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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Saturday 11 August 2012

The Walk!

The Hilaire Belloc walk shall be taking place around 'Kingsland' (his old home in Shipley) on Saturday the 18th of August. We will be assembling outside the old church in Shipley (which has an interesting history as a former Knights Templar foundation) at 11.00 AM. For those of you who cannot make it to the village for 11.00 we will be stopping at the church where Belloc is buried at 1.00:



Tea will be served at the church and we intend to picnic there as well. The walk should last for five hours (including the picnic and a pub interlude). Later in the evening, from 7.00 PM, Chris Hare (who is at the forefront of the revival of folk music in Sussex) will be treating us to an evening of folk song and music at the George and Dragon where we will be made very welcome (* please note this is a small hostelry and so you must state in advance whether you intend to dine). The pub is twenty minutes walk from Shipley village:


This promises to be a wonderful day out. The countryside, in this part of Sussex, is lovely and the walk, depicted on the map), will be extended to encapsulate Belloc's parish church and his grave at Our Lady of Consolation. Another feature of the walk will be the Knepp Estate and its interesting selection of rare animal breeds. If you would like to attend, and eat at the George and Dragon, please e-mail the organisers at:


There may be some last minute alterations to the walk and so it would be better to sign up in order to keep oneself informed.

Getting to Shipley by 'public' transport:

The nearest station is Horsham or Christ's Hospital. From both stations catch the number 74 to Coolham Crossroads. I would suggest the 10.29 (Horsham) 10.40 (CH). You will arrive at CC at 10.53. From there Shipley is a five minute taxi ride (and I am sure you will be able to share).

If anyone would like to join the Belloc Society please e-mail the Convener at thehilairebellocblog@gmail.com

Thursday 9 August 2012

Mrs Shipley (Belloc's old mill)...

She - for windmills are always female - has been known at different times as Shipley Mill, King's Mill, Vincent's Mill and Belloc's Mill. She was built in 1879 for Mr. Fred Marten by Mr. Grist, millwright of Horsham, a firm that had its premises on the corner of London Road and Springfield Road. 

It is interesting to note that the estimated cost of building the Mill was £800, although she actually cost £2,500. Marten and his wife ran the Mill and the village stores and post office at Kings Land house until he died in 1884. After his death his widow Sarah put the house, shop and the Mill up for auction, but it was not sold, and she continued to run it, with Robert Wood as miller, until it was finally sold in 1895 to Richard Vincent. Vincent took on Ernest Powell to work for him as miller. In 1906 Kings Land, the mill and five acres of surrounding land were bought by writer Hilaire Belloc, who then leased the mill to Powell. Powell continued to operate the Mill until the end of her active life in 1926. During the time she was in active work there were seven or eight other windmills within easy reach. These included Coolham, Cripplegate, Littleworth and West Chiltington. 

The number of mills was no doubt due to the dependence on them by local farmers, and the limited range of the horse-drawn wagons used to deliver the corn and to collect the meal after grinding. It is sometimes asked why windmills with their free power should have declined so rapidly in this country. There are probably several reasons. The introduction of motor vehicles allowed farmers to travel further afield, giving rise to bigger power-driven mills. The spread of small internal combustion engines later allowed them to do their own grinding reliably and economically. The increase in wages, too, made it difficult for millers to make their businesses pay without auxiliary power for the days when the wind did not blow. This last problem did not, however, apply to Shipley Mill. In the shed alongside the Mill there stood a steam engine which, when in action, drove a belt connected to the Mill, so she could work on the days when there was no wind. Indeed, through the years from its construction until the end of the 1914-1918 war, Shipley Mill was always busy, and Mr. Powell was an active and experienced miller.

It was not until the war was over that custom began to slacken off. The renewed import of grain from overseas, leading to the expansion of the big roller mills, better provision of long-distance transport and the spread of electrically driven machinery, caused the windmills of the country to become less popular. Shipley Mill was no exception, in spite of Ernest Powell's efforts. By 1922 she had ceased regular working, and, although she operated spasmodically until 1926, her active life was over.

