Search billions of records on

Path to London Index

History Index

Westmorland Villages

The Path to London


· The Origins of the Bellas Family

· The Bellas family in Westmorland

· The story of Henry and Esabell Bellas of Keisley

· The story of William Bellas and Margrett Green

· The story of John Bellas and Barbara Spedding

· The story of Joseph Bellas and Ann Brown

· The story of Mark Bellas and Sarah Hudson

· The story of Thomas Bellas and Isabella Smith (Incomplete)

part 2 is to follow

The Origins of the Bellas Family

It is possible that the origins of the Bellas family go back to the Norman Conquest, when Belasius, one of the commanders of William’s army, settled in England, and was given land in Billingham on Teesside. The more famous Durham and Yorkshire family of Bellasis and Belasyse is almost certainly descended from him but it is much more difficult to establish the link with the Bellas family of Westmorland.

According to "The Duchess of Cleveland’s Roll of Battle Abbey", the original Belasius came from Coulommieres, east of Paris, and was descended from one of the Viking warriors who settled in the area. William made him master of his forces. He fought in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, after which he was appointed general of the forces in England, bringing into submission Egelwinus, Morcar, Hereward and other adherents of Eadger Atheling. These were reduced to submission at the Isle of Ely in 1071. This is where Belsara Hill is supposedly situated and named after Belasius.

*This information is given by Douglas Bellas in The Cumbria Family History Society Bulletin in 1988. He continues:

"When hostilities ceased, Bellasius was given land as his reward, situated north of the Tees, the modern day Middlesborough. I have a copy of an old map from Billingham with the name Belasis Hall on it, showing perhaps the original grant from William the Conqueror. The Bellas coat of arms is incorporated in the Billingham civic arms…… The Bellas coat of arms is simple in design containing three Fleurs de lys between a chevron. This simple design means that the coat of arms is one of the oldest. The Bellas motto is "Bonne et Belle Assez", or a variation of it, "Good and Beautiful Enough".

The Belasyse, Bellasise, Belasise or Belasis line continued as Lords of Belasis, favouring such Christian names as Rowland, William, Robert, John & Thomas. In 1264, Sir Rowland Belasyse was given a knighthood by Henry III for his gallant bearing at the Battle of Lewes. Also by his marriage to Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Spring, he acquired considerable lands at Houghton le Spring, County Durham.

A few generations on in then time of the Crusades, Sir John Belesyse, on being commanded to take a Crusade, in 1379, exchanged all his lands in Belasyse and Wolveston for less valuable land at Henknoll near Bishop Auckland in an arrangement with the church. This stupidity was immortalised in a verse:-

Johnny t’wa tha Bellas

daft was thy poll

When thou exchanged

Bellasis for Henknoll

In moving to Henknoll the family were moving much nearer to the Pennines and the border with Cumberland and Westmorland. They began to contract marriages with people in those counties and to acquire land there. If there is any link between the Belasyse family of Durham and the later Bellas family based in the Long Marton area of Westmorland, it probably occurred during the fifteenth or sixteenth century and probably through a younger son.

The Sir John Belasyse mentioned above was succeeded by his son Robert who married Alice, daughter of Robert Lamplugh of Lamplugh in Cumberland, an early connection with Cumbria, although a Lamplugh is situated towards the coast near Whitehaven, a long way from the later Bellas area of habitation.

This couple had four sons, John, who died without a male heir, William, who succeeded to the family estates at Henknoll, Robert, who died without issue in 1431, and Geoffrey, who is a possible source of Bellas ancestry.

In 1449, William Belasyse settled all his estates at Henknoll on his son Thomas and his wife Margery, daughter of Richard Dalton of West Auckland. By this marriage, Thomas had two daughters who both died young and when his wife also died, he married secondly Margaret daughter of Sir Lancelot Threlkeld of Melmerby, Cumberland. Melmerby is to the north east of Penrith, but Sir Lancelot also had a hall at Threlkeld to the east of Keswick and perhaps more significantly he owned Crosby Hall in Crosby Ravensworth parish near Appleby and is in fact buried in Crosby Ravensworth church. In addition, Sir Lancelot married Lady Clifford whose first husband, Lord Henry Clifford, had been killed at the Battle of Towton fighting for the Lanacastrians during the Wars of the Roses, and whose family seats are at Appleby Castle and Brougham Castle. These links bring the family very near to the Appleby and Long Marton area. It is also interesting to note that the name Lancelot, a rather unusual English Christian name, persists for many generations in some branches of the Bellas family. Thomas had two younger brothers, William and Robert and nothing is known of the history or descendants – perhaps the most likely point of a link to the later Long Marton family.

Thomas Belasye himself had two sons and two daughters by his second wife, Margaret. Richard his heir who inherited Henknoll and Morton House, Durham, and became constable of the castle Durham, left lands at Blentarn in Westmorland to his younger son, Richard, when he died in 1540, showing a definite link in the area. The younger son, Dr Anthony Bellasis, who was a master in Chancery to Henry VIII, and was one of the Commissioners involved in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, also left lands at Blentarn and at Warcop which are both very near to Dufton and Long Marton, later homes of the Bellas family. Anthony Bellasis was granted the manor of Newborough Priory for his services to the crown. On his death in 1552, he passed this to his nephew, Sir William Bellasis.

It was from Sir William Bellasis that the famous Bellasis family of Newburgh descended. Sir William was succeeded by his son, Sir Henry, who was created a baronet by James I. His son, Sir Thomas, became Baron Fauconberg in 1627, and then Viscount Fauconberg in 1643, after faithfully supporting Charles I. He continued to support him at the seige of York and the Battle of Marston Moor.

He in turn was succeeded by his grandson, Thomas, second Earl of Fauconberg, who married as his second wife, Mary, daughter of Oliver Cromwell, but later became a privy councillor the Charles II and Ambassador the Venice.

