The Belliss Family Monument by Paul Belliss

The Belliss burial vault is being conserved with generous support from the Belliss family.  Restoration work is being undertaken by Mareva Conservation and involves steam cleaning the stonework, refixing sections of damaged stone and restoration and regilding of the lettering.

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The vault has suffered due to its position under a tree and has the usual level of damage you might see to a stone memorial in a publically accessible place.  A number of other the gravestones in the churchyard are unstable and need to be fenced off for safety. The cathedral intends to secure these very soon.

Belliss cleaning

The following information has been supplied by Paul Belliss, descendent of the Belliss family.

 

The ‘Belliss’ family monument

The Belliss family commemorated in the churchyard of St Philip’s Cathedral Birmingham are part of the family that is probably best known through the former Birmingham engineering company ‘Belliss and Morcom’ (B&M).

The monument commemorates some members of three generations of the family of John Belliss (1794-1859) and his wife Elizabeth (1800-72) who had 5 sons; William 1828-1881, John 1834-1879, Thomas 1836-43, George 1838-1909 and Richard 1840, and one daughter Catherina 1832-82.

George became an engineer and ultimately set up the B&M company. None of George’s family is commemorated in this monument and none of those commemorated appear to have played any significant part in B&M.

Unlike the well documented story of B&M, a history of this Belliss family itself has not thus far been recorded leaving many questions to be answered.

In the Victorian era Britain had strong connections with Germany. John Belliss (1834-1879) married Euphrosina Schobloch of Lindau on Lake Constance in Bavaria. Euphrosina, John and their four children who died in childhood are commemorated in the monument.

In the twentieth century, the progeny of this Belliss family were predominantly female so that by 2015 there is only one young line bearing this Belliss family name. (NB. The family name Belliss is not common but modern digital records reveal a small number around the world).

The monument in St Philip’s churchyard provides a small intact part of local history and heritage, albeit with as yet an incomplete history. Local history is an important link for many to the past and the fabric of society.

Belliss & Morcom

George Edward Belliss founded an engineering manufacturing partnership in Broad Street, Birmingham in the 1860’s. A period of rapid development led to the formation of B&M just before the turn of the 20th century. B&M developed a global market – their steam engines can still be found in the far corners (including in India, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Canada), some still operating.  However, post WWII B&M struggled to meet the challenges of change of a period that may become to be known as the second industrial revolution. The Belliss family gradually lost its influence in the company. The Company then came under the stewardship of numerous new owners, including at one time Rolls Royce, but none were successful. Manufacturing in central Birmingham came to an end and the original works finally demolished early in the 21st century. Reminiscences of happy times in the old B&M are posted in the ‘Old Ladywood’ website.  B&M had excelled in the field of steam engines and compressors and is now recognised as a part of Britain’s industrial heritage.

Examples of B&M various engines can be seen in Birmingham Thinktank Museum, in the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, in the Swanage Railway museum in Corfe Castle and in many other steam museums around the country.

Somewhat phoenix-like, a new Belliss&Morcom has been created as a manufacturer of compressors as a division of the successful international American engineering company Gardner Denver which currently has operations in the UK from modern facilities in Redditch just south of Birmingham. Gardner Denver recognises the legacy of B&M. Also a totally separate engineering company ‘Belliss India Ltd’, derived from B&M activities in the subcontinent, operates successfully from near Delhi as part of the rapidly developing Indian economy.

Paul Belliss                                                                                                              June 2015

belliss east elevation

References  

A History of G.E.Belliss and Belliss and Morcom Limited. J Edward Belliss. Transactions of the Newcomen Society, The Science Museum, South Kensington. 1964

Collections of photos and reminiscences relating to Belliss & Morcom can be found in the ‘Old Ladywood’ website and at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/macjoseph/bellis.htm

Grace’s Guide – British Industrial History (http:// http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Belliss_and_Morcom)

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