Bellasis, Edward (DNB00)


BELLASIS, EDWARD (1800–1873), serjeant-at-law, only son of the Rev. George Bellasis, D.D., of Queen's College, Oxford, rector of Yattendon and vicar of Basilden and Ashampstead, Berkshire, by his second wife, Leah Cooper, only surviving child and heir of Emery Viall, of Walsingham, Norfolk, was born 14 Oct. 1800, in his father's vicarage at Basilden. From 1580 his family were well known as of Long Marton, Westmoreland ; while from 1763, when his uncle General John Bellasis, commander of the forces at Bombay, first went to India, several members of it won distinction in the militaiy and civil service of the company. Conspicuous among these were the two half brothers of Serjeant Bellasis, General Joseph Harvey Bellasis, who, in 1799, was killed while storming a fort at Sondah in Bundelcund, and Colonel George Bridges Bellasis, who, in the same year, received a medal for gallantry at the battle of Seringapatam.

Bellasis was a student at Christ's Hospital from the Easter of 1808 to the October of 1815. He was entered as a student at the Inner Temple on 8 Nov. 1818, and was called to the bar 2 July 1824. For several years he practised in the court of chancery and in the county palatine of Lancaster. In 1836 he was engaged to watch over the interests of his friend Mr. Wood, of Hanger Hill, when Brunel first projected the Great Western Railway. He became thenceforth, as a barrister, exclusively employed in parliamentary business until his formal retirement in 1866 from professional practice. Briefs and retainers soon began to pour in upon him. The cases of grave importance in which he was engaged before the committees of the Lords and Commons reached at last a grand total of 342.

He was employed in many of the great railway and navigation bills. His sagacity influenced the reconstruction of the laws regulating the salmon fisheries, and the acts directing the supply of water to Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Bristol, Sheffield, Glasgow, and London. He was employed in 1838 in the Salford and Shaftesbury election petitions. On 10 July 1844 he became serjeant-at-law. From 1853 to 1856 Bellasis, in conjunction with his fast friend, James Robert Hope-Scott, Q.C., was the confidential adviser of the young Earl of Shrewsbury, and undertook the superintendence of a great landed estate bringing in nearly 50,000l. a year. The earl died on 10 Aug. 1856. In 1857 the memorable litigation arose for the possession of the Shrewsbury property, the contention lying between Earl Talbot, claiming it as heir, and the Duke of Norfolk, to whose younger son, Lord Edmund Howard, it had been devised by the recently deceased Earl of Shrewsbury. For ten years Bellasis and Hope-Scott had its entire control. Lord Talbot's claim to the title before the committee of privileges, though decided in his favour in the very first year of the action, did not necessarily involve the recovery by him of the Shrewsbury estates. Hence, in 1858, there came on in the court of common pleas an action of ejectment by the newly installed Earl of Shrewsbury for the recovery of Alton Towers. Again the decision was in the earl's favour, and the trustees appealed against it without success in the exchequer chamber. At length, in 1867, judgment was finally given by Lord Chancellor Chelmsford and the Lords Justices Cairns and Turner, as to certain entailed portions of the Shrewsbury estate. This was the one success achieved by the trustees.

In 1863 Bellasis became steward of the Duke of Norfolk's manors in Norfolk and Suffolk. On the death of Sir Charles Young, Garter king-at-arms, in 1869, he was appointed, together with Lord Howard of Glossop and Sir William Alexander, Bart., a commissioner of the earl marshal to examine and report upon the working of the College of Arms. As the result of the great mass of evidence taken down by the commissioners, an elaborate report was issued by them suggesting certain important reforms, revisions, and alterations in the general working and organisation of the Heralds' College.