Between the two wars Mr. Belloc was at pains to preserve the fabric of the Mill, but when the Second World War came and for some years after it, no materials were available to keep her in repair. At the time of his death in 1953 much needed to be done to prevent the Mill from falling into ruin like many others throughout the country. Following local initiatives, an appeal was launched to restore Shipley Mill as a memorial to Belloc. His many friends and admirers responded generously, and a local committee was formed, including Ernest Powell's son, Peter, who from his boyhood had loved the Mill and helped to work her. The committee also gained the support of the West Sussex County Council, who agreed to contribute towards the repairs and maintenance of the Mill, with the help of the admission charges paid by visitors. The repairs were carried out by the well-known firm of Sussex millwrights, Ernest Hole & Sons of Burgess Hill. On completion of the work, a memorial plaque designed by Edmond Warre, an old friend of Belloc's, was fitted above the entrance door to the Mill, and a grand opening was held in May 1958.

The local committee, the Friends of Shipley Windmill, continued to open the Mill regularly to visitors each summer, and to operate her whenever possible until 1986, when it became clear that further major repairs would be necessary if the Mill was to continue to turn.The County Council, realising that it would find it difficult to continue to cover these costs, then agreed to set up a charitable trust to manage the Mill, in conjunction with the owner and other interested parties. Accordingly, the Shipley Windmill Charitable Trust was formed in 1987, and still manages the Mill. The trustees today include representatives of the County and the Horsham District Councils, the Friends of Shipley Windmill, the Mills Section of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Sussex Literary Guild, to represent the literary interest, together with the present owner of the mill, Charles Eustace, great grandson of Belloc. Charles Eustace gave the Trust a 25-year lease of the mill at a peppercorn rent.

The first priority of the Trustees was to have a survey to see the extent of the repairs needed to restore the mill to full working order, and to raise the necessary money. They engaged a professional millwright, Vincent Pargeter, to carry this out. His report revealed that the necessary works were more extensive than had been envisaged, and, in 1987, would cost in the region of £160,000. However, thanks to substantial donations from the County Council and from Horsham District Council, together with a 40% grant from English Heritage, plus other generous donations both from individuals and grant-giving trusts, it proved possible to make an early start on the necessary works. After tenders had been received from several firms of millwrights, the local firm of Hole and Son was again engaged to carry out the work. The Mill was re-opened, although with only a single pair of sweeps, in July 1990, by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex. A year later, further grants and donations made it possible to complete the second pair of sweeps, and in May 1991, Shipley Mill was once again working in all her glory.

In 2000, English Heritage gave another grant towards the restoration of the engine shed which is attached to the Mill, and by the end of that year the fabric of the building was completed. The new visitor centre was opened in the northern end in time for the 2001 season. The other end of the building now houses an engine, which is at present being installed to drive the mill when wind is in short supply.

From: www.shipleywindmill.org.uk/index.htm

Friday 3 August 2012

Baptism by Beer: Hilaire Belloc's The Four Men (A Farrago)

In a book called The Four Men: A Farrago, Belloc tells a delightful tale of a pilgrimage in Sussex, a half-real and half-fictional allegory of the pilgrimage of life. It is full of curiosities, inane things, doggerel, songs and hymns, silliness, whimsy, and irreverent fun, as so much of Belloc's writings have. But it is also serious, and contains some very deep reflections about life, about beauty, about friendship, about love, about lasting things, about the fleetingness of human life, and our hankering after the divine.

In the history of Western philosophy, there is a cataclysmic thought event called the "epistemological turn." Epistemology (from the Greek episteme=to know) is the study of how we know what we know, and how we know what we know is equivalent to what is. Descartes, generally given the prize for initiating the "epistemological turn" and ushering modern philosophy, is the fellow who famously suggested the senses may not give the mind reliable input, and so he felt he had to rely on something outside of the senses upon which to base thought.

