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Edwin Ellis (1857–1925)

The death on Friday of Mr. Edwin Ellis, of Young street, Wayville, at the age of 67 years has removed from South Australia one of the most highly respected and successful Adelaide business men of the last third of a century. Mr. Ellis was the founder and managing director of Arcadia Cafe and other well-known refreshment rooms carrying on business under the style of Ellis Limited. He was an upright, hard-working and lovable man, with unbounded tenacity of purpose and pluck. He was the fifth son of the late Mr. George Ellis, of Meadows, where he was born on October 28, 1857. His father came to South Australia in the ship Rajasthan, about 1840, and settled at Meadows, where his descendants now represent a large percentage of the population. When Mr. George Ellis died all his 12 children and their children were alive, no death having occurred in the family for more than 50 years. By the decease of Mr. Edwin Ellis's youngest son, Hartley, from pneumonia, in Egypt, during the war, this remarkable record was brought to an end. Mr. Edwin Ellis has left a widow, one son (Mr. P. O. Ellis, of Young street, Wayville), and two daughters (Misses Lilian and Stella Ellis). The deceased was a prominent member of the Pirie Street Methodist Church, and until fairly recently a trustee of the Holder Memorial Church.

Until he was 10 years old, Mr. Ellis was educated at the public school at Meadows, and at that tender age he entered upon the school of life—the university of hard knocks. His first commercial milestone was erected when he became apprenticed to Mr. Osborne, the proprietor of a drapery store at Port Adelaide. Those were hard times for apprenticed boys, and Mr. Ellis had many stories to tell of the long hours he worked, and the experience he gained during those years. The shop did not close until 11 p.m., and it was his duty, after that hour, to deliver parcels on the way to his lodgings. After about 10 years he returned to the paternal home at Meadows, and managed the general store, which had been started by his father, and which at that time was owned by his brother William. Soon after his return he married Miss Alice Masters, of Oaklands, and subsequently the couple came to Adelaide and set up a store in Franklin street. The venture was successful, and they moved to a larger shop in Gouger street, next to Messrs. Chas. Moore &. Co. The business was then