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Henry Samuel Ellis

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Henry Samuel Ellis (1825-1878) of Henry Ellis and Son

1825 Born the son of Henry Ellis

Married daughter of John Daw

1869 Mayor of Exeter.[1]


1878 Obituary [2]

MR. HENRY SAMUEL ELLIS was born in June, 1825, at Exeter, where his father was a silversmith in an extensive way, and he was brought up to the same business. But his practical connection therewith was, in after years, little more than nominal. The bent of his pursuits was distinctly scientific, and, as an, amateur he produced some fine examples of electrotype ; but his chief study, when a young man, was astronomy, and, as some practical contribution towards its advancement, he was mainly instrumental in altering the time in Exeter and the West of England from local to Greenwich time.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was one of those who accompanied the Astronomer Royal to Spain in the “Himalaya,” to observe the solar eclipse of July, 1860.

Mr. Ellis was a Member of the Local Committee in connection with the Great Exhibition of 1851, was one of the founders of the School of Art, acting for a time as its Secretary, and, later on, rendered his fellow-citizens signal service by his support of the Science School, and the efforts he made, with others, in the establishment of the Free Library and Albert Memorial Museum, the movement for which was set on foot in 1861-2.

Mr. Ellis was elected to the highest civic dignity in 1869, and his mayoralty will be memorable for the visit of the British Association, which he was the chief instrument of securing; in fact, he was elected Mayor in that year because the Town Council recognised in him the person most capable of giving the Association a fitting reception and the citizen most deserving the honour. The Museum was completed by the addition of the right wing just in time for the visit of the Association, whose members were received in that building by Mr. and Mrs. Ellis on two evenings. Before Mr. Ellis’s year of office expired the Free Library and Museum Act was adopted by the city, and the Albert Memorial Museum was transferred to the Town Council by the subscribers.

Some little time after this Mr. Ellis turned his attention to railway enterprise, and took a prominent part in the formation of the Railway Shareholders’ Association.

Shortly afterwards he was elected a Director of the Bristol and Exeter Railway, and remained on the Board up to the time of the amalgamation of the Company with the Great Western. He was an early advocate of the change from the broad to the narrow gauge. Mr. Ellis was the means of promoting several useful extensions, of which. the Culm Valley Railway - the pioneer of light lines in the West of England-may be mentioned as an example.

At the time of his death he held the position of Chairman both of the Culm Valley Railway Company and of the Brixham line, and was a Director of the Seaton and other branch lines.

His connection with the Municipal Corporation of Exeter was renewed in November 1877, when he was elected to one of the additional Aldermanic seats created by the Borough Extension Act. Mr. Ellis took an active part in raising subscriptions to the Cathedral Restoration Fund, of which he was one of the honorary secretaries. He was also a Member of the Diocesan Architectural Society, one of the Governors of the Grammar School under the new scheme, and served up to within a short time of his death as a trustee of the Western Provident Association and of several of the local charities. In politics, Mr. Ellis was a Conservative, and at times exerted himself strenuously in support of the Conservative cause. But it was rather as a devoted worker in behalf of social reforms of a general character than as a politician that Mr. Ellis figured. He did not connect himself with any undertaking without being convinced of its utility, and when once his interest had been enlisted he laboured for the accomplishment of the end in view with a perseverance that could not be daunted, and a determination that surmounted all obstacles. On this account he was invariably appointed honorary secretary or chairman of the important movements with which his name was associated, and his practical mind and unwavering persistence generally ensured a successful issue.

Mr. Ellis was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 19th of May, 1868, and was a member of other scientific societies, notably the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He died at Tunbridge Wells of heart disease, on the 13th of May, 1878, in his fifty-third year.



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