate in outline and faint in substance. The few years during which he ruled gave body to that vague impression, and firmness to that outline ; he made Poland real for the educated classes in England—even the politicians.” But, in order “not to exaggerate this effect,” Belloc underlined that Poland “still remained remote from the English mind,” and he analysed the .converging factors of this inability to grasp the significance of Poland. First, “the English public schools, in which the governing classes of a nation essentially aristocratic are trained, pay very little attention to history outside their own country.” A second cause of this lack of appreciation was “the attitude of the English mind towards nations of Catholic culture.” There were also the factors of time and language.

Five years later, when Poland again lay partitioned between Germany and Russia, certain voices were heard in this country recommending a negotiated peace with Germany. One was that of Lloyd George. Another was that of Lord Beaverbrook who, on March 31st, 1940, in an article in the Sunday Express, stated that he had “no interest in rescuing Poland and Czechoslovakia from the gutter, dusting them and setting them upon pedestals again with guns in their hands to be knocked down once more.” The present writer was then editor of Free Europe. He asked Hilaire Belloc to state a more realistic and more Christian British point of view. A magnificent article was received and published on April 19th. Its conclusion was : “If England abandons Poland she abandons her own power and place in the future. The test is Poland.”

The British, as it is obvious from obituary articles devoted to Hilaire Belloc, differ in their opinions as to the wisdom of his politics. The Poles consider that the main trend of his diagnosis of Europe is correct and his prescriptions are wise. Poles will always gratefully remember this English writer and thinker for his constant love for their country and deep understanding of the genius of their nation.

Yours faithfully,

Shepperton, Middlesex. K. M. SMOGORZEWSKI.

Letter printed in the Tablet. 

Published on Justice4Poland.com

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Hilaire Belloc's 150th birthday celebration...

The event took place in Shipley (near Horsham) where he lived for many years. Luckily the new social restrictions were not in force. The memorial plaque was unveiled by one of Belloc's great grandchildren. 

Monday, 14 September 2020

'The Way of Beauty' - Mike Hennessy (Chairman of the Hilaire Belloc Society) and David Clayton discuss Vincent McNabb...

Father Vincent McNabb (1868 – 1943) was a highly distinguished Irish Dominican. He was Prior of the Dominican community in North London. He was also a great friend of Belloc. Belloc said of McNabb that he was one of the greatest men that he had ever known.

Mike talks about McNabb and, amongst other things, his relationship with Belloc.

Eleanor Belloc said of McNabb that he was one of the few people who her father listened to!

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Lucy Broadwood Celebration – Saturday 22nd August 2020...


To celebrate her life and to mark 91 years since her passing.

We are delighted to confirm that we will be gathering together in the grounds of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church at Rusper Church on Saturday 22nd August 2020 to celebrate Lucy Broadwood and to delight in picnicking together and revelling in some lovely singing and music – All at appropriate social distances of course!

We will be unveiling the new information sign about her, as we did for Belloc at Shipley, at 2pm and then, if the weather is good we will be in the churchyard for music and singing till about 4pm.

You and your family and friends are all most welcome. Please fill out the form below and include the names of all those in your party so that we have a clear record of who is attending.


There is a free car park by the church and unrestricted on-street parking in the village.


If you would like to have lunch first please feel free to arrive at 1pm instead. We can picnic anywhere around the church. Please bring folding chairs, picnic blankets and anything else for outdoor comfort!
The Plough will be open for lunch with a revised menu and if you would like to eat lunch there do book in advance.

Social distancing:

We are very aware of keeping within the recommended safety guidelines. Please be sure to maintain the 6ft distance from all of those not in your bubble.
Performances will be by individuals or duos and there will be no formal gathered choir singing though we will definitely be singing a few of our project songs from our safe distances!
If it rains we are able to go into the church 30 people at a time. The Plough will also be open so those of us who don’t fit into the church can go there!

Unlike the Belloc celebration, this time we have made a programme of the entertainment for the afternoon and Chris has invited some other musicians into our midst to share their music and song. If you would like to sing a song or read something please do let us know. There will be time afterwards for a free performance session!

Programme of entertainment for the afternoon:

2pm – Plaque unveiling – Chris, Nick and Emily to say a few words.

2.20pm – Our choice of two songs from the project to all sing together (at appropriate distances)

2.35pm – Martyn Wyndham Reed

Some of you may know Martyn from his long and illustrious career as a folk singer and musician. Chris certainly was influenced by his album ‘Ned Kelly and that Gang.’ You can find out more about his music here. Martyn has the most natural of singing voices, unaffected and true. His singing revives and animates old songs and gives them life again.

2.50pm – Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll

Chris first came across the fiddle playing of Nick and Becki when he was living in Devon nearly 20 years ago and has invited them to perform for this event as they are great musicians and know many of the songs collected by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould who was also a friend of Lucy Broadwood and a fellow collector of folk songs.

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll are highly respected fiddle-players and composers firmly rooted in North Devon. Their unique sound is a joyful collision of English traditional music and contemporary bowed strings. Their music blends melodic, emotive violin and viola with driving fiddle chords and powerful vocals and will take you on a journey from the dark side of English ballad to toe-tapping tunes and songs.

“folk music at its best” – The Living Tradition

“bursting with vitality” – Musicians Union Magazine

3.05pm – us to sing a BBB song of our choice!

3.10pm Chris and Steve sing some songs Lucy Broadwood may not have approved of!

3.20pm – Chris talk: Lucy Broadwood and Hilaire Belloc, what did they have in common?

