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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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The first meeting of the revived, and rejuvenated, Hilaire Belloc Society will take place in Lewes on Saturday the 28th of July...

We are very pleased to announce that the first meeting of the revived, and rejuvenated, Hilaire Belloc Society will take place in Lewes on Saturday the 28th of July at the John Harvey Tavern. Our esteemed, and distinguished, Chairman Mike Hennessy will be giving a presentation on Belloc and Wine. This will be a multi-faceted talk with all sorts of cultural, historical and alcoholic dimensions.

The agenda will be as follows:

1PM - assemble in the meeting room, of the John Harvey Tavern, for lunch (please order your food in advance by contacting the Pub directly - not me!).

2PM - the talk commences followed by questions and answers.

3.30 PM - a walk around Lewes, led by Chris Hare (historical sites and hostelries).

6.00 PM - re-assemble at the John Harvey Tavern for the annual commemorative Hilaire Belloc dinner (65th anniversary) followed by a sing-song (instruments are most welcome).

Please feel free to come along at any stage in the proceedings. If you do intend to join us it would be useful to have some idea of numbers and so please do send a message to thehilairebellocblog@gmail.com
This is not obligatory, but it would be helpful.

The venue location and contact details are as follows:

Address: Bear Yard, Cliffe High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2AN.
Telephone: 01273 479 880
Parking: There is no parking on site. Argos car park is opposite the pub, however this is for Argos customers.
Please find a map of available parking here: https://en.parkopedia.co.uk/parking/lewes/
Public Transport: Lewes Train station is a 10 minute walk from the pub, and a town centre bus stop is a 5 minute walk away, located at the front of Waitrose.

Mike in a reflective mood. Do I perceive a superficial resemblance?

Monday, 25 June 2018

Henry Douglas RIP

Dr Grahame Clough, the former Chairman of the Hilaire Belloc Society, has some unwelcome news for us. He writes:

''The sad news to report is that our good friend and originator of The Hilaire Belloc Society, back in 1996, Henry Douglas has passed away. Henry never missed a committee meeting and thank goodness for that because he was the epitome of calmness and was always able to quench even the most heated debates on every subject and would you believe that even included the genius of Buffy the Vampire Slayer versus that of Charlie Chaplin - there were many other obscure subjects that got out of hand but dear old Henry shepherded us into order. The Belloc Society meetings were always held in Guildford and many thought that this because that is where Hilaire Belloc died - that is not true, the real truth is that I did not want to give Henry any excuse! He never knew I had an ulterior motive but although I did I just loved his company. Henry very kindly donated his entire collection of books, by Belloc, to the Hilaire Belloc Society and I am absolutely certain that he will be so pleased that his collection now resides at Kings Land and with his own bookplate. From a personal point of view Henry's journalistic skills were very welcome and are what made The Bellocian newsletter so well received because although perfectly polite he would never shy from telling me that I was wrong and so for that Henry, I will raise a glass of red, toast a very good friend and make sure that this obituary is grammatically incorrect so that I can imagine that last rye smile.''

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Hilaire Belloc Society has been re-founded...

I am pleased to announce that the Hilaire Belloc has been re-founded, after having fallen into abeyance in recent years. The re-launch took place at The Bridge Inn (on Saturday the 24th of February) : a hostelry with strong Bellocian associations. The Bridge is mentioned on day five of 'The Four Men' (Belloc's literary pub crawl across Sussex). In this 'Farrago' the four featured travelling companions journeyed the twelve miles from Storrington to Duncton. Belloc, as "Myself", the narrator remarks:

"We came at last past the great chalk pit to the railway, and to the Bridge Inn which lies just on this side of the crossing of the Arun. When we had all four come into Mr. Duke’s parlour at the Bridge Inn, and ordered beer and had begun to dry ourselves at the fire, the Sailor said: ’Come, Grizzlebeard, we promised to tell the stories of our first loves when we came to Arun; and as you are much the oldest of us do you begin."

Our new Chairman is Mike Hennessy (the former Secretary). He wears many hats, one of them being Deputy Head of the Table Office in the House of Commons. As a Parliamentary Official for over twenty five years he is well placed to call us to order. He will be ably assisted by Dr Chris Hare as Vice Chairman. Chris has previously held this role. Many people, involved in Heritage projects in Sussex, will be familiar with Chris' huge contribution to our understanding of Sussex's historical identity. His wife, Ann, has written a dramatic adaptation of the Four Men which was, recently, performed all over Sussex to significant acclaim. I am very pleased to say that Anne has also joined the Committee.

