Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

Sources for business history

Sources for art history: Catalogue of the pictures of Alfred de Rothschild 1901

Sources for yachting history: Plans for Nathaniel von Rothschild's yacht Veglia 1905

Sources for natural history: Walter 2nd Lord Rothschild and his zebra carriage: c.1910

Sources for global financial history: Map of lines of the Brazil Railway Company: c.1920

Sources for business history: index cards to bank files

Sources for social history: Rothschild Hospital Paris: 1920s

Sources for business history: detail of a Rothschild bond coupon

Sources for architectural history: Halton House: 1890s

Sources for the history of travel: Lionel de Rothschild's tours of Spain: 1909

Sources for local history: Tring Park: c.1900

Sources for Royal history: shooting party with Edward Prince of Wales: 1893

Sources for political history: Lionel de Rothschild: first Jewish MP: 1858

Sources for sporting history: St Amant winner of the Derby: 1904

Sources for local history: gardeners at Aston Clinton: 1899

Sources for Rothschild family history: Lionel de Rothschild's yacht Rhodora: 1927

Sources for London history: entrance to New Court: 1965

Sources for design history: plans for Lionel de Rothschild's Rolls-Royce: 1930

Sources for business history: Rothschild gold bars produced by the Royal Mint Refinery: 1930s

Sources for business history: letters of August Belmont Rothschild Agent in New York: 1860s

The history of New Court

'Intended for magnificent business', New Court has been the home of the London house of Rothschild for over 200 years. There have been four buildings called New Court on the site.

The first New Court

The 'lane called Swityhinnes' was first recognised in about 1270. The first mention of a house called ‘New Court’ appears in John Strype’s Survey of London in 1720. In 1734 the lane was described as “a very handsome large place, with an open passage into it for a coach or cart. Here are very good buildings and at the upper end is a very good large house inclosed [sic] from the rest by a handsome pale”. From 1779-1787, New Court was the address of Acton & Winter, the legal firm that later became Freshfields.

In 1809, Nathan Mayer Rothschild acquired the lease of No.2, New Court for £750, as a home for his family and as the centre of his London business interests. The property had an attached warehouse so Nathan could continue his business as a merchant; and was short stroll away from the bank of England and the Royal Exchange where Nathan would soon make his mark. The family moved into New Court in March 1809. The building was in good order, having “a cantilevered cornice. A covered colonnade on the south side with steps up to the front door, a brick parapet, cock-loft, garrets and flats.”

In 1815, bolstered by his business success, Nathan signed a new 21-year lease for New Court for £175 per annum. The Rothschild family moved out of New Court to a new villa in Stamford Hill in 1816. New Court remained the heart of the business, and it was at New Court in 1824 that The Alliance Assurance Company (later to become Royal & Sun Alliance) was founded at a meeting of Nathan and his associates.

On his father's death in 1836, his son Lionel (1808-1879) succeeded him. On the 8th August 1836, Nathan's funeral cortege of 75 carriages left New Court.  In 1841, at the request of the City Surveyor, an engraved stone was added to the frontage of the building, bearing the name “New Court”. In December, 1846, the British Relief Association, established to raise funds for famine relief in Ireland, was organised in Lionel de Rothschild’s room at New Court. By 1850, 30-50 people worked for N M Rothschild & Sons and salaries at New Court ranged from £50 to £500 per annum.

The second New Court

By the 1860s, the business of government loan issues had steadily increased and N M Rothschild & Sons remained the unchallenged leaders in this field. Lionel had entered the House of Commons in in 1857 as the first Jewish MP and it was, Lionel felt, time for a new building reflecting the firm's position in the world. In 1860, the first re-building of New Court began, and in 1865 the new building was completed in the style of a grand Italian ‘palazzo’ to the design of Thomas Marsh Nelson, of the firm Nelson & Innes. Nelson had already worked on Lionel de Rothschild's London house at 148 Piccadilly. The domestic feel of the old New Court was swept away in favour of a building more imposing and business-like. "New Court - I mean the new portion which I had never seen, seems to me quite marvellous, and intended for magnificent business" wrote Lionel’s wife Charlotte.