Doubting everything all about him, Descartes, the methodological doubter, came to conclude that the only reality he could trust was in his mind: I think therefore I am, Cogito ergo sum. As Jacques Maritain describes the error, Descartes' "capital error" was to divide the idea in the mind from the thing outside the mind. Without a link between mind and reality, there was no guarantee that the idea in the mind corresponded to that which was outside the mind. We could never know that the idea which is in our mind is true, that is, that it corresponds with what is, i.e., reality.

This, of course, is quite a change from the traditional and classical view. In the classical Aristotelian and Thomistic view (which imbibes in what is called the philosophia perennis or perennial philosophy) nihil in intellectu nisi prius fuerit in sensu, "nothing is in the intellect without first being in the senses." What is in the mind is somehow related to what is, the two are inextricably linked, and therefore what is in our mind corresponds with the truth of what is.

But since Descartes' "epistemological turn," we moderns have strayed into all sorts of philosophical absurdities based on this "capital error." A little mistake in the beginning of a journey can lead us seriously astray. In the main, we moderns are all Kantians, and we doubt the adequacy of our senses to inform our minds as to objective truth. Kant insisted that we could never know the thing in itself-the ding an sich was unknowable-we only could not the idea in our mind. From Kant's idealism, we slowly lapsed into skepticism, which, of course, is currently a serious problem we face.

Let us read Descartes and his bastard philosophical progeny and sorrow. As Catholics, let us pity them, for they were not baptized by beer.

Baptized by beer? What does being baptized by beer mean? To be sure, this sort of baptism is not to be found in the Catechism. Only baptism by water, by blood, and by desire is therein mentioned. Where shall we go to learn more about the baptism by beer?

Why to that infallible source of Catholic common sense, Hilaire Belloc. In a book called The Four Men: A Farrago, Belloc tells a delightful tale of a pilgrimage in Sussex, a half-real and half-fictional allegory of the pilgrimage of life. It is full of curiosities, inane things, doggerel, songs and hymns, silliness, whimsy, and irreverent fun, as so much of Belloc's writings have. But it is also serious, and contains some very deep reflections about life, about beauty, about friendship, about love, about lasting things, about the fleetingness of human life, and our hankering after the divine. There are four main protagonists, all really part of Belloc's personality, called Myself, Grizzlebeard, the Poet, and the Sailor.

To get back to the baptism by beer. During the pilgrimage, we find one of the protagonists in Belloc's story, a certain Grizzlebeard, arguing "hammer and tongs" with a modern philosopher, a "stranger," who--egads!--drinks not strong ale, but only tea, a drink only good for the effete. This modern, nameless philosopher --like the philosopher David Hume--denies the principle of cause and effect. Like Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism, this nameless character denies any notion of the Aristotelian efficient cause. Here is a man who denies the moderate realism of Aristotle and Aquinas, denies the principle nihil in intellectu nisi prius fuerit in sensu, "nothing is in the intellect without first being in the senses," denies common sense. In sum, here is one who denies the perennial philosophy. A modernist! He is on the road to untruth, to be sure, and perhaps even well-along the road to a Nietzschean insanity.

The description of the philosopher by Belloc is marvelous:

"The Stranger was a measly sort of fellow in a cloak, tall, and with a high voice and words of a cultured kind, and his eyes were like dead oysters, which are unpleasing things; and he and Grizzlebeard, though they had so recently met, were already in the midst of as terrible a balderdash of argument as ever the good angels have permitted on this sad earth."

Dead oysters? What is more dead than dead oysters? Scriptures say that the eye is the lamp of the body. (Matt. 6:22) Having dead oysters for lamps bespeaks a dead, a stinky, a lifeless soul. What happens when our scholars, our academia in the main have eyes like dead oysters?

As these two argue, they ignore the efforts of the others to converse with them or to understand the argument, which appears as so much esoteric Latin, German, or Greek, and so the Sailor warns the Poet and Myself to do what any sensible man would do: go to a bar and drink some beer, and hang out with some common folk: "'Let us go hence, my children," the Sailor wisely instructs his companions, "and drink in the bar with common men, for the Devil will very soon come in by the window and fly away with these philosophers. Let us be apart in some safe place when the struggle begins.' So they go, quaff down some drinks with "certain laboring men," charitably "paying for their drinks because we were better off than they."