It would be very remiss of me not to mention that Dr Grahame Clough, the founding Chairman of the Society, was elected Honorary President and has also volunteered his services as Treasurer. This gives us very tangible continuity with what has gone before. Grahame laboured in the vineyard for years, publishing seemingly endless editions of the The Bellocian. Most of the published material hadn't seen the light of day for a long time and a lot of the commentaries on Belloc's writings were highly original. It was, and is, a great resource for scholars wishing to deepen their understanding of his great soul and intellect.

The Society plans to hold several events in Sussex this year. We will keep you posted. In the meantime:

'The dank despisers of the Vine, arise
To watch grey dawns and mourn indifferent skies. 

Forget them! Form the Dionysian ring 
And pulse the ground, and Io, Io, sing.' 

(an excerpt from Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine by Hilaire Belloc)

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A convivial evening of timeless satire, wit and rhyme featuring the life and work of Hilaire Belloc....

West London Action for Children
Invite you to
An Evening with Belloc
A convivial evening of timeless satire, wit and rhyme featuring the life and work of Hilaire Belloc
Wednesday 31 January 2018
Presented by John Julius Norwich, John Bromley-Davenport & LAMDA actors
Directed by Judy Bromley-Davenport
Singing Hall, St Paul’s Girls’ School, Brook Green, W6 7BS
Doors open at 6.30pm
Performance starts at 7.15pm and ends at 9pm
Suggested donation £30 per head
Or for more information contact Gazala at team@wlac.org.uk or on 020 7352 1155
All donations go directly to support the vital work of
West London Action for Children
with grateful thanks to our sponsors
Bective Leslie Marsh
T: 020 7352 1155 F: 020 7351 2739 E: team@wlac.org.uk W: www.wlac.org.uk
West London Action for Children is a charitable company limited by guarantee
Registered in England and Wales     Registered charity number 1135648       Registered company number 07181950

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Reviews of the recent new touring production of The Four Men - courtesy of Conn Artists...

Review: The Four Men, Connaught Theatre, Worthing, October 5 ★★★★★

Barrie Jerram

Although born in France, Hilaire Belloc was truly a Sussex man. Coming to England as a young child he was brought up in Slindon, eventually moving to Shipley. It was his great love for the county, its people, customs, traditions and songs that caused him to write The Four Men – a great hymn of praise to the Sussex countryside in Edwardian England.

It tells of an imaginary journey made by Belloc from east to west - Robertsbridge to Harting. The journey is made with three companions, Grizzlebeard, Sailor and Poet who are aspects of Belloc himself. Along the way they talk, tell of Sussex myths and legends, sing local songs, visit inns and sink vast quantities of ale.

Ann Feloy has made a marvellous job of adapting the book for the stage, filleting it down to its essentials whilst director, Nick Young, and his creative team successfully give the text life. But of course it is down to the actors to turn the written characters to flesh and blood which they do without question.

As Belloc, or Myself as he names himself, Ross Muir could not be bettered. He gives a marathon performance that segues effortlessly from narrator to character. David Stephens makes a truly venerable Grizzlebeard, full of the wisdom of old age whilst Jake Snowdon fully captures Poet’s romanticism and youthful ignorance.

Much to the audience’s delight was Lee Payne’s coarse and belligerent Sailor who comes near to stealing the show with his comic talent and lusty singing. Sharing the comedic spotlight, Karim Bedda is called upon to play all the other parts. He highlights as Mad Jack Fuller of Brightling, the Devil and various ladies.

The show is full of music, songs and witty in-jokes with Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath being a couple of the targets.

The Argus, 6th October 2017

The Four Men review at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing – ‘evocative eulogy to Sussex’

Bella Todd

It may be an elegiac period piece about the dwindling of country ways and the autumn of life. But this new touring production from Worthing company Conn Artists has made regional theatre feel in ruder health overnight.

Produced in association with Worthing’s Connaught Theatre and the South Downs National Park, The Four Men is an adaptation of an out-of-print book by the Edwardian poet Hilaire Belloc. Better known for his Cautionary Tales, in October 1902 Belloc set out to walk the length of Sussex from East to West, heading for Harting and the woods of his childhood. The result was The Four Men, a leafy travelogue, inn-interrupted odyssey, and poignant allegory of the ages of man.

The Sussex drinking songs translate perfectly to the stage in local writer Ann Feloy’s unhurried adaptation. So does the easeful comic dialogue between the four characters: Myself, played with subtle charm by Rainbow Shakespeare’s Ross Muir, is joined on his secular pilgrimage by a young poet, a cynical sailor, and a rich old man. Honorary fifth bod Karim Bedda helps enact the pub scenes and curious vignettes from South Downs folklore.

