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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Friday, 31 May 2013

The Walk as it happened...

Are we lost in this vast expanse?
Those of us who participated in the Belloc walk in, and around, Gumber Corner earlier in the month had a wonderful time. We met at The George Inn in Eartham and proceeded to Slindon where Belloc was born. Slindon House was, at one stage, owned by a recusant Catholic Family (the Kempes who later married into the Radcliffe Family - the Earls of Newburgh) and Mass was celebrated here from the 13th Century through to early 20th. It stands in an extensive park. There was a house of the Archbishops of Canterbury here in the 13th Century. It was an occasional residence of Stephen Langton, who died here in 1228, and Archbishop John Pecham spent much time here as well (holding ordinations in the chapel in 1288 and 1291). Archbishop Chicheley confirmed the election of Thomas Ludlowe as Abbot of Battle in 1421 in the chapel. In 1539 Cranmer exchanged it with Henry VIII for another property and from 1555 to 1597 it was held by Anthony Kempe (the house being rebuilt either by him or his son Sir Garret Kempe).

Slindon House
One of the Earl's left a bequest for the construction of a Catholic church in the village. The bequest was implemented by the Leslie Family who inherited the estate. Belloc's mother is buried in the churchyard. Although, regrettably, we couldn't locate the grave. 

Slindon Catholic church dedicated to Saint Richard of Chichester
As we meandered through the village we popped into the formerly Catholic parish church which contains quite an interesting wooden effigy. The precocious young Belloc wrote a poem about it at the tender age of nine: 'The Nameless Knight'.

The 'Nameless Knight' who has a name: Anthony St. Leger
On the way out of the village we will pass Courthill Farm where Belloc briefly lived. At Gumber Farm we had our picnic. There is a blue plaque, commemorating Belloc, at the Farm (it was erected by West Sussex Council on the 50th anniversary of his death).Gumber was Belloc's favourite place to walk and he mentions it in Sonnets and Verse (1923):

Lift up your hearts in Gumber, laugh the Weald
And you most ancient Valley of Arun sing.
Here am I homeward from my wandering,
Here am I homeward and my heart is healed.
If I was thirsty, I have heard a spring.
If I was dusty, I have found a field.

The art of posing is still alive and well!
After the Gumber picnic the walk  resumed down the old Roman Road of Stane Street. In the evening,we sang some folk music in The George (a splendid establishment which has only ever served British beer!).

If you would like to attend future events could you please email me at:

The next event will be at Belloc's old parish church in West Grinstead (20th of July). This will be a High Mass, for the repose of his soul, followed by an absolution at the grave and French military trumpet piece (to commemorate his time in the French Army). Then we will picnic, listen to a small talk and some poetry. In the evening there will be folk music at a local pub. All in all, it will be a great day out.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could have come. I live in U.S. and couldn't.