BELLAS GREENOUGH, George (1778-1855), of 2 Parliament Street, Westminster.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1807 - 1812

Family and Education

b. 18 Jan. 1778, o.s. of George Bellas, proctor of Doctors’ Commons, by Sarah, da. and h. of Thomas Greenough, surgeon, of Bedford Square, Mdx. educ. Eton 1789; Pembroke, Camb. 1794; Göttingen Univ. 1798; Freiburg Univ. unm. suc. fa. 1780; mat. gdfa. (d.1794) and took additional name of Greenough 3 Jan. 1795.

Offices Held

Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1803, lt. 1808-19.


Bellas was an orphan at six years of age and brought up by his grandfather, whose fortune and name he acquired. While studying law at Göttingen, he befriended Samuel Taylor Coleridge and was inspired by Blumenbach with an interest in natural history which he pursued for the rest of his life. He studied mineralogy at Freiburg and made extensive geological tours on the Continent and, after his return home in 1801, of Cornwall and of Ireland (1806). He was secretary and founder of the Geological Society (1807).1

His parliamentary career was only an unsatisfactory interlude. He was the guest of Mark Wood I* for Gatton ‘recommended particularly by the Duke of Portland’, then prime minister.2 His Irish tour left its mark upon him, for his votes of 11, 25 and 30 May 1808 were favourable to Catholic relief. He asked a question of one of the witnesses in the Duke of York’s case, 15 Feb. 1809, and on 17 Mar. opposed Perceval’s palliatory resolution on the duke’s conduct. He voted with Perceval’s ministry on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, but Robert Ward labelled him one of the ‘calculating’ politicians on 3 Feb., after he had voted with ministers ‘on the first question of the finance committee ... and immediately, upon the two other questions, left us upon finding us in a minority’.3 He was also in opposition on Lord Chatham’s conduct in the Scheldt expedition, 23 Feb. and 5 Mar., but with ministers against censure of the expedition, 30 Mar. The Whigs listed him ‘doubtful’ at the time. He voted against the discharge of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr., and against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. But his tergiversation continued: he voted with opposition on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811, and on Morpeth’s Irish motion, 4 Feb. 1812; with ministers on McMahon’s sinecure, 21, 24 Feb. 1812; and with opposition for Turton’s motion, 27 Feb., against the orders in council, 3 Mar., for Catholic relief, 24 Apr., for sinecure reform, 4 May, and for a stronger administration, 21 May 1812. His patron could not but write him off.4 It is not clear at what stage Canning began to take an interest in him, but in September 1812 he regarded him as a recruit, urging him to find a seat in the next Parliament. Meanwhile Greenough had left for Ireland.5

Even while in Parliament, Greenough had made a geological tour of the country to map its strata. He wrote a classic book on geology (1819) and was for many years president of the Geological Society and a patron of other learned societies. He died at Naples, 2 Apr. 1855.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PCC 613 Holman; Gent. Mag. (1855), i. 532; DNB. Add. 38368, f. 206.
  • 2. Add. 38368, f. 206.
  • 3. Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 3 Feb. 1810.
  • 4. Add. 38368, f. 206.
  • 5. Add. 38739, ff. 38, 69.
  • 6. Jnl. R. Geog. Soc. xxv. 88; Country Life, 4 July 1968. Greenough’s papers are in the university libraries of Cambridge and London.