Gustav Ellissen & Co, 4 Drapers Gardens, City of London

I recently bought this random survivor of Gustav Ellissen’s stockbroking business on eBay for £1.50. (Full document here.)

On 30 May 1868, Gustav Ellissen (b. 13 May 1836-d. 23 Nov 1910) wrote a ‘memorial’, a hand-written résumé to submit to Gathorne Hardy, British Home Secretary at the time, as part of his application to become a British Subject. He had been in the United Kingdom earlier, but spent 1961 to May 1865 in Hong Kong, then returning and entering the employ of Phillips and Weston, stockbrokers. He wrote,

… your Memorialist prepares to carry on business in his own account in the City of London as a Stockbroker after having been duly admitted a member of the Stock Exchange for which purpose it is necessary that he should obtain the privileges of a British Subject.

The letterhead on the eBay item says G. Ellissen & Co was founded in 1865. I suppose this is possible, but it looks contrived considering that Gustav was still an alien at the time. Very likely he bumped up the age of his firm when starting out on his own, in order to appear more experienced to his clients.

The other part of the letterhead, 4 Drapers Gardens, is of great historical interest. Being waterlogged by tributaries of the River Walbrook, it was not fully developed until 1963, when a 100m high office tower, “Drapers Gardens”, was built on the site. The Twentieth Century Society says:

It is an exceptional building by Seifert, and only second to its renowned contemporary, the Grade II listed Centre Point, by the same practice. Begun in 1963, Concrete Quarterly reported in December 1968 that ‘it is one of the best towers that post-war London has seen’ and praised it for its relationship to the nineteenth century site. The tower rises up above a network of labyrinthine streets and courtyards, to which the scale of the two storey perimeter blocks and internal court cleverly relates … Its salient feature is the podium area, an enclosed garden space approached by steps from the pavement, with more steps that reach around the building to the rear paved space … Drapers Gardens is an iconic building that has become a reference point for this era and one that Seifert is on record as having described as his proudest achievement. It would, therefore, be an enormous loss to the City. With this in mind, the Society has put forward this building for urgent statutory listing.

The listing failed, thank goodness, and in 2007 Drapers Gardens became Britain’s tallest tower to be demolished. At this point the archaeologists took over, undertaking excavations said to be among the most important to have been undertaken in the City of London. Included in the finds was this splendid hoard of 4th century Roman copperware found down a well-preserved well:

This unprecedented collection seems a fair trade for a £80m London eyesore.

Some idea of what the area would have looked like in Gustav’s time is given by a surviving courtyard on the nearby Drapers’ Company premises:

The accompanying text says:

The new Drapers’ Gardens office building is the box of glass just visible behind the magnolias to the left. The Austin Friars building complex, also part of the Company’s estate, are ahead and on the right. The Drapers’ Gardens name for the office block is a reminder that the gardens in the foreground are the remains of a substantial open space. This was used for recreation and market gardening and existed up to a hundred and thirty years ago before the pressure to develop the site and build offices became too great to resist.

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2 Responses to Gustav Ellissen & Co, 4 Drapers Gardens, City of London

  1. Shirley Ashdown Gallagher says:

    Nearly 30 years ago I was given 2 photograph albums documenting the childhood of Francis Lyon Gordon Ellissen, who tragically , was lost at sea
    12 September 1942. I tried researching him at the time but although I got some information, came to a brick wall. I forgot all about the albums but recently (yesterday) came across them and in the space of a couple of hours amassed a whole family history. I really want a family archivist to have all the information and of course the books. Seems to me you are the one.
    If you are interested please e mail me.

    Kind regards

    Shirley Ashdown Gallagher

    • Mrs Victoria Nash says:

      Hi Shirley, Just catching up with John’s blog and saw your message. I’m sure John’s been in touch but wanted to say hi as I’ve carried on my grandfather’s (Basil Foster-Hall) work into our ancestors. My great grandmother was Mabel Ellissen, Francis’s fathers sister. Not sure where in the world you are, I’m in Birmingham, UK but would love to see photos and as I did with my Leveson photo albums which we had, scan them into the computor to forward onto other interested family members. John has my email address or just reply to this.

      Kind regards
      Vicky Nash

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