The family continued in Yorkshire until the barony became extinct in 1815, and the Abbey and lands passed by the female line to the Wombwell family.

The story of this branch of the family is recorded in the book In Well Beware by Geoffrey Ridsdill Smith (Kineton, Warwick: The Roundwood Press, 1978)

Although there is evidence that the Bellasis family of Yorkshire and Durham held land in Westmorland as outlined above, and that this continued in the seventeenth century, there is no positive evidence of a link with the Bellas family of Long Marton.

Other instances of landholding in Cumbria are as follows. James Bellasis, youngest son of Sir William Bellasis of Newborough who was baptised in 1562 and died in 1640, left a will in 1637 in which he left lands on Owton & Darlington, County Durham, but also at Plumpton in Cumberland. Similarly Sir Richard Bellasis, eldest son of the Sir William Bellasis (who was son of Bryan Bellasis and a grandson of the first Sir William Bellasis of Newburgh), left lands at Blentarn and other lands in Westmorland when he died in 1652.

In the eighteenth century, a particular branch of the Bellas family of Long Marton – the children of Joseph Bellas and Margaret Hill – became famous in India and in the church, and in 1792, this branch adopted the older name of Bellasis and the family coat of arms. This was based on the conjecture that the George Bellas who married Elizabeth Parker at Long Marton church, and from whom that branch is descended, was George the sixth son of Sir William Bellasis of Morton House in County Durham.

There does not seem to be any proof of this connection, and an argument against the proposition is that in the will of this George Bellas in 1703, he mentions his brother Lancelot. There was no brother Lancelot in the Durham family, but Lancelot is a christian name that regularly occurs in the Bellas family of Long Marton. The story of this branch of the family will be told more fully later.

Return to Top

The Bellas family in Westmorland

The first known documents concerning the Bellas family in the Long Marton area of Westmorland are a document from the manor court of the Wharton Estate found in a box of paper relating to the estate and the will of Elizabeth Bellas of Long Marton dated 1580.

I understand from the Cumbria Record Office that the land document (D/LONS/L.P.117) is from a survey of the estate conducted in 1560. It relates to land held from the lord of Wharton Manor in the area of Long Marton by Lancelot Bellasse and Stephen Bellysse at the time. The original document is in Latin but in translation it reads as follows:-

"Lancelot Bellesse holds from the lord a tenement and 25 acres of arable land and a rented meadow and pasture for his cattle paying 3s 4d and a parcel (of land) in Halflattes paying 7d and a parcel (of land) above Prestrigmor paying 18d, to have and to hold as above, paying yearly as is agreed in the fine and holding as surety Richard Gregson and William Richardson on condition that his mother should occupy all (the property) during his minority and afterwards (to hold it) in the way that has been agreed.

22s 11d

Stephen Bellysse holds from the lord a tenement and 26 acres of arable land and a rented meadow with its appurtenances and pasture for his cattle, paying 3s 4d and a parcel (of land) in Hallgarth paying 2s 1d and a parcel (of land) in Halflattes paying 14d and a parcel (of land) above Prestrigmore paying 18d, to have and to hold as above, paying yearly as (is) agreed in the fine and holding as surety William Gill and Richard Warton on condition that his mother should occupy half of the said tenement as the third part of her widow’s payment.

31s 2d

This document suggests that Lancelot and Stephen were brothers who had perhaps very recently inherited land holdings, possibly following the death of their father. Their mother was a widow, and while Stephen was apparently of full age, Lancelot was still a minor. They were both farming a mixture of arable land and pasture in similar areas of Long Marton, namely Halflattes and Prestrigmore, although Stephen also has a holding a Hallgarth.

As it is apparent from the document that Stephen and Lancelot’s father had already died by 1560. I enquired of the Record Office about any earlier documents which might refer to his death and the transfer of the land holdings, but I was told that this document of 1560 is the earliest existing manorial document relating to the Wharton Manors and that the earliest probate is 1564.

The next document is the will of Elizabeth Bellas, a widow of Long Marton parish written on the 5th of May and proved on 12th July 1580. There seems reason to believe that she may be the widow, mother of Lancelot and Stephen, mentioned in the above land document. The name of her former husband is unknown, but she mentions in her will her children Robert, Richard, Agnes, Lancelot and John. One wonders if most of the later members of the Bellas family in the area are descended from Elizabeth and her children. Stephen is not mentioned in the will but in the inventory at the end of the will., there is the mention of a debt owed the "Stevyne Belles wyf". Possibly Stephen had already died or was living at a distance. Robert is the first mentioned son and was left "a great black ox, a grey mare, two bussheles of beygge (a kind of barley), two bussheles of rye, a arke, one brass pot". I had first thought that he was probably the eldest son as he is the first mentioned and most richly rewarded of the three beneficiaries, namely himself, Richard and Agnes. There is however an interesting phrase at the end of the will. Having made Robert, Richard and Agnes both executors and beneficiaries, she writes,

"I make myne supervysures my sone Lancelot Belles and my son John Bellas that they shall see that thes my shyleryng shall be truly and justley delt in devydyng of the gudes as my trust uis that wyll do."

I wonder whether this suggests that Lancelot and John were in fact the eldest sons probably already settled and living away from home but given the responsibility of making sure that the property was divided fairly between the three younger children who were perhaps still living at home with the mother. Lancelot is probably the son mentioned in the above land document which dates back to a time when he was still a minor.