The City around New Court was changing rapidly, and in 1867, the Cannon Street extension of the South Eastern Railway opened. New Court was the setting for global business; it was at his desk in New Court in 1875 that Baron Lionel is said to have signed the cheque which helped his friend, Disraeli secure the Khedive of Egypt's share in the Suez Canal.

Upon Lionel’s death in 1879, his son Nathaniel (1840-1915), later to become the first Lord Rothschild succeed him as Senior Partner. In 1884, the Dividend Office was extended and Rothschild business was in such demand that Natty had to climb into New Court via a first floor window to avoid crowds clamouring for shares in the Burma Ruby Mine issue of 1889. New Court was fitted with the most modern on conveniences, and in 1889 electric light for New Court was costing £1,000 per month. In 1899, No 7 St Swithin’s Lane was acquired for £8,000.

During the First World War, Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918) constructed a special shelter after war-time air-raid attacks. In September 1919 the first gold fixing took place at New Court. The second New Court survived the London bombing of the Second World War, although in 1941, a bombing raid destroyed the St Swithin London Stone, Salter's Hall (next door to New Court) and the church of St Swithin. Much business was temporarily relocated to Tring Park. By the 1960s, the number of staff had increased to over 300, half of them women.

The third New Court

By the early 1960s, the century old building was beginning to look dated, at a time when N M Rothschild & Sons were looking resolutely to the future. Attempts were made to extend it upwards, but the time had come to re-build again. In 1962, the bold decision was taken to rebuild New Court. Senior Partner Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009), and the Partners Evelyn (later Sir Evelyn) de Rothschild (1931-1922), Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012) and Jacob (later Jacob, 4th Lord Rothschild) (b.1936) created a new Rothschild-owned company to undertake the development. The architect Fitzroy Robinson was commissioned and the construction company Trollope & Colls were appointed to oversee the project. In 1962, staff said goodbye to the old New Court and left for a temporary office in City Gate House, Finsbury Square.

In 1965 the staff returned to St Swithin's Lane to a building very different to that which they had left. The main building had two floors below ground and seven above, set back from the Lane, with two 3-storey wings joining the main block at right angles, arranged, in a deliberate echo of the two earlier buildings, around a central courtyard. Granite setts from the old courtyard were laid in decorative patterns in the new, and the New Court sign from the 1860 building was prominently displayed. Elsewhere in the building, historic features were incorporated including panelling from the Partners' Room and historic paintings.  New features included air conditioning and a strongroom manufactured by Chubb, with Europe’s then biggest strongroom door, with a lock offering over 4,000,000,000 different combinations.

The new building was the visible symbol of a trend of modernisation within the firm. The 1960s was the last decade in which the partnership operated, and in 1970 N M Rothschild & Sons became N M Rothschild & Sons Limited, with a board of directors. As business grew, extra premises were taken in Croydon to accommodate staff from administrative and accounting departments, and in 1984 an extra storey was added to New Court to create a new Board Room.

The fourth New Court

In 2008, it was decided to demolish and rebuild N M Rothschild & Sons Limited offices, New Court. The 1960s building was beginning to show its age and was too small to accommodate the entire staff. A new landmark building was erected on the New Court site. The internationally renowned architect Rem Koolhaas and his practice OMA were chosen to create a New Court for the 21st century. OMA’s vision for the fourth version of New Court was inspired by the idea of ‘heritage in the City’. The inspiration behind the new design for New Court came from the Palazzo Vecchio, home of Cosimo l de’ Medici in Florence. The Topping Out ceremony took place in 2010; the fourth New Court was completed in 2011.

In creating the new building, the intention was not only to preserve the qualities of the historical context of the Rothschild site, but to enhance them. The new building is designed to improve the relationship between the development and St. Swithin’s Lane by acknowledging the historical enclosure of the lane; Christopher Wren’s historically significant St. Stephen Walbrook church was largely hidden from view. The rebuilding of New Court has reinstated the 18th century visual connection between St. Swithin’s Lane and the Church. The interior of the building includes many references to the company's history, and an oak reading room for The Rothschild Archive. 

Plan of New Court 1857

Plan of New Court 1857

The first New Court

The first New Court