From 1833 to 1845 Serjeant Bellasis watched with intense interest the course of the tractarian movement. He made several visits to Oxford, and became intimate with Mr. (afterwards Cardinal) Newman, Dr. Pusey, and Dr. Ward, as well as with Canon Oakeley and Archdeacon Manning, afterwards cardinal archbishop of Westminster. Cardinal Newman, on 21 Feb. 1870, dedicated to him, in terms of strong affection, the ‘Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent.’ Early in 1850 Bellasis published two anonymous pamphlets: ‘The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Petition for a Church Tribunal in lieu of it: a Letter by an Anglican Layman,’ 8vo, pp. 16; and ‘Convocations and Synods, are they the Remedies for Existing Evils? a Second Letter by an Anglican Layman,’ 8vo, pp. 16.

Bellasis took part in the animated discussion produced by the bull of Pius IX in 1850. He wrote ‘A Remonstrance with the Clergy of Westminster, from a Westminster Magistrate,’ 8vo, pp. 22. And in 1851 he published anonymously a remonstrance with the protestant episcopate, under the title of ‘The Anglican Bishops versus the Catholic Hierarchy; a Demurrer to further Proceedings,’ 8vo, pp. 16. It soon became known that it was by Bellasis, who, on 28 Sept. 1850, acting upon the advice of Cardinal Wiseman, had been received by Father Brownbill, of the Society of Jesus, into the Roman catholic communion. While yet an Anglican, he had, in 1847, written four letters on the question of Bishop Barlow's consecration, which, a few years afterwards, were published in a newspaper. A reprint of them, authorised by Bellasis, appeared in 1872 under the title, ‘Anglican Orders, by an Anglican, since become a Catholic,’ 8vo, pp. 15. Bellasis also issued anonymously early in 1850 ‘[Twelve] Preliminary Dialogues between two Protestants approaching the Catholic Church, being the substance of real conversations,’ 1861, 8vo, pp. 66. The interlocutors, Philotheus and Eugenia, were Bellasis and his wife. A thirteenth dialogue was posthumously published in 1874, with the author's name on its title-page: ‘Philotheus and Eugenia, a Dialogue on the Jesuits, by the late Mr. Serjeant Bellasis,’ small 8vo, pp. 16. Besides these fragmentary writings, Bellasis left among his papers a curiously interesting autobiography, still in manuscript, as well as a number of elegantly turned metrical effusions.

Having been for some time in rather delicate health, Bellasis left England in November 1872 for his winter residence in the South of France, at Hyères, in Provence. There, two months afterwards, on 24 Jan. 1873, he died in the seventy-third year of his age. Cardinal Newman wrote: ‘He was one of the best men I ever knew. There was a great deal in common in him and Mr. Hope-Scott. This similarity is what made them such great friends—they were so honest and so true.’ It was remarked of him by one who knew him intimately: ‘His great charity was perhaps what most distinguished him, so that it was a family saying that he would find a good side to a bad shilling.’

Bellasis was a magistrate of both Middlesex and Westminster. He represented, at the time of his death, the only remaining branch of the old Roman catholic family of Durham, to which formerly appertained the earldom Fauconberg [see under Belasyse, John]. Bellasis was twice married, first on 17 Sept. 1829, to Frances, only surviving child and heir of William Lycett, of Stafford, who died without leaving issue on 27 Dec. 1832; and secondly, on 21 Oct. 1836, to Eliza Jane, only daughter of William Garnett, of Quernmore Park and Bleasdale Tower, Lancashire, high sheriff in 1843, by whom he left ten children. Both the eldest of his four sons, Richard Garnett, and the youngest of them, Henry Lewis, are priests, his second son, Edward, being Lancaster herald, and the third son, William, a merchant. Of his six daughters three became nuns, one married Mr. Lewin Bowring, formerly of the Indian Civil Service, a son of Sir John Bowring, while another became the wife of Dr. Charlton, M.D. and D.C.L., of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

[Garside's In Memoriam notice in the Tablet, 1 Feb. 1873, p. 138; Law Times, 1 March 1873, p. 334; Serjeant Bellasis's Manuscript Autobiography.]

C. K.