John Ellis (businessman)

John Ellis (1789–1862), of Beaumont Leys and Belgrave Hall in Leicester,[2] was an English Quaker, a noted Liberal reformer and an accomplished businessman. Ellis was Chairman of the Midland Railway from 1849 to 1858 and a Member of Parliament for Leicester between 1848 and 1852.

John Ellis M.P.
John Ellis Businessman abolitionist 1840.jpg
At the 1840 Anti-Slavery conference[1]
Born3 August 1789
Died26 October 1862
Resting placeLeicester public cemetery
Known forRailways
Board member ofMidland Railway


John Ellis was born near Leicester in 1789 to Joseph and Rebekah Ellis who were both members of the Society of Friends.


As a Quaker he was involved with the 1840 World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London and was included in the painting of it that is now in the National Portrait Gallery in London.[1]

He was instrumental in establishment of the Leicester and Swannington Railway[3] and in 1842 served as a director of the Midland Counties Railway and was the major instigator in its amalgamation into the Midland Railway in 1844, being deputy-chairman from its establishment and becoming its chairman from 1849 to 1858 after the fall of George Hudson. He was also a director of the London & Birmingham, Birmingham & Gloucester and Dunstable Railways; and later of the Manchester & Buxton and London and North Western Railways. Ellis ran his family's 400 acre farm and orchard until 1846, owned a coal and lime merchandising company, and started a worsted spinning company, Whitmore & Ellis. He was also a partner and agent in two collieries. In 1858 he served as director of Pare's Leicester Banking Company as well a chairman of the Leicester Savings Bank. In public service, Ellis served as a Leicester town councilor in 1837 and a Leicester Alderman in 1838 prior to becoming an MP.[2]

In 1845, John Ellis encountered Edward Sturge and Joseph Gibbons while they were travelling to a meeting regarding the sale of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway to the Great Western Railway. Ellis saw an opportunity and offered that his company would purchase the Gloucester companies with 6% on their capital of £1.8 million if discussions with the GWR were inconclusive. The GWR declined to increase their offer, and the Gloucester companies turned back to Ellis.[4]

Death and legacyEdit

John Ellis died in 1862 at Belgrave Hall[2] and was survived by a son, Edward Shipley Ellis, from his first marriage to Martha Shipley (d:1817); his second wife Priscilla Evans, and their three sons and six daughters.[5]

Ellis Avenue and Ellis Meadows (2016), a 20-acre park and nature reserve created within the grounds of the former John Ellis School (closed in 1999), in Belgrave were named for him.


  1. ^ a b Benjamin Haydon, The Anti-Slavery Society Convention. 1840. Retrieved April 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Moore, Andrew (2003). Ellis of Leicester: A Quaker Family's Vocation. Narborough: Laurel House Publishing. ISBN 0-9533628-1-7.
  3. ^ Barnes, E. G. (1966). The Rise of the Midland Railway, 1844–1874. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  4. ^ Long, P. J. (1987). The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway. Gloucester: Alan Sutton. p. 83. ISBN 0-86299-329-6.
  5. ^ Christy, Miller, rev. Alan R. Griffin (2004). "Ellis, John (1789–1862)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, online ed., September 2012. Retrieved 2015-07-23. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • Billson, Peter (1996). Derby and the Midland Railway. Derby: Breedon Books. ISBN 1-85983-021-8.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Joshua Walmsley
Richard Gardner
Member of Parliament for Leicester
With: Richard Harris
Succeeded by
Sir Joshua Walmsley
Richard Gardner