But The Four Men’s specific allure is in staging an aspect of life that rarely gets a theatrical look-in. Leaning on a sty and sipping at their hip flasks, at times the four men simply stand and savour the view. There’s a rare message here about taking joy in our landscape, as Myself comes to realise how he might, after all, outflank death.

The Stage, 6th of October 2017

Review – The Four Men – Connaught Theatre, Worthing

Paul Lucas-Scott

In-House production company Conn Artists are starting their tour of The Four Men at their home theatre and, as one might expect, presenting a Sussex tale, to a Sussex audience, in a Sussex theatre ensures them of the warmest of receptions on their opening night.

Hilaire Belloc, the well known writer and journalist, grew up in Slindon in West Sussex and his book, The Four Men: A Farrago – published in 1911, tells the story of his walking journey across Sussex from Robertsbridge in the East via various public houses, through Heathfield, Uckfield, Ardingly, Ashurst and Amberley to South Harting in the West.

The stage adaptation, by Ann Feloy, of The Four Men features four main characters, Myself, Grizzlebeard, the Poet and the Sailor, each an aspect of Belloc’s personality, as they journey over five days, sharing a range of anecdotes, folk songs and reflections of their Edwardian lives.

Myself is played by Ross Muir and it is he who takes on most of the narration throughout the piece. His performance is wonderfully crafted and Belloc’s deep love of the Sussex countryside comes shining through every time he speaks.

As well as describing, beautifully, the amazing land around him, Myself also tells tales of famous Sussex people and events including the story of Mad Jack Fuller, a noted drunk who in 1810 was involved in an incident with the Speaker in Parliament and the tale of St Dunstan who, as the story goes, once pulled the devil by the nose with red-hot tongs.

Myself is joined on his five day cross-county journey by representaions of the three ages of man. The Poet represents youth, the Sailor middle age and old age is represented by Grizzlebeard. All three actors show a deep love for their characters, and really “live the part” as they travel from pub to pub across the county.

Jake Snowden is the Poet. Poor, and somewhat lacking in inspiration, he is often the target for the humour in the piece although his singing voice, and ability to play the Ukelele, soon make up for the character’s inability to complete a verse.

As the Sailor, Lee Payne is a huge character. Crude and lewd at times, especially when relieving himself in the River Adur – to top it up!, he is the source of a lot of the fun, and most of the drinking songs, that appear throughout the piece.

David Stephens is both subdued and philisophical as old timer, Grizzlebeard. His performance is much more poignant as he approaches the end of his life and looks back at times past and loves lost. Looking every inch the Edwardian gentleman, he works well as the patriach of the group.

Special mention has to go to the fifth member of the cast, Karim Bedda, who plays everyone else in the piece including Mad Jack Fuller, at least five pub landlords, a grumpy hunchback, a number of Sailor’s female companions and even the Devil. He is also responsible for rearranging the furnituire for each “pub” that the group choose to visit and for the positioning of the vast number of props used in the production. He works tirelessly throughout the show and manages to breathe life into each and every character he plays.

Overall this piece is all about the dialogue. The description of the scenery along the way, while simplistic in tone, does have the desired effect on the audience, who are all very familiar with the towns that are mentioned and the notable points that are featured. It has both local charm and an historical basis and, for all it’s simplicty, the tale is told very well.

**** Four Stars

The Sussex Newspaper, October the 6th 2017

The Four Men - A Heartwarming Tribute To A Beloved County

 Stephen Sheldrake

The stories of Sussex retold, the legends, the myths, the truths and the experiences of Hilaire Belloc all come to life in this wonderful play that revives the history of a fascinating county, unearthing tales that have been long forgotten.

It’s hard not to fall in love with a story that shares so much knowledge of times past, mixed beautifully with genuine human interaction between The Four Men.

The story begins with Hilaire Belloc as “Myself’ setting off on a four day journey across the Sussex Downs, but before he leaves he encounters three fascinating characters, all of whom join him on his adventure; Grizzlebeard, A Sailor and A Poet, all aptly nicknamed as their real names do not tell the stories of their lives. The direction from Nick Young, who previously directed at the Connaught Theatre when it used to be home to a repertory company, is superb and the characters are vivid and brought to life magnificently.

The bond is formed early on and as the journey is afoot the characters reveal more and more about their pasts, and the stories of the land in which they travel, growing the bond between the audience, the characters and the environment they find themselves in.

A simple set design by Laura Kimber is used to great effect, staging the transitioning worlds of the great outdoors on the Downs with the various Inns and pubs they visit along the way. In fact, across the story they travel 92 miles in four days, and consume 300 pints of beer!