The whole will seem interesting enough to quote:-

"In the name of God amen the v day of may 1580 wytnyssyth that I Elizabeth belles wedow of marton seyke in my body bo hoyll of mynd and in perfyte remembrance make thys my last wyll and Tastament in manner and form followyng fyrst I geve uppe my sowell unto allmighty god my maker and Redemer and my body to be beryed within the churche yarde molde of Marton the dewis my mortuaryes and all the dewtyes of the churche to the payd. Item I geve to bequethe to my son Robert belles a greaty black oxe a gray mere two bussheles of beygge two busshelles of rye one arke one bras pot. Item 1 geve to my sone Rech belles one chest one yow. Item 1 geve to my dawghter Agnes belles all my rament. Item the rest of all my guds I geve to my sone Robert belles and Rechard belles my sone and to my dawghter Angnes belles wych Roberts Rechard and Angnes belles I do make myne hoyll executurs jointlye together of thys my last wyll and tastament and I make myne supervysurs my sone lancelot belles and my sone john belles that they shall see that thes my chylderyng shall be truly and justly delt in devyding of the gudes as my trust is thay wyll do wytnysses herof Rechard gregsson and john symson with other men"

Hynrie (?) mathwyt

Curat at marton

Elizabeth left debts to the value of twenty three shillings and two pence, and property to the value of nine pounds five shillings, and was obviously involved in farming. The property however suggests that she ran more of a smallholding than a large farm, as it consisted of one mare and foal, two oxes, one young bull, two old cattle, seven sheep and various quantities of cereal, items of furniture and household equipment.

It is difficult after this to form any conclusive family groupings as the early entries in the registers and Long Marton parish are very fragmentary and that problem is compounded by a complete gap between 1626 and 1654. In these early years undoubtedly the christian names already mentioned, Robert, Richard, John, Lancelot, Stephen, Agnes and Elizabeth predominate, with the addition of William George, James Margaret & Mary. There are Bellas entries in the early years of the Dufton register, and several in Appleby St Michael from about 1665, but very few in other local parishes until a much later date. This may suggest a family which came to Long Marton and Dufton parishes, possibly from another area and possibly during the sixteenth century, and during the course of the next two or three centuries expanded and spread out over the surrounding parishes.

The will of Elizabeth Bellas suggests that she was involved in farming in a small way, and the Wharton estate document would suggest that Stephen and Lancelot were landholders of that estate. There is also the fragment of the will of a Richard Bellas in 1597. It is highly probable that he is the son of Elizabeth Bellas, as probate is granted to Robert Bellasse his brother, and also Stephen Bellesse and Agnes Marshall, widow, - possibly formerly Agnes Bellas daughter of Elizabeth Bellas.

The other early will is that of Lancelot Bellasse the elder of Marton in 1607 – It is probable that he is the Lancelot mentioned in the land document of the Wharton estate and in fact also Lancelot son of Elizabeth Bellas mentioned in her will. It is interesting the Symsons, Gregsons and Twentymans were involved in compiling the inventory for Elizabeth Bellas in 1580, so they were involved as witnesses, beneficiaries and compilers of the inventory for Lancelot Bellas in 1607. He leaves bequests to his son George Bellesse and his grandchildren, Nycholas and Robart Bellesse, and interestingly also to Robart Bellesse of Keaslye (in Dufton parish) and James Bellesse of Brampton. These presumably represented related parts of the family, and in fact braches of the family became well established in both these places.

Like Elizabeth Bellas, Lancelot seems to have been involved in small scale farming. He left property to the value of thirty six pounds, seven shillings and four pence. It consisted of four kye (kine), one other cow, two stirkes, two quies (heifers up to three years old or not yet calved ) two stotts (young bulls) and twenty seven sheep. He also left corn hay and bigg and furniture and household items.

Return to Top

The Bellas Family of Long Marton

Although there is no certainty that the Bellas family of Long Marton are in any way connected with the more famous Bellasis family of Durham and Yorkshire, nevertheless they were a distinguished and interesting local family in their own right. The main Bellas family have already been mentioned. They descend from the George Bellas who married Elizabeth Parker at Long Marton in 1655. He died in 1704 and from his will and from baptismal records we know that he had a brother, Lancelot, and sons, William, George, baptised in 1656, John in 1660 and Richard in 1672, and three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary and Agnes. His son George married Elizabeth Furnas at Dufton in 1786. They had two daughters, Jane and Mary, and a son, Joseph, who was baptised in 1691. Joseph married Margaret Hill at St Michael’s Appleby in 1727. She was the daughter of Hugh Hill of Crackenthorpe, sister of Benjamin Hill, a Doctor of Divinity, and niece of John Hill, a Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford. It was their children, previously mentioned, who went on to have distinguished careers in the church and in the army in India, and who in 1792 obtained permission from the College of Arms to change the family name to Bellasis. There are a number of tablets in Long Marton church commemorating this branch of the family.

Joseph and Margaret’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, baptised in 1729, married William Kilner, Rector of Dufton, and lived to the age of 90. George, the eldest son, baptised in 1730, graduated from Queen’s College, Oxford, becoming Doctor of Divinity, Rector of Yattendon and Vicar of Basilden, Berkshire. Two of his sons by his first marriage to Margaret Harvey, General Joseph Harvey Bellasis and Colonel George Bridges Bellasis, had distinguished military careers in India. By his second marriage to Leah Cooper, he had a son Edward, born 1800, only two years before his death in 1802. Edward became a student of Christ’s Hospital and then the Inner Temple before being called to the bar in 1824. He practised in the Court of Chancery and the County Palatine of Lancaster. He became a steward of the Duke of Norfolk’s manors and a magistrate in Middlesex and Westminster and was known as Mr Serjeant Bellasis. He was very involved in the Oxford Movement and a close friend of Newman and Pusey, and he later became a Roman Catholic. One of Serjeant Bellasis’s sons, another Edward, became Lancaster Herald and published a biography of his father entitled Memorials of Mr Serjeant Bellaisis and another book – Westmorland Church Notes – a record of memorial inscriptions in Westmorland churchyards.

Joseph and Margaret Bellas’s youngest son, John, baptised in 1743, went to Bombay where he became General Commander of the Forces and died there in 1808. A number of his descendants also had distinguished military careers.

