Frances Bellerby Papers

Scope and Content

Letters and poems, all in manuscript, totalling about 350 folios, from Frances Bellerby from her home at Goveton near Kingsbridge to Bill Cotterell of Wolverhampton, 1973-75, written at about fortnightly intervals. The poems, of which there are many, are all neat copies attached to, or within, letters.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frances Bellerby was born in Bristol on 29 August 1899. Her father, F Talbot Parker, was a clergyman with a devotion to 'the poor'; her mother, Marion Eirene Thomas, a trained nurse. Her sole brother volunteered for service and was killed in the First World War. From the age of twenty she worked as a teacher, first at a school and later as a private tutor to the Cecil Fry family, and at about the same time began writing articles for The Bristol Times and Mirror. In 1925 she first met her future husband, John Rotherford Bellerby, a Fellow of Caius College Cambridge, whom she married in December 1929. A socialist economist, he set up an organisation called The Neighbours, which required its members to live on the national average income. The result was 'virtual ostracism' for married women, such as Mrs Bellerby. Six months later she had a fall in which she badly damaged her spine. This coloured her outlook for the remainder of her life, having been a very athletic person in youth. In 1932 she published a novel, Shadowy Bricks, which describes her and her husband's vision of education. Just before the book appeared her mother killed herself. In 1934, having written no poems since her marriage, she temporarily separated from her husband. They continued to live together on and off for another eight years before parting in 1942, when her husband became a Lecturer in Economics at Glasgow University; Frances started writing poetry again at this point. At her Cornish cottage, Plash Mill, she wrote in earnest, publishing poetry, short stories and a novel, Hath the Rain a Father. In 1950 she was diagnosed as having breast cancer in both breasts, and she was given a year to live. In 1954, having spent three-and-a-half unhappy and artistically sterile years in a cottage at Clearbrook, Devon, she bought a semi-detached cottage called Upsteps at Goveton, near Kingsbridge, where she remained for the rest of her life, battling against insanity, loss and illness, and writing new poems, most of which were published by The Enitharmon Press.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Acquisition Information

The papers were deposited in Exeter University Library in 1985.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL arrangements apply