Bedlam arrives from Bethlam, the huge old rambling phsyciatric hospital on the field which was to become the very upmarket Finsbury Circus where bankers, doctors and the like were to find their new residencies. When Ellis moved to Finsbury Pavement, that section of road joining the Circus to Finsbury Square, the Bedlam was in the process of being closed after hundreds of years inflicting misery to the unwanted. One poor chap, an American sailor, had been chained to a steel bar at the neck and waist for years.

… a stout iron ring was riveted about his neck, from which a short chain passed to a ring made to slide upwards and downwards on an upright massive iron bar, more than six feet high, inserted into the wall. Round his body a strong iron bar about two inches wide was riveted; on each side of the bar was a circular projection, which being fashioned to and enclosing each of his arms, pinioned them close to his sides. This waist bar was secured by two similar iron bars which, passing over his shoulders, were riveted to the waist both before and behind. The iron ring about his neck was connected to the bars on his shoulders by a double link. From each of these bars another short chain passed to the ring on the upright bar … He had remained thus encaged and chained more than twelve years.


The builders had forgotten, one presumes, to construct this huge old brick edifice on any foundations, bricks laid directly on the ground, so with cracking leaning walls tilting in all directions the horrid building came down and Finsbury Circus began construction in 1817.

In 1804, while Napoleon is crowning himself Emporer of France, the young 20 year old Ellis arrived with his wife to their new place of business with residence upstairs at 29 Finsbury Pavement, (or Place), on the corner of Cross street, now Lackington street.

Business must have been ok, there were enough wealthy including Jewish wealth to go around. Good old Goldsmid the banker, a joint contractor with the Baring’s bank for the government was a major financial player during the Napoleoic war and dealt with 90% of the kingdoms gold bullion was sending his son to an English speaking school, just around the corner, in Finsbury Square, while Ellis had employed a maid for their home above their business of making clocks and watches for all the new money.

Construction continued in the Finsbury Circus, grand four and five story buildings rising up around a beautiful eliptical garden fenced in majestic wrought iron protecting the new inhabitants on their nightly strolls. Ellis must have passed through here often on his way to Bevis Marks, the oldest Synagogue in the UK, or to meet with his brother Nathan, also a clock maker and living in Bury street next to the Synagogue. The Jewish community were close, there was still only one Synagogue in London.

finsbury square 1839
Finsbury Square circa 1839.

Next – ‘Watch Case’

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