Hugh, Joseph and Margaret’s second son, baptised in 1740, seems to have remained in Long Marton. When Joseph Bellas died in 1767, Hugh and his descendants continued to farm the family lands, which were probably rented from the Wharton Estate. Hugh’s son, John, was born in 1785 and died in 1853, and John’s son, George, born in 1818 died in 1863 at the age of 45. I think that the line in long Marton may have died out after that. A full history of this branch of the family is found in Honourable Company by Margaret Bellasis (London: Hollis and Carter, 1952). I have also found information about them from Long Marton – A Story of a Cumbrian Fellside Parish and its Early Norman Church by G H Winterburn (Long Marton Church, 1983).

There was another branch of the family which was prominent in Long Marton itself. This stems from a John Bellas who was buried in 1760 at the age of 98 as shown on a memorial tablet in Long Marton Church. He may have been John, son of George Bellas and Elizabeth Parker, baptised in 1660. He married Elizabeth Lowes in 1709 and they had a son John who was baptised in the same year. This John married Margaret Parker at Long Marton in 1740. They built themselves a house in the middle of the village and over the door they placed an inscription which reads "John and Margaret Bellases 1740". A few years ago this farm known as "Midtown Farm" was bought by Mr Andrew Bellas. The front was covered with ivy and he was amazed to remove this and find in the inscription over the door. The name John was given to the eldest son in the family for at least four more generations, with Johns baptised in 1742, around 1772, around 1793 and in 1820.

As well as these branches of the family in Long Marton, another branch always farmed land in Brampton. The will of Lancelot Bellas in 1608 refers to a James Bellas of Brampton, and John Bellas of Brampton died in 1627 leaving a will. A number of other members of the Brampton family died leaving wills including Stephen Bellas in 1670, James Bellas in 1719, Richard Bellas in 1726, and Stephen Bellas in 1762. This branch produced a number of clergymen, including Lancelot son of Richard, who was baptised in 1737 and became vicar of Brough, and his brother, Thomas, baptised in 1740. In the next generation three of the sons of another Richard also became clerks in holy orders – Thomas Bellas, baptised in 1790 became Vicar of Bongate, Appleby, Lancelot, baptised in 1792, became Rector of Bramshott in Hampshire and Septimus, baptised in 1803, also became a Vicar in Hampshire. In 1985, members of the Bellas family were still farming at Brampton Crofts.

Another branch of the family became established at Bolton not far from Long Marton. This branch was descended from Lancelot Bellas who married Eleanor Wilkinson in 1713 and died in 1733. His eldest son was Joseph, who left a will when he died in 1772 and he had other sons, Michael and Lancelot who were both weavers and also Henry and Mark. Joseph’s son, Lancelot, married Mary Robinson and had a number of children of whom Stephen, who became a schoolmaster, is best remembered. There is a memorial tablet to him in Long Marton church, which reads as follows:-

"In memory of Stephen Bellas who during a period of forty years exercised the arduous and useful profession of a schoolmaster in the respective parishes of Long Marton, Bolton and Kirkbythore, this stone was erected by several of his pupils as a testimony of their gratitude for the benefits derived from his instruction.He died March the 11th 1816 aged 59 years".

Members of the Bellas family also farmed in Knock, a small hamlet in Long Marton Parish lying in the shadow of the Pennines near Dufton. Robert was a prominent Christian name in this family. A Robert Bellis was paying Hearth Tax in Knock between 1669 and 1672 and a Robert Bellas of Knock died in 1681 leaving a will. A later Robert married Elizabeth Atkinson in 1714 and had a son called Robert in 1716. He in turn married Eleanor Furnas in 1733 and had a son called Robert baptised in the same year. When this Robert died in 1780, he left property to a number of relatives including Richard and John Bellas, the sons of his brother Richard Bellas. This Richard was described as a yeoman when he died in 1831, leaving a will.

This had been a very brief outline of the history of some of the main branches of the Bellas family in the Long Marton area. We will now continue with the story of Robert Bellas of Dufton from whom I believe my family descends.

Return to Top

The family of Robert Bellas of Dufton

The parish registers of Dufton, the little parish that lies near Long Marton, but sheltering beneath the Pennines and Dufton Pike, are very difficult to read, but one the earliest and most legible entries records the marriage of Robert Bellyse and Esabell Thorneburrowe in November 1598.

One wonders whether Robert could be the son, or in view of the lapse of time, perhaps the grandson of Elizabeth Bellas of Marton who died in 1580. As mentioned before, she had a son Robert, who was the prime beneficiary and one the executors of her will.

In addition, as mentioned before, the will of Lancelot Bellas who died in 1608, and who was quite possibly the son of Elizabeth Bellas, make bequests both to his grandson, Robert Bellasse and to Robert Bellesse of Keaslye, who each receive "a bushell of bigg".

As Keisley, an attractive, isolated hamlet a short distance south of Dufton under the shadow of the Pennines, is in Dufton parish, one wonders whether Robert Bellesse of Keaslye might be the same Robert who married Isobel Thornburrowe in 1598.

Following the marriage, Robert and Isobel had at least a son Robert, christened on 22 January 1608, and probably a daughter Grace, christened in 1605. There is also a reference to Annas (perhaps Agnes), christened in 1604, but she appears to be the daughter of Robert and Jennett. One does not know weather they were a different couple, whether Jennet was an alternative name for Isobel, or whether there was a mistake in the register.

On 27 June 1623, we find an entry in the register for the burial of Robert Bellas, and Isobel was buried in March 1640/41.

Return to Top

The Story of Henry and Esabell Bellas of Keisley

The next legible references relating to the Bellas family in these very difficult registers are for two baptisms in the 1640’s, that of Robert, son of Henrie Bellas on 26 September 1641, and William, son of Henery Bellesses (an interesting spelling) on 24th June 1647. There was also a daughter, Elizabeth, of Henry and Esabell Bellas baptised on 13 August 1654. The registers are missing between June 1643 and January 1647, so it is possible that the other children were baptised during that period.

