OXFORDSHIRE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME

Frank BELLAMY (1863–1936)

Astronomer, philatelist

Ethel BELLAMY (1881–1960)

Seismologist, astronomer

2 Winchester Road, Oxford

2 Winchester Road
2 Winchester Road, where Frank Bellamy and
his niece Ethel lived from 1930 to 1939

Frank Arthur Bellamy was born at 57 St John Street, Oxford to Montague Bellamy, bookbinder, and his wife Zilpah, née Butwell. Educated at Magdalen College School, in 1881 he was appointed Second Assistant at the University Observatory. Under first Charles Pritchard, Savilian Professor of Astronomy, and his successor Herbert Hall Turner, he set to work on the Astrographic Catalogue, an ambitious international project to map all the stars, shared out between eighteen observatories across the world. He took photographic plates, and measured and reduced thousands of star images and prepared them for publication. The initial work took ten years and then he took on the zones of the Vatican, Hyderabad, and Potsdam observatories. He published 35 papers in astronomic journals between 1883 and 1901 and a book in 1909, entitled The International Photographic Survey of the Sky. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1896. His career at the Observatory came to a sad end. He strongly disagreed with the approach of the new Savilian Professor H. H. Plaskett and resigned in protest in January 1936. He died at 2 Winchester Road only two weeks later and is buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery.

He was also an esteemed philatelist. He founded the Oxford Philatelic Society in 1890, serving as secretary and treasurer until his death. He was a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society. His stamp collection, started when he was five years old, comprising over 200,000 items and estimated at £6000 in 1925, was nationally famous. College Messenger stamps from Oxford and Cambridge were a unique feature, some now held in the Bodleian John Johnson collection. He contributed conspicuously to the intellectual and cultural life of the city. He collaborated with the remarkable amateur botanist George Claridge Druce, contributed regular meteorological reports, was a pillar of the Oxfordshire (now Ashmolean) Natural History Society, and a founder member of the Oxford Photographic Society in 1889. His images of Oxford are valued holdings in the city archive. He was Vice-President of the Oxfordshire Cricket Association.

Frank had recruited his niece Ethel Frances Butwell Bellamy, aged seventeen, to help with the astrography at first informally and later from 1912 as a member of the Observatory staff. She was the daughter of Frank’s brother Montague, and shared a home with her uncle, first at 4 St John’s (now St Bernard’s) Road together with her sister Edith, an invalid. She performed the work for the Vatican Observatory for which she was awarded a silver medal in 1928, as was Frank. They were both made honorary MAs by Oxford University. Altogether the pair recorded the positions of over a million stars. Ethel was made a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1926. In 1918 she began to assist Professor Turner in the new field of seismology. She operated the seismograph and collated data from 600 stations, all the time working in an unheated hut. She prepared the results for the International Seismological Summary and became editor after Turner’s death. During WWII she computed the epicentres herself and was the mainstay of operations during that time. She retired in 1947 when the seismological work at the Observatory was transferred to Kew, continuing to live at Winchester Road until 1949. She died in a nursing home in Weymouth in 1960.

Sources:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by Roger Hutchins
  • Paper given to the Oxford Philatelic Society in 2018 by Bill Jackson.

The plaque was unveiled at 2 Winchester Road on 8 October 2019. The speakers were Mr Bill Jackson, former President of Oxford Philatelic Society, and Professor Karin Sigloch of Oxford Earth Sciences Department. The ceremony was attended by philatelists and representatives of the Bodleian Library, Magdalen College School, and the Oxford Astrophysics Department.

Picture awaited

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

FRANK BELLAMY
1863–1936
Astronomer, Philatelist

and his niece
ETHEL BELLAMY
1881–1960
Seismologist, Astronomer

 lived here
1930–1949

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

 

Email: oxfordshireblueplaques@gmail.com