THE spirit of Hilaire Belloc himself seemed to preside over the opening last Saturday of the newly-restored Shipley Mill which is peculiarly appropriate memorial to a great Catholic writer.
"In she month of May in my own country all the woods are new," he once wrote. Not only were the woods new but the sky was blue, the sun shone and, most fortunate of all, a strong breeze kept the windmill which he had loved so well busily grinding barley throughout the proceedings.
As Mr. J. B. Morton, who for years was Belloc's friend, made the opening speech the shadow of the majestically turning sweeps moved rhythmically across the blossoming apple trees and surrounding pastures.
It was a light hearted, thoroughly English event. Belloc himself would have appreciated it to the full.
Some 300 to 400 of his friends—old and new—had gathered for the occasion. Some £800 (of which readers to my page 4 column donated a handsome part) had been raised by voluntary subscription and to this the West Sussex County Council had added a large sum to make possible the repair and restoration of the mill.
On the platform the brief opening ceremony was presided over by Belloc's son-in-law, Mr. Reginald Jebb, and Mr. Hilary Belloc, son of the poet and author, who had come over from America. The new plaque above the mill door reads "Let this be a memorial to Hilaire Belloc who garnered a harvest of wisdom and sympathy for young and old." Edmond Warre, Belloc's old friend, had given the plaque and chosen the words for it.
The mill stands beside King's Land, Belloc's home for so many years. Henceforth it will have as its guardian the County Council and will be open to the public.
Unlike most modern memorials it is at once both beautiful and useful. And like so much of BelIoc's own written work, it looks back nostalgically to the past, adds a touch of romance to the present and is set against a background which is unchanging and unchangeable.
From the archive of the Catholic Herald 16th May 1958.