Bellett, John Gifford (1794?×1797?–1864), a founder of the Plymouth Brethren, was born 19 July (the year is uncertain), probably in Frederick St., Dublin, eldest son among three sons and a daughter of John Bellett, a wealthy merchant, and his second wife Anne (née Dyer). The boy was sent with his brother George to Exeter grammar school in England; their grandmother lived in Somerset. Their father lost heavily when a business associate went bankrupt; he retired from business and the family moved to North Lodge, Kilgobbin, Co. Dublin. John Gifford Bellett was apprenticed for a time to a solicitor in Dublin, but his father allowed him to leave this uncongenial employment, and he entered TCD (3 April 1815). He was admitted to King's Inns, Dublin (1817), graduated BA in 1819, entered the Middle Temple in London the same year, and was called to the Irish bar (1821). Some of his father's estate was entailed to him, and he practised his profession only occasionally. Despite his father's opposition, he and his brother (very strongly influenced by the preaching of Henry Kearney (d. 1855), an evangelical Church of Ireland clergyman) came to regard material success as unimportant. He met regularly for prayer and Bible study with a small group in Dublin, in a room provided by Francis Hutchinson, and became an intimate friend of John Darby (qv) and Anthony Norris Groves (1795–1853). With them, from about 1827, he came to believe that Scripture did not demand that ministers be ordained, and that faith should not be trammelled by man-made ordinances. Along with these friends and with his wife, he left the Church of Ireland. The group grew in numbers and attracted John Vesey Parnell (1805–83), later 2nd Baron Congleton; its beliefs influenced many in England, and it came to be known as the Plymouth Brethren. Bellett reluctantly followed Darby when the latter split away to form the Exclusive Brethren after 1846, but he maintained close links with the other party, and was greatly esteemed by all who knew him. He wrote tracts and contributed articles to the Christian Witness (1834–40), and to the Bible Treasury from 1856; he also wrote religious books that went into several editions. The Brethren regarded him as their best writer and his views greatly influenced their theology. He lived in Bath for a time around 1846, but died in Upper Pembroke St., Dublin, on 10 October 1864. He married (1825) Mary Drury (d. 1863). Three children died in infancy and a son as a teenager, to his great sorrow. A daughter survived him.
George Bellett, Memoir of the Rev. George Bellett, . . . autobiography and continuation by his daughter (London, 1889; printed for private circulation), 20–21, 26–8, 75 (an MS pedigree of the family is inserted in the TCD copy); William Blair Neatby, A history of the Plymouth Brethren (1901), 10, 12, 66, 238–40; James Hastings (ed.), Encyclopædia of religion and ethics, ii (1909), 843–6; Alumni Dubl.; David J. Beattie, Brethren: the story of a great recovery (1940), 6, 8, 10–12, 153, 300; King's Inns admissions; Letty M. Bellett, ‘Recollections of the late J. G. Bellett’ (on line at http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/bellett/reclctns.html