3.30pm – Nick and Becki perform their set of music and songs

The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould was a well-known author and prominent folk song collector in the late nineteenth century. He collected nearly 2000 songs from local singers around Devon and Cornwall, and in 1889 published the first part of ‘Songs and Ballads of the West’ – a collection made from “the mouths of the people…” Baring-Gould was keen to encourage female song-collectors, especially as he felt they would be successful in collecting songs from female singers. In 1893, he took his friend Lucy Broadwood on a collecting trip where they met Jane Jeffrey of Dunterton and Mary Fisher of Lifton, both of whom gave songs to the two collectors.

Baring-Gould also visited a local fiddler, one William Andrew of Sheepstor from whom he collected many instrumental melodies.

Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll will perform a mixture of tunes and songs collected by Baring-Gould, woven together with anecdotes and histories of the time to evoke a fascinating portrayal of life in the West Country. Imagine the lanes and byways of Devon rolling past as you immerse yourself in these beautiful pieces, collected from the pubs and the fields, the mouths and the hands of these 19th Century farming folk.

4pm – Official end to the musical programme, we all sing another BBB song and the start of relaxed free for all songs and poems from anyone who would like to offer one!

Please register here if you would like to attend. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

'ON MAKING THE BEST OF A BAD JOB' - Roderick Blyth (Belloc's great grandson)


Out of my father’s copy of A.N.Wilson’s biography of Hilaire Belloc slips a cutting from ‘The Tablet’ dated 21/28 April 1984. The reviewer there writes:
‘I first met Belloc when I was 19 and he was in his fifties [between 1920/1930]. He seemed to me then immensely aged and awesome. I had read most of his travel books which at the time were an inspiration to any adventurous youth and wrote to him as a total stranger to tell him that I wanted to walk across the Pyrenees and would like further guidance after reading his book on the subject. He invited me to the Reform Club and drew careful sketch maps of mountain paths leading to a certain inn on the border of Andorra, where, he said, the mention of his name would work wonders.
‘It did, but not in the way he expected. ‘Ah!’ said the host, ‘Mr Belloc - that charming German gentleman’. Belloc, whose views about Germans derived from the Franco-Prussian war, would have exploded. I never told him of the incident or how his sketch maps had later misled me into regions where I was alone and totally lost. In my inexperience I had not taken a compass, so I did not blame my revered cartographer. Years later, at Sheed & Ward, I had frequent contact with him in the course of publishing. As his views on matters religious and political became increasingly unattractive and irrelevant to me, so a certain affection and admiration grew for the man himself.
‘He was ever pressed for time and money, working against the clock, irritable, obtuse, savage in his dislikes, and even cruel in his condemnations, but to me he also had his endearing qualities. A faraway look often came to his pale blue eyes, as if he were elsewhere in reality and it was long ago. There is no nearer nearness than the felt absence of a loved one and the letters to his wife before and after their marriage of 17 years, newly published in this book, give a hint of a great love, and of a sombre condition following its loss, which explains so much about his excesses. At heart he was solitary and in deep melancholy but on the slightest pretext he would bustle into cheerfulness and be the best of companions.
‘Once I remember, he treated me to oysters at Bentleys and a fine dinner at the Escargot Bienvenu in Soho and an endless flow of stories. He had just delivered the typescript of ‘Essays of a Catholic’ and had handed it over at the Cafe Royal ‘as a preliminary to good dinner’, as he said with his rolling R’s. On the title page he had wrote ‘Truth comes by conflict’ in inverted commas. I personally doubted the validity of the dictum and asked him who said it. “I do,” he replied. “But why the inverted commas?” “They will think it is quoting Tertullian”.
(T.F (‘Tom’) Burns (1906-1995) was a publisher and journalist - his first meeting with Belloc would therefore have taken place in 1925. ‘Essays of a Catholic’ was published in 1931, which helps date the anecdote set at the ‘Escargot Bienvenu’. Burns was later associated with Hollis & Carter, and later still, I imagine, with the well known Catholic publishers, Burns and Oates. My guess is that in the Spanish Civil War, that watershed of Catholic Opinion, he would have been more inclined to the Republican than the Nationalist cause: most of his generation were.
This humanely appreciative review, written by an 84 year old Catholic, includes the following:
‘There are some remarks and conversations.... reported at second and third hand which, I would say, were quite uncharacteristic of the man and inconsistent with his views. Perhaps his biographer should have omitted them. In any case anybody so full of vitality, so gifted with words, with such a sense of fun, so volatile and passionate as Belloc, would be bound to let slip words and phrases and even random ideas unweighed, and in a sort of code to friends. To pin all this down like a collection of dead butterflies gives no indication of the true significance of the words in flight... There is a general tendency nowadays to disregard the sanctity of private talk and letters and to ignore the fact that a man’s words to a friend are meant to be received ‘secundum modum recipientis’ as the Dumb Ox would sagely say.’
Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.


Sunday, 9 August 2020

'Belloc and Jews' - letter in the Tablet...

Before entirely dismissing Hilaire Belloc for anti-Semitism, it might be wise for A.N.Wilson (''A cautionary tale'', 25 July) and Melanie McDonagh (Notebook, 1 August) to reread the chapter on anti-semitism in his book, The Jews, incidentally a book dedicated to a Jewish woman, his personal secretary. 

''The Anti-Semite admires, for instance, a work of art; [but] on finding the authour to be a Jew it becomes distasteful to him though the work remains exactly as it was before.'' Belloc then warns that: ''Anti-Semitic feeling...is speading with alarming rapidity. In a field where passion is already so wild, God help its victims.''

His conclusion that a solution to anth-Semitism would be found in the establishment of an independent Jewish nation state is, however, now seen to be sadly optimistic.

The Jews ends with the sentence, ''For my part, I say, 'Peace be to Israel.' ''

Paul Moir

Corrandulla, Co Galway, Ireland.

Letter to the The Tablet - 08.08.2020