We know nothing more of Henry Bellas, apart from his listing in the Protestation Rolls of 1641 for Dufton parish, along with Robert Bellas and Richard Bellas, and also his burial at Dufton on 5 December 1674, when he is referred to as Henery Bellas of Keysley. One wonders if he could be a son of Robert and Isabel, especially as he calls his son Robert and later lives in Keisley, but there is no proof of this.

In 1681, there is a burial at Long Marton of Robert Bellas of Knock, who leaves a very interesting will. He appears to be the Robert Bellas, a widower of Knock, who married Jennat Hill, a widow of Knock at Long Marton in 1654.

It is possible that he could be Robert, the son of Robert and Isobell, christened at Dufton in 1608, but there is no proof of this. He could equally be Robert, the grandson of Lancelot Bellas, mentioned in Lancelot’s will of 1608.

Robert of Knock is certainly an interesting person who obviously obtained prominence and wealth in Knock. He appears in the Hearth Tax Returns of 1669-1672, and leaves property at his death to the value of £81-8-4, including sheep and lambs worth £22.

The main beneficiary of his will is his son Robert, but other beneficiaries are his grandchild Agnes, John Jordan and his wife Isabell – She must be Isabell Bellas who married John Jordan at Dufton in 1674 – Elizabeth Bellas and Robert Bellas of Keisley. They also include the two children of John Bellas, the four children of William Bellas and the two children of Robert Bellas of Keisley, who all receive a sheep each.

I wonder whether it is possible to conjecture that Robert Bellas, William Bellas (mentioned as of Keisley when he maries in 1674) and Elizabeth Bellas are the children of Henry Bellas and Isabell christened at Dufton in 1641, 1647 and 1654 respectively. It is possible that Isabell Jordon (nee Bellas) and John Bellas were other children of that union whose baptism records have been lost. The will would suggest a reasonably close relationship between Robert Bellas of Knock and all these beneficiaries, and it would be not unreasonable to infer that Robert of Knock may have been the brother of Henry of Keisley, who had predeceased him in 1674, and therefore uncle to these beneficiaries, Robert of Keisley, William, Elizabeth and possibly Isabell Jordon (nee Bellas) and John Bellas.

Return to Top

The Story of William Bellas and Margrett Green

One of the children of Henry Bellas of Keisley and his wife Esabel was William, christened at Dufton on 24 June 1647. I believe it is likely that he is the same William who, as William Bellas of Keisley, married Margaret Green of Knock at Long Marton on 12 August 1672, largely because of the mention, both at William’s marriage in 1672 and at Henry’s burial on 1674, of Keisley, a very small hamlet lying under the Pennines to the south of Dufton.

William and Margaret appear to have had six children, Elizabeth (mentioned in her father’s will but for whom there is no existent baptism entry), Jennet christened in 1674, Margaret christened in 1678, Isabel christened in 1680, John christened in 1682, and Sarah christened in 1687, all at Long Marton.

In fact that in 1680 or 1681, when Robert Bellas of Knock died, William had four children, would seem to support the idea that these are the same four children of William Bellas who are each left a sheep in Robert of Knock’s will. Margaret is obviously named after her mother, but Isobel could be named after William’s mother or possibly sister, and Elizabeth and John after his sister and possibly his brother.

Margret, William’s wife, is buried at Long Marton in 1701, but William lived until 1729. He was buried at Long Marton on 12 October. He left a will and property valued at £26-8-0, consisting of his purse and apparel (£1-10-0), a bed and bed clothes with a chest (£1-8-0), eight stone of wool (10 shillings) and three notes (?) (£23-0-0).

The beneficiaries are his daughters, Elizabeth Tod, Margret Pearson, Isabel Bell and Sarah Birkbeck, and various members of the Wharton family, who seem to be the widower and children of his daughter Jennet, who married James Wharton at Long Marton in 1703. The chief beneficiary and executor is his "loving and dutyfull son John Bellas".

The will read as follows:-


"In the name of god Amen. I William Bellas of Longmartin Being in good health of Body and of sound and perfect mind and memory praise be therefore (?) given to almighty god do make and ordain this my present Last Will and Testament in manner and form following first and principally I Commend my soul into the hands of almighty god Hoping through the merits death and passion of my saviour Jesus christ to have full pardon and forgiveness of all my sins and to Inherit Everlasting Life, and my Body I commit to the earth to be decently Buried at the discretion (?) of my executor hereafter named and as tuching the disposition of all such Temporal Estates as it hath pleased almighty god to bestow upon me I give and dispose thereof as followeth: first I will that my Debts and funerall Charges shall be paid and discharged.

Item 1 give unto my daughter Elizabeth Tod the sum of three pounds

Item 1 give unto my daughter Margrat Pearson three pounds.

Item 1 give unto my daughter Isabell Bell the sum of three pounds

Item 1 give unto my daughter Sarah Birbeck the sum of three pounds

Item 1 give to James Whorton one shilling

Item to James Whorton junior one shilling

Item to John Whorton one shilling

Item to Sarah Whorton one shilling

and all rest and residue of my personall estate goods and chattels whatsoever I give and bequeath unto my Loving and dutyfull son John Bellas full and sole executor of this my last will and Testament. I desire that my body may be decently buried in the parish Church yeard of Longmartin and I do herby revoke.., disanull and make void all former wills and testaments by me heretofore made in witness whereof I have set my hand and seal this third day of July 1729.

Eusibus Sympson William Bellas his mark

William Atkinson

Tho Bland

The children named in the will make a definite connection with the William Bellas of Keisley who married Margarett Green in 1672, and had children of these names baptised at Long Marton in the 1670’s and 1680’s.

