by George J. Dance

Frances Bellerby

Frances Bellerby (1899-1975). Courtesy Romenu blog.

Mary Eirene Frances Bellerby (29 August 1899 - 30 July 1975) was an English poet, novelist, and short story writer.[1]


Youth and educationEdit

Bellerby was born Mary Eirene Frances Parker, the youngest child and only daughter of Marion Eirene (Thomas), a trained nurse, and Rev. F. Talbot Parker, an Anglo-Catholic priest from Weymouth, Doreset. She grew up in East Bristol, a working-class area of the city, where her father ministered to the poor. She had a brother, Jack (1896-1915), who treated her as an equal, and whom she admired.[1]

Frances began writing poetry at the age of 3 or 4. She later wrote that poetry was the most important thing in her childhood. She was educated at home by her mother until she was 9. [1]

After knocking a boy down in a fight, Frances was sent in 1908 to Mortimer House, Clifton, a private school for girls, remaining there until 1918. She became captain of cricket, ran cross-country, and won colors for swimming and diving.[1]

In 1913 the family moved from East Bristol, when her father became vicar of the Church of the Holy Nativity in Knowle, Somerset.Her brother died fighting in France during World War I, on 8 August 1915; his death gave his mother a mental breakdown, and caused Frances to turn against religion.[1]

Adult lifeEdit

After leaving school, Bellerby trained in animal care for a year (1918-1919) at a kennel in Bristol.[1] She worked as a teacher from the age of 20, teaching English, Latin, and games at a girls' school for a year,[1] and then as a private tutor for the Cecil Fry family. Around this time she began writing for the Bristol Times and Mirror.[2]

In 1925 she met her future husband, John Rotherford Bellerby, a socialist economist and a fellow of Caius College, Cambridge.[2] In 1927 she moved to London, as drama critic for the Bristol Times and Mirror. She married John Bellerby on 9 December 1929. The couple founded and ran a charitable organization, The Neighbours. They had no children.[1]

In June 1930 Bellerby severely damaged her spine in a fall on Lulworth cliffs. In 1930 her husband took up a position at the University of Liverpool, but retired from academic life 2 years later. Her mother committed 1932.[1]

Also in 1932, the Bellerbys retired to a village in Cambridgeshire, where John Bellerby ran for the Labor Party in the 1935 general election; though nominated as a pacifist, he renounced his pacifist views. Meanwhile, in 1934, Frances had become a Quaker. In the same year the Bellerbys had a trial separation.[1]

From 1940 on Frances Bellerby lived at Plash Mill in Upton Cross, Callington.[1] In 1942 she permanently separated from her husband, who became a lecturer in economics at Glagown University.[2] She began writing poetry again at that time, when (as she later said) her inner self at last "felt free" of her husband.[1] She published her debut collection, Plash Mill: Poems, in 1946.[2]

She was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts in 1950, and was given a year to live.[2] She underwent a series of treatments, culminating in surgery in 1951.[1] She moved in 1950 to Devon, and in 1954 to a cottage in Goveton, near Kingsbridge, where she lived the rest of her life.[2]

She died of breast cancer on 30 July 1975.[1]


Bellerby published 5 volumes of poetry, 2 novels, and 3 collections of short stories.[1] She wrote many poems, the most famous of which may be her "Voices."

Encyclopedia of British Women's Writing, 1900-1950: "Her poetry is imbued with a spiritual awareness encoded through the natural environment while her political socialism is more evident in her prose".[3]

Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English: "The most potent influences on her work are the counties of Cornwall and Devon, in which she lived for much of her life. She was a religious and contemplative nature poet much akin to Ruth Pitter, but quieter and without the oddities, quirks, and prolificity. At the age of 30 poetry (she wrote) ‘seeped away, unregretted’; then, some fifteen years later, it returned ‘for no known or surmised reason’. Her taut and disciplined poems almost always depict landscapes—usually with a quiet sense of menace and mystery."[4]


Bellerby was awarded a Civil List pension in 1973.[1]



  • Perhaps? (as M.E. Frances Parker). London: Fowler Wright, 1927.
  • The Unspoiled (as M.E. Frances Parker). London: Fowler Wright, 1928
  • Plash Mill Poems. London: Peter Davies, 1946.
  • The Brightening Cloud, and other poems. London: Peter Davies, 1949.
  • The Stone Angel and the Stone Man. Plymouth, UK: T. Williams, 1958.
  • Selected Poems (edited by Charles Causley). London: Enitharmon Press, 1970.
  • The Stuttering Water, and other poems. Gillingham, Kent: A. Ward, 1970.
  • A Possible Prayer for New Year's Day. Norfolk, UK: Daedalus Press, for Enitharmon Press, 1972.
  • The First-Known, and other poems. London: Enitharmon Press, 1975.
  • Selected Poems (edited by Anne Stevenson). London: Enitharmon Press, 1986.


  • Shadowy Bricks. London: Richard Clay & Sons, for Educational Services, 1932.
  • Hath the Rain a Father?. London: Peter Davis, 1946.

Short fictionEdit

  • Come to an End, and other stories. London: Methuen Press, 1939.
  • The Acorn and the Cup, and other stories. London: 1948.
  • A Breathless Child: Other stories. London: Collins, 1952.
  • Selected Stories (edited by Jeremy Hooker). London: Enitharmon Press, 1986.


  • The Neighbours (pamphlet). London: Epworth Press, 1931.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

See alsoEdit




  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Frances Bellerby, Orlando Project, University of Cambridge. Web, Jan. 10, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Administrative / Biographical History, Frances Bellerby papers, University of Exeter Archives. Archives Hub, Web, Jan. 10, 2018.
  3. Jane Dowson (2006). "Bellerby, Frances 1889-1975". Encyclopedia of British Women's Writing, 1900-1950. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 11. 
  4. Frances Bellerby (1899-1977), Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English, Oxford Index. Web, Jan. 10, 2018.
  5. Search results = au:Frances Bellamy, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Jan. 10, 2018.

External linksEdit

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