The cast were born to play the roles they were given on stage. Ross Muir played the lead with clarity, empathy, and a genuine sincerity that was a joy to watch. David Stephens who played Grizzlebeard was rich in wisdom, Lee Payne who played the Sailor was outrageous and hilarious, whilst Jake Snowdon brought a real youthful energy to the production as the Poet, with excellent Ukulele-playing skills!

If you’re considering going to see The Four Men, you can expect hearty songs, insightful stories and genuinely funny moments throughout. Ann Feloy must be commemorated for adapting such a classic text and giving it a new dimension on stage.

My only criticism is that the length of the play was longer than expected, however as it is the opening of the tour I have no doubt that they will refine it going forward and will flourish even further at all of the forthcoming venues they perform at.

It has left me with a huge curiosity to learn more about the history of Sussex, the county I live in, and read more into Hilaire Belloc’s treasured texts.

Well done to everyone involved for creating a heartwarming and insightful production. It is a real joy to experience, and with that I shall leave you with a Belloc Quote…

“I believe we should recover, while they can still be recovered, the principle joys of the soul”


Theatre South East, October the 6th 2017

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Back to the land...

"IF we ever get the English back on to the English land they will become again a religious people, if all goes well, a superstitious people. The absence from modern life of both the higher and lower forms of faith is largely due to a divorce from nature and the trees and clouds. If we have no more turnip ghosts it is chiefly from the lack of turnips."

~G.K. Chesterton: 'Heretics,' VI.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Four Men on Tour - “A fascinating piece of entertainment... a hymn of praise to Sussex and its countryside” - The Argus, Brighton ★★★★

A kaleidoscopic and unique insight into Sussex at the turn of the Century... 

Follow Sussex’s greatest writer, Hilaire Belloc’s adventures and encounters as he takes a spur of the moment journey on foot across the breadth of Edwardian Sussex, from east to west, with three extraordinary companions at the mystical time of Halloween. On their four day odyssey, they travel 92 miles and drink 300 pints of beer! They quarrel, laugh and sing as they tell each other tall tales, recount the legends of the Downs, speak of their first loves and meet some remarkable characters along the way!

Ann Feloy’s sparkling adaptation of Hilaire Belloc’s ‘The Four Men’ celebrates a world in part gone but the sights and sounds are still there; the past is forever present to anyone who opens their eyes and ears, and wishes to feel a part of Sussex and the countryside once again. 

Belloc, who grew up in Slindon and lived at Shipley from 1907 until his death in 1953, said of the book: “I put my whole heart into writing it and yet no one reads it now”. Conn Artists Theatre Company’s production of ‘The Four Men’ brings this book to life for a whole new generation to enjoy. 

First produced at the Brighton Fringe, this revised stage adaptation, with live music and a cast of five actors, is a cross between ‘Larkrise to Candleford’ and ‘Three Men in a Boat’ and includes traditional folk songs alongside famous pieces of classical music by Sussex-inspired composers, Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar.

Featuring five actors and live music. 

Tour schedule links:

Thurs 5th - Fri 6th Oct: Connaught Theatre, Worthing - https://worthingtheatres.co.uk/the-four-men/

Sat 7th Oct: Memorial Hall, South Downs Centre, Midhurst - http://www.bookmeonit.co.uk/fourmen/


Wed 11th Oct: White Rock Theatre, Hastings - https://whiterocktheatre.org.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=A238B57F-40EB-46D4-828A-A697F2B5F23B

Thurs 12th Oct: South Holland Centre, Spalding - http://www.southhollandcentre.co.uk/whats-on/view/the-four-men

Fri 13th Oct: The Phoenix Theatre & Arts Centre 

Tue 17th Oct: Belloc Theatre, The Oratory School Reading (private performance)

Thurs 19th Oct: The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre - http://thespring.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/the-four-men/

Sat 21st Oct: Under Ground Theatre, Eastbourne - http://undergroundtheatre.co.uk/events/the-four-men-with-hilaire-belloc/

Thur 26th Oct: The Capitol, Horsham - https://www.thecapitolhorsham.com/whats-on/drama/the-four-men/

Fri 27th Oct: Fisher Theatre, Bungay 

Hilaire Belloc Adapted by: Ann Feloy

Directed by: Nick Young 
Produced by: Ross Muir 
Designed by: Laura Kimber
Lighting Design by: Matthew Pike 
Graphic Design by: Richard Snaith 

Myself: Ross Muir 
Grizzlebeard: David Stephens 
Sailor: Lee Payne 
Poet: Jake Snowdon 
Actor 5: Karim Bedda

Total running time: 2 hours 
A five man play in two acts. 
Act one is 50 minutes, Act two is 50 minutes. There will be an interval of 20 minutes.
Suitable for all ages 12+ 

Readers of this post may also be interested in the current exhibition, at the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, Inspired by the Downs