While drinking with his fellow pilgrims, the Sailor complains of the constant bickering of philosophers who, like a couple of fighting dogs, can't seem to do anything but yelp and yap at each other. The arguments continue in the background, and the Sailor-a very practical fellow-finally reaches the limits of his patience in hearing Grizzlebeard and the stranger continue to argue about "their realities and their contents, and their subjectivities and their objectivities, and their catch-it-as-it-flies."

So the Sailor tells his friends:

"Have you not seen two dogs wrangling in the street, and how they will Gna! Gna! and Wurrer- Wurrer all to no purpose whatsoever, but solely because it is the nature of dogs thus dog-like to be-dog the wholesome air with dogged and canicular noise of no purport, value, or conclusion? And when this is on have you not seen how good housewives, running from their doors, best stop the noisome noise and drown it altogether by slop, bang, douches of cold wet from a pail, which does dis-spirit the empty disputants, and, causing them immediately to unclinch, humps them off to more useful things? So it is with philosophers, who will snarl and yowl and worry the clean world to no purpose, not even intending a solution of any sort or a discovery, but only the exercise of their vain clapper and clang. Also they have made for this same game as infernal a set of barbaric words as ever were blathered and stumbled over by Attila the king when the Emperor of Constantinople's Court Dentist pulled out his great back teeth for the enlargement of his jaw."

This is the problem of philosophers who have lost their grounding in reality, in what is. It is the whole host of modern philosophy since Descartes' "epistemological turn." The likening of moderns philosophers and their discussions to two yapping, yelping, barking dogs in flagrante delicto is hilarious, and pure Belloc.

Is there are cure for this kind of philosophical malady which brings men to act like to dogs copulating? Is there a cure for those unfortunates who cannot, like Plato, understand that wisdom is know what is, and that it is, and what is not, and that it is not?

Thankfully there is. Belloc (through the Sailor) informs us of the cure: "Now this kind of man can be cured only by baptism, which is of four kinds, by water, by blood, and by desire: and the fourth kind is of beer. So watch me and what I will do."

Armed with the knowledge of this fourth kind of baptism--baptism by beer, a disciplina aracani if I have ever heard of one--let us see what the intrepid Sailor decides to do.

"Then he [the Sailor] went in ahead of us, and we all came in behind, and when we came in neither Grizzlebeard nor the Stranger looked up for one moment, but Grizzlebeard was saying, with vast scorn: 'You are simply denying cause and effect, or rather efficient causality.' To which the Stranger answered solemnly, 'I do!'

On hearing this reply the Sailor, very quickly and suddenly, hurled over him all that was in the pint pot of beer, saying hurriedly as he did so, 'I baptize you in the name of the five senses,' and having done so, ran out as hard as he could with us two at his heels, and pegged it up the road at top speed, and never drew rein until he got to the edge of Jockey's Spinney half a mile away, and we following, running hard close after, and there we found him out of breath and laughing, gasping and catching, and glorying in his great deed."

What happened to the philosopher, we are not told. Whether the baptism by beer into the five senses works ex opere operato, like the baptism of water, we are not told.

But regardless, one lesson is learned. Any good Catholic, and anyone who follows the philosophia perennis, will be "baptized by beer," which is to say "baptized in the name of the five senses," because he will know that the senses are given to him by God and they inform him reliably enough of reality, of what is, and this includes the entirety of creation. And not only the entirety of creation, but that creation is but need not be, and so it screams--as loud as any fact does, whether it be bacon, cheese, or beer (all given high encomia in the Sussex pilgrimage)--of the existence of the Creator.

Blessed be God, in his angels and in his saints. And blessed be God in all the good things of this earth including (dare I say it?) bacon, cheese, strong drink, friendship, and, above all, the common sense behind the Catholic Faith, and the promise of heaven which it contains.


Andrew M. Greenwell Esq. is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.