Rev Lancelot Bellas
Why was Marsden known as 'Bellas Town'
Rev Lancelot Bellas was the curate of Marsden from 1779 until his death in 1815. Formerley minister of Heights Church in Slaithwaite, Rev Bellas was a popular choice to be successor to Rev John Marsden on his death in 1779.
Lewis B Whitehead1 describes Bellas as enthusiastic in his pastoral duties ,
'but being of an easy-going temperament and fond of lively company, he unfortunately developed tendencies to laxity in the performance of his duties, and these lapses soon culminated in complete carelessness and indifference to all the decencies and sanctities of a ministerial calling. Much of his time was spent in the 'snug' of the nearest alehouse, where he invariably proved himself to be the centre of attraction.'
Several stories about Rev Bellas' doings have been recorded. On one occasion a group of mourners had to leave a body in the church overnight and return the next day when Bellas was sober enough to finish the funeral service.
On one Saturday night he was drinking at an inn, and at five minutes to midnight he realised it was almost Sunday morning. 'There was a good brew on the tap, and Bellas got out of his chair and put the clock back an hour.'2
In later years, to bolster up his finances, he opened a small day school in his house at Ready Carr Bottom (now Market Place). He subsequently moved his school to a larger property (later to become the Swan Inn) with the assistance of his son, Richard.
'It is charitable to suppose that the imperfections of his character were not so pronounced then as they became later. What more natural than that earnest, ill-informed souls should desire to have a rousing preacher for their Incumbent instead of a prosy schoolmaster, and that they should desire for their Curate a man of wide local reputation? He impressed his personality very deeply on the village, as is shown by the nickname of 'Bellas Town,' which still survives.'3
- Bygone Marsden, Lewis Buckly Whitehead (1942)
- Gossipy Guide to Saddleworth, Ammon Wrigley
- Records of Marsden Church, Rev. A. R. Barrett