Unravelling mysteries

Nov 29th, 2009 | By | Category: High Ham and Somerset

Just when you think a question has been answered, another more nagging one comes along.

We moved to the village of High Ham in Somerset in February 1967.  Our house was the last in a line of council houses built in 1926.  Beyond our house, the road passed between open fields before reaching High Ham windmill, the only thatched windmill in England.  It had stood semi-derelict for years, before being restored by the National Trust in the early 1970s.

Only this week, approaching 43 years later, did I discover from Les Plant, whom I first met in the primary school classroom on a February Monday morning, that the story in the village was that the mill and its house and cottage had been left to the National Trust by Professor Bellot in memory of his son.

It had been assumed that the son concerned had died during the First World War and a search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website produced a quick result, Bellot not being the most common of names:

In Memory of


1st/1st, North Somerset Yeomanry

who died age 24

on 27 March 1918

Son of Hugh H. L. Bellot, D.C.L., and Beatrice V. Bellot,

of High Ham, Somerset.

Remembered with honour

Sorting through photographs from home, one of the war memorial plaque in the village church shows Bryson Bellot as the first name amongst the eighteen from our little village who died in the Great War.

Finding Professor Bellot’s Christian names on the CWGC website meant being able to search for him on the Internet and a Wikipedia page confirmed, “In 1969 Professor H. H. Bellot left the windmill, cottage and garden to the National Trust in his will”.

Les Plant had pointed out to me that Professor Bellot must have been a great age when bequeathing the mill to the Trust; in his nineties, at least because his son had died in 1918 at the age of 24, so had been born some seventy-five years before Professor Bellot’s death.

Who was this man who had lived to such a great age in our village?

Papers held by the Somerset Archives in Taunton suggest there was deep involvement in village life, but how did Professor H.H. Bellot remain around for so long?

The answer became clearer on the website of University College, London.  Professor Hugh Hale Bellot had been born in 1890, he could not have been father to Lieutenant Bryson Bellot.  The UCL website even has a photograph of the man who was once our neighbour.

The University of London has a catalogue of the papers left by Professor Bellot, they include: “Photograph of Bryson Bellot (Bellot’s brother) in a military uniform” and “Bryson Bellot: Documents and letters of Bellot’s brother who died in Abbeville on March 17, 1918.”  So Professor Hugh Bellot was brother, and not father, to Lieutenant Bryson Bellot.

Bryson Bellot’s father was, however, also Hugh Bellot.  An obituary for the Royal Historical society shows that Professor Hugh Hale Bellot (1890-1969) was son of Hugh Hale Leigh Bellot (1860-1928).  The DCL (Doctor of Civil Law) after H.L. Bellot’s name in the casualty records should have been a hint, Hugh Hale Bellot was a history lecturer, a search for Hugh Hale Leigh Bellot reveals him to have been a barrister and law lecturer.

Professor Bellot must have been a interesting figure in our little village: an obituary for a former pupil describes him as “Professor H. Hale Bellot, an old-fashioned gentleman and a rather anachronistic figure, even in 1953”.

Of course, the real mystery is how a prominent academic family from Surrey came to be living down our road.  The Bellot family papers held in the archives in Taunton may hold many revelations!

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  1. A big thank-you Ian, It would have been wonderful to know how the Bellots were thought of in the village, I will ask my Mother if she has any recollections when I’m next there. Are you invesigating further?

  2. Don’t think there is much more I can do from here – I’d love to see some of the papers held in Taunton. I can’t even work out how the Bellots, a Surrey family, came to be living on Windmill Road, it was not exactly an obvious place to which to move! The mill closed in 1910 and when Bryson died in 1918, it was their address, so there must have been a move at some point in the years between.

  3. I will try to find out more Ian..

  4. Despite your blog entry of 2009 re bellot family being long past, thought you might be interested …as part of the continuing work of the HH history project, I have spent some hours at somerset archives looking at the bellot papers.. Now know the family used the windmill as a summer residence., did not live there full time. Have found photo of bryson in full uniform standing in front of windmill. Ivor hitchens, renowned artist painted his portrait. At Bristol art gallery. On internet if you google bryson bellot and images. Father also painted. As yet no idea why they came to somerset. Did they know mrs Carne- hill at the court. Did she tell them of mill.
    We are currently preparing a book to be published in October. 1865 to 1965 photo and memories of parish life. You may be interested.

  5. I wonder why the windmill would appeal as a summer residence? It was not really convenient for anywhere.

  6. Have you seen the portrait of Lieutenant Bryson Bellot? I saw the painting below on pinterest. It caused me to search for this young man’s history. That search led me to this page at http://forthefainthearted.com.

    Here is the info on the painting: Portrait of Lieutenant Bryson Bellot (1893–1918), NSY , c. 1920 by Ivon Hitchens (British 1893-1979).

    It looks like it is a fine painting of a fine young man. RIP.


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