ELLIS, Wynn (1790-1875), of 30 Cadogan Place, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. July 1790, s. of Thomas Ellis of Oundle, Northants. and w. Elizabeth Ordway of Barkway, Herts. m. 1814, Mary Maria, da. of John Smith of Lincoln, s.p. d. 20 Nov. 1875.
Sheriff, Herts. 1852-3.
Ellis came from a ‘respectable’ Oundle family who claimed descent from the Flintshire Ellises. After receiving a ‘good’ education he went to London where his natural business acumen brought him quick success. He began trading as a retail haberdasher, hosier and silk mercer at 16 Ludgate Street in about 1812 and, as he prospered, he took over other firms to create the largest silk business in the City and from about 1830 diversified into the wholesale trade as head of Everington, Ellis and Company.1 He intended to offer himself for election as an alderman for Castle Baynard ward in April 1831, but relinquished this ambition when he was invited to stand on the ‘liberal interest’ for Leicester at the general election, having declined a request from the independent party at Shaftesbury to stand there at the next opportunity.2 He was returned unopposed with his fellow supporter of the Grey ministry’s reform scheme William Evans after a moderate reformer pulled out late in the day.3 For the vacancy in Castle Baynard he subsequently nominated Samuel Wilson, who was unanimously elected as the popular candidate.4
Ellis voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and divided steadily for its details in committee. His only reported speech on the bill was against Mackinnon’s proposal to restrict the franchise in large towns, which he said would ‘give us anything but a popular constituency’, 26 Aug. He spoke in support of the Leicester petition presented by Evans for repeal of the corn laws, 18 July, and was one of the minority of six who voted for Hunt’s motion to that effect, 15 Sept. He divided for printing the Waterford petition calling for the disarming of the Irish yeomanry following the massacre at Newtownbarry, 11 Aug., but voted with government against charges of improper interference in the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and the issue of a new writ for Liverpool, 5 Sept. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s motion of confidence in the ministry, 10 Oct. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and was again a generally steady supporter of its details, though he was one of the minority of 32 who refused to ratify the enfranchisement of £50-tenants-at-will, 1 Feb. 1832. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. He divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He voted for inquiry into the state of the glove trade, 31 Jan. 1832, having endorsed the Worcester glovers’ petition for protection against foreign imports, 15 Dec. 1831, when he warned that free trade would ‘ruin all our fancy manufactures’. On a petition from the silk industry, 21 Feb. 1832, he disputed the assertion that ‘increased consumption of material’ created more employment, since the ‘fancy branches’ of this trade had long been in decline. He was added to the select committee on the trade, 15 Mar., when he spoke of the inadequacy of customs records as a means of estimating the number of importers. The same day he voted in the minority of 31 for inquiry into the Peterloo massacre. He presented a petition from the Leicestershire Political Union for repeal of the newspaper stamp duty, 8 May. He divided for the address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, 10 May, and next day, bearing ‘testimony to the earnest feelings’ in favour of the reform bill entertained by the people of the ‘great northern towns’, urged the House to refuse to grant supplies until the measure had passed, 11 May. He voted for a committee to consider the abolition of slavery, 24 May. He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, but was in the minorities in favour of an extension of the franchise to £5 freeholders, 18 June, and preservation of the rights of freemen, 2 July. He was forced to withdraw a petition from the Leicester Political Union for a more radical measure for Ireland, 28 June, because the Speaker deemed it to be from ‘an unrecognized body’, but he presented it in an acceptable form, 6 July. He voted for a proposal to make permanent provision for the Irish poor by imposing a tax on absentees, 19 June, in the minorities for amendments to the boundaries bill designed to prevent aristocratic domination of Stamford and Whitehaven, 22 June, and for a reduction in the barracks grant, 2 July. He spoke in support of the Leicester petition for rationalization of the laws governing the recovery of debts, since debtors were ‘too frequently tempted to avail themselves of the law’s delay’, 5 July. On 7 Aug. 1832 he endorsed the London silk manufacturers’ relief petition. As an active member of the select committee, he regretted that it had not accompanied its evidence with a report, as this would have vindicated his own opinion that the ‘fancy trade’ had been lost to foreign incursion. He argued that much greater protection was due to the industry and that it was government’s duty to protect silk manufacturers against the French monopoly in raw silk. He also drew attention to the ‘great distress’ in the silk manufacturing districts and touched on the ‘wretched depraved habits’ of women reduced to prostitution:
Bad, however, as is their present state, it is yet much better than it will be, if these duties on foreign thrown silk be repealed, an event which I can only look upon as entailing wretchedness on the whole population of women and children so employed, and which ... will be an act of great injustice to, and destructive of the property of, the mill-owners.
Ellis complained publicly of badly ‘impaired’ health in August 1832, but he represented Leicester in three further Parliaments.5 His business continued to flourish and in 1871 it was merged to form the ‘large establishment’ of James Howell and Company.6 He bought Ponsbourne Park in Hertfordshire in 1836, but sold it shortly before his death.7 He extended Tankerton Tower, a small castellated mansion near Whitstable in north Kent, which his wife’s maternal uncle had purchased in the 1790s.8 Ellis became well known as an admirer and patron of the fine arts and amassed a valuable if somewhat idiosyncratic picture collection, which he bequeathed to the National Gallery. It was said that he believed more in ‘work and wages than in eleemosynary acts’, but he left charitable bequests in excess of £180,000, the principal beneficiary being Charles Simeon’s patronage trust with a legacy of £50,000. He died in November 1875 and his personal estate was proved in London under £600,000, 31 Dec. 1875.9
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Simon Harratt
Ellis’s first name is incorrectly spelt ‘Wynne’ by Oxford DNB.
- 1. Ibid.; Warehousemen and Drapers Trade Jnl. (27 Nov. 1875), 618.
- 2. The Times, 29 Apr.; Dorset RO, Rutter mss D50/3, Rutter to Tinney, 26 Mar., Ellis to same, 31 Mar., Tinney to Rutter, 4 Apr. 1831.
- 3. Leicester Jnl. 29 Apr., 6 May 1831.
- 4. The Times, 1, 3 Oct. 1831.
- 5. Leicester Chron. 25 Aug. 1832.
- 6. Warehousemen Jnl. 618, 641, 660.
- 7. J. Cussans, Herts. ii. 270-1.
- 8. North East and North Kent ed. J. Newman, 491.
- 9. Oxford DNB.