At his death, and indeed at the time of the baptism of this children during the 1670’s and 1680s, he is known as William Bellas of Knock, so he appears to have moved from his original home in Keisley to Knock, a small hamlet just the other side of Dufton, but in Long Marton parish, from which his wife’s family originated.

Return to Top

The story of John Bellas and Barbara Spedding

There is uncertainty over the parentage of John Bellas, who married Barbara Spedding at Broughan in 1725 and died in 1750, but I believe there is a strong argument to suggest that he in John "the loving and dutyfull son" of William Bellas and Margarett Green, baptised at Long Marton on 4 March 1682, and chief beneficiary of his father’s will.

If he was born in 1682, his marriage in 1725, if it was his first marriage, was rather late at the age of 43, but on the other conjecture that he could possibly be the son of Robert Bellas of Knock, christened in 1708 at Dufton or Long Marton, he would have married at 17, which would have been rather on the early side. In addition he would have been about six years younger than his wife and would have had a moderately early death at the age of 42.

The main reason for my belief that John is the son of William is a study of entries in the manor court books of the Thanet estate which had lands at Knock. These books begin the year 1740 and record a number of descent fines. These include one for John Bellas son and heir of William Bellas for £3-2-4, and another for John Bellas, son and heir of Robert Bellas for £8-1-6. In 1750, the year in which John died, there is a descent fine for William Bellas on the death of this father John for £3-2-4, the same amount as that earlier demanded of the John son of William, but not the same amount as that demanded of the John son of Robert. This was for "a house, garden and severall parcels of land with the appurtenances in Knock of the ancient yearly rent of three shillings and eight pence".

My other reason for this belief is that the inventory for the will of William Bellas in 1729 is signed by Thomas Spedding, who could well be the father in law of John Bellas who married Barbara Spedding in 1725.

Whatever his parentage, it appears that John Bellas married Barbara or Barbary Spedding at Brougham on 19 May 1725. She was the daughter of Thomas Spedding of Woodside and Mary Birkbeck of Kirkland who married at Brougham in 1701 and she herself was christened in 1702. Thomas Spedding died in 1739 leaving property worth £19-9-0. This included one heifer in calf, another heifer, one gelding, bees and hens and geese.

The first recorded child of the marriage of John and Barbara Bellas is Joseph, christened at Long Marton on September 22 1728, followed by Thomas, christened in 1735 and Anthony who was christened in 1739 and buried in 1740.

In view of the descent fine imposed on William son of John in 1750 and other later documents, I wonder whether there was another older son, William but I have not found a baptism entry. There is a barely legible entry in the Long Marton registers for 1726 of a baptism of "……ary Bellas*, and I thought it was possible that this could be a baptism for William, but when I obtained a copy of the entry, the mother’s name appeared to be Mary. He could also be the William Bellas of Knock who married Sarah Brown of Grange at Milburn on 4 April 1753 and who had children William, baptised in 1759 and Anne baptised in 1760 both at Long Marton, Joseph Bellas of Knock, almost certainly a son of John Bellas, married Ann Brown, Sarah’s sister, at Milburn in 1751. It would be quite possible that John would call his eldest son William after his father and it would explain that reason why Joseph, if he was the second son rather than the eldest, became a miner and does not seem to have been well off after his fathers death.

John died in 1750 at the age of about 68, if he was the son of William Bellas and Margrett Green baptised in Long Marton in 1682. Strangely no record of his burial has been found, and unfortunately he did not leave a will as this may have clarified a number of issues about the family relationships. There is however an inventory of his property, and this shows him to have been a comparatively wealthy man leaving goods to the value of £100-2-0.

This consisted of :-

His house, his purse and apparel 5-10-0

Horses 5-10-0

Cows 11-15-0

Young cattle 7-9-0

Implements of husbandry 4-16-0

Wool 4-10-0

Sheep 49-6-0

Corn 0-12-0

Bedsteads and bedding 8-15-0

Swine 0-9-0

Household stuff 4-8-0

Small things 0-10-0

Money owing to the deceased 8-0-0

Money owing by the deceased 11-8-0



The inventory was drawn up by Robert Bellas, and the beneficiary was Barbara Bellas widow of John Bellas. The contents of the inventory suggest that John had been involved in fairly large scale sheep farming and the husbandry of other animals on land above and around Knock.

Following John’s death in 1750, there is uncertainty about what happened to his widow Barbara, his possible eldest son, William, and the landholding in Knock. In the land tax returns for 1765, a William Bellas is listed as having land in Dufton at a rent of three shillings and sixpence and land in Knock at a rent of six shillings and eightpence halfpenny. By the time of the Constable’s census of 1787, neither William or Barbara Bellas are listed in Dufton or Knock or indeed Long Marton.

We have now found in a later court book of the Earl of Thanet’s manors between 1754 and 1780 that on 23 October 1754, William Bellas is recorded as still occupying a half tenement in Knock of the ancient yearly rent of 3s 8d. After that there is no obvious reference to this piece of land until 6 May 1773 when it is noted that:

"John Atkinson was admitted on the surrender and alienation of William Bellas and Barbara Bellas widow to a dwelling house, barns etc, belonging to the Onsets situate on the east side of the town of Knock adjoining Thomas Errington’s on the east and John Kirkbride’s on the west; and to two closes called the Croft and the Broats; of the ancient yearly rent of 3s 6d."

There is a slight discrepancy in the rents of 3s 6d (the amount mentioned in the land tax return for 1765), and 3s 4d, but this entry does seem to shed light on the complete disappearance of both Barbara and William Bellas even if it does not explain it. It also gives a definite link between Barbara, who must surely be the widow of John, and William, the assumed eldest son. We know nothing more of what happened to either of them or of what happened to the wealth which Barbara inherited from her husband. There is no known evidence of burial entires or any further record of either of them.

The story of Joseph the second son will be followed further, Thomas, the youngest surviving son, married Sarah Wilkinson at Milburn, a small village near Knock in 1757. He had children, John, Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret, Isaac and Michael. He was buried in Milburn in 1812 at the age of 79 and is described as a yeoman, and he left a long and complex will leaving property to his many children and grandchildren. His descendants include Douglas Bellas and David Huddart who have both been following the history of the Bellas family.

Return to Top

The story of Joseph Bellas and Ann Brown

We feel fairly confident that Joseph Bellas is the son of John Bellas and Barbara or Barbary Spedding, christened at Long Marton on September 22 1728. This ties in reasonably with the age of 55 given at his burial in Dufton in 1782.

The only other likely baptism entry is that of Joseph son of Lancelot and Eleanor Bellas christened at Long Marton in 1714. The ages here would not tally, christian names like Lancelot and Eleanor are not passed on, and in addition we can follow the future history of that Joseph who died at Bolton in 1772, leaving a will.

On 26 July 1751, Joseph Bellas of Knock, where his father had farmed, married Ann daughter of William and Ann Brown of "Grainge" at Milburn, the little chapelry of Kirkby Thore parish. This would have been shortly after his father’s death. In 1753, William Bellas of Knock married Sarah Brown, presumably Ann’s sister, at Milburn. As mentioned before, it seems very possible that this William is Joseph’s older brother and heir to his father’s tenancy.

Anne and Sarah Brown were both the children of William and Ann Brown of Milburn Grange, a little hamlet between Milburn and Knock. William and Ann had a large family, Sarah (c1722), Mary (c1723), John (c1725), William (c1728), Thomas (c1730), Anne (c1733), Benjamin (c1736), and Margaret (c1739). I have been in correspondence with Eve Campbell, a descendant of their son Thomas. William was a yeoman farmer who at his death in 1763 left property worth £381 although he had debts of £164. He did not leave a will, but a very full inventory was drawn up after his death. As well as household goods, his property included six cows, seven heifers, twelve calves, two bulls, eleven stirks and six stears. He also had horses to the value of £16, and two flocks of sheep valued at £100 and £82. This would suggest that he was a wealthy and successful farmer. His wife Anne died in 1778 at the age of 82. She lived at Newbiggin at the time, but was buried at Milburn with her husband.

Joseph Bellas and Ann Brown seen to have lived at Milburn Grange for the first few years of their marriage. The first four children, Ann in 1753, John in 1755, William in 1757 and Elizabeth in 1759 were christened at Milburn, and the parent’s place of abode is given as Grange or Milburn Grange. Possibly Joseph was involved in farming with his farther in law, William Brown.

The second four children, Joseph in 1761, Mark in 1764, Thomas in 1766 and Benjamin in 1768 were baptised in Dufton, and the family are said to live a Burthwaite, a very small hamlet between Dufton and Keisley. At the time of his death, Joseph’s occupation is recorded as that of miner. Whether he was mining at this time in the hills behind Keisley or still engaged in farming it is difficult to know.

The next reference to the family is Joseph’s burial at Dufton on 10 January 1782 at the age of 55 – a comparatively early death. Possibly his health had been damaged by the hard and arduous work in the lead mines, although he may have found this more profitable than agricultural work. At the time of his death, his place of abode is recorded as Dufton.

William Rollinson writes about mining in the area in Life and Tradition in the Lake District (Clapham, Lancaster: Dalesman Books, 1981, pp164-5):

"Working conditions in Lakeland mines were harsh and dangerous; in the days before gunpowder, "levels" were cut by hand using picks, hammers and "stope and feather" wedges…….Although the wages paid to miners were somewhat higher than those of agricultural workers, the arduous conditions and heavy manual work endured by these men brought premature old age and sometimes appalling injuries for which the extra financial reward was no compensation."

In 1787, at the time of the Constable’s Census, and only five years after the death of Joseph, there are no members of the Bellas family in Dufton. In the Constable’s return for Long Marton, there is a mention of Ann Bellas, a spinner, and Thomas, her son, and I wonder whether this is Joseph’s widow, living with her second to youngest son.

A number of people interested in the history of the Bellas family are descended from the children of Joseph Bellas and Ann Brown – Alan Pattison and Joan Beaumont from William Bellas, Mabel Bamford from Joseph Bellas, and my own family from Mark Bellas.

What we know of the children of Joseph and Ann? Ann, the eldest daughter, married William Allan, a weaver, at Milburn in 1773. She was 20 and he was 25. There are records of the baptism of four of their children in the Dufton register – Margaret in 1789, Barbara in 1791, Sarah in 1793 and Jane in 1798. It is possible that John, the eldest son, baptised in 1755, married Anne Hodgson of Dufton at Milburn in 1782. He is described as a miner, aged 29. He was probably buried at Dufton in 1820 at the age of 68. William, the second son, married Margaret Tuer of Poose House on 30 January 1785 at Kirby Thore. He was living at Grasonber, Morland at the time of the marriage. They had six children – Joseph in 1785, Jane in 1786, Ann in 1789, Robert in 1792, Margaret in 1794 and John, from whom Joan Beaumont descends. William, described as living at Hilton, was buried at Dufton in 1814 at the age of 58, Joseph, the third son, baptised in 1761, married Jane Tuer at Long Marton in 1785. They also had a large family – Elizabeth, baptised in 1786, another Elizabeth in 1788, Joseph in 1790, Jane in 1792, Anne, 1794, Robert, 1796, William, 1798, Margaret 1800 and Mary 1803. I do not have any details about Thomas and Benjamin.

I will continue with the story of Mark, the fourth son and his wife Sarah Hudson, from whom my family descends.

Return to Top

The Story of Mark Bellas and Sarah Hudson

Mark Bellas, sixth child of Joseph and Ann Bellas, was christened at Dufton on 22 May 1764, and presumably stayed in that area during his childhood.

On 4 December 1786, he married Sarah Hudson at Greystoke, and was able to sign his own name in the marriage register.

The Hudson family had a long history in Greystoke and the surrounding parishes. The first reference is to Mungo Hudson, son of Thomas and Alice Hudson, christened at Caldbeck in 1663. He married Dorothy Cooke at Caldbeck in 1691, but was buried at Greystoke in May 1694, before the birth of his son who was also called Mungo and was christened at Greystoke later that year.

The second Mungo married Sarah White at Greystoke in 1726, and was father of nine children, some of whom died young. He was buried in 1758, and in his will he is described as a yeoman, and left two houses, one to his son Thomas and one to his son William, and the sum of twenty pounds to his other children. Mungo signs his own name on the will.

Thomas the fourth child and eldest surviving son, married Isabel Barrow at Greystoke in 1756, and in one parish register entry is described as a blacksmith of Penruddock. This is in the baptism entry for their daughter, Jane, in 1773. His place of residence is usually given as Penruddock, although it is recorded as Blencow Hall at the baptism of John in 1757 and Greystoke at the baptism of Mary in 1761. At the time of their marriage in 1756, Thomas and Isabel both lived in Little Blencow.

Thomas and Isabel had eleven children of whom Sarah, christened at Greystoke in 1765, was the third.

The marriage of Sarah Hudson and Mark Bellas took place at Greystoke on 4 December 1786, but by 1787 we know from the Constable’s census that they were living at Maulds Meaburn, not many miles from Shap. Mark, whose name was spelled Bellace, was working as a weaver and they had one child.

Their first child, Joseph, was christened at Grey stoke in 1787, but one wonders if the couple were living there permanently at the time or just visiting relatives as the entry reads:

"March 4, Baptised Joseph, son of Mark Bellas and Sarah his wife, who was delivered of the child at Greystoke."

Certainly after this time, the story of Mark and Sarah continues at Maulds Meaburn until their deaths in the 1840’s. Maulds Meaburn is a very attractive little village in the parish of Crosby Ravensworth, not far from Shap Fell. Picturesque cottages run down the valley on either side of the river Lynnevet, which is crossed by an old stone bridge, and sheep graze at the side.

While living there, Mark continued to work as a weaver and the couple had ten children. After Joseph, the first born, there were Sarah christened at Crosby Ravensworth in 1789, Ann in 1791, twins Isabel and Elizabeth in 1794, Mary in 1797, Jane in 1799, John in 1802, my great great grandfather Thomas in 1804 and Mark in 1806. Mark’s occupation as a weaver in mentioned in the parish register at the baptism of his daughter Ann in 1791, and in the census of 1841, when we find Mark and Sarah living at Flass with their son, Mark, an agricultural labourer and his wife Anne. Maulds Meaburn was probably a good centre for weaving, so near the fells with a good and constant supply of fleeces and with a good supply of water for washing fleeces and yarn and possibly driving simple machinery, although it is likely that weavers were still working on domestic looms in that area at that time.

In the 1829 Parson and White Trade Directory, the entry for Maulds Meaburn lists a Mark Bellas, grocer and a Mark Bellas, farmer. It is difficult to know whether these entries refer to the older or the younger Mark.

Sarah Bellas was buried on 30 June 1846 at the age of 82, and Mark Bellas on 27 February 1848 at the age of 84. They were both buried in the handsome churchyard of Crosby Ravensworth but neither left a will.

I do not have much information about the children of Mark and Sarah. Sarah the eldest daughter married Joseph Houldin at Crosby Ravensworth in 1810. Mary had an illegitimate daughter, Sarah, who was baptised in 1820, but Mary herself was buried at Crosby Ravensworth in 1827 at the age of 27. Jane married William Langham at Crosby Ravensworth in 1819. Mark, the youngest son, married Ann Roper at Crosby Ravensworth in 1827. In the 1829 Parson and White directory, the entry for Maulds Meaburn shows two entries for Mark Bellas – one a grocer and one a farmer. It is possible that one of these is Mark the younger. At the time of the 1841 census, Mark the younger, aged 35 and an agricultural labourer, was living at Flass in Maulds Meaburn township with his wife Anne, aged approximately 50, and his parents, Mark and Sarah Bellas were living with them. Mark, the younger was buried at Crosby Ravensworth in 1882 at the age of 74. We will continue with the story of Thomas, son of Mark and Sarah Bellas, who married Isabella Smith at Crosby Ravensworth in 1831.

Return to Top

The Story of Thomas Bellas and Isabella Smith

Thomas Bellas was the ninth of the ten children of Mark Bellas and Sarah Hudson, and he was christened at Crosby Ravensworth Church on 23 September 1804.

On 23 May 1831, he married Isabella Smith at Crosby Ravensworth church. Isabella, sometimes later called Elizabeth in the baptism records for her children, seems to have been the daughter of John Smith and Isabella Strong, christened at Appleby St Lawrence as Elizabeth on 7 May 1815. In later census returns, she gives her place of birth as Burrells, Appleby. Her mother, Isabella, lived with them in later years, and in the census for 1851, she is described as formerly a farmer’s wife, aged 77, and born in Morland parish. She was probably Isabella, daughter of George Strong and Ann Dodd, christened at Crosby Ravensworth on 27 February 1775.

When Thomas and Isabella’s first child, John , is christened on 9 October 1831, Thomas is described as a labourer, living at Drybeck. When Mark, my great grandfather is christened on 18 June 1834, Thomas is still a labourer but living at Reagill where the couple remained for the rest of their lives.

At the baptism of the subsequent children, Mary in 1837, Sarah in 1840, Isabella in 1843, Thomas in 1845, Jane and Joseph, presumably twins, in 1849 and Benjamin in 1852, Thomas is described as a carrier,

Return to Top

Path to London Index

History Index

Westmorland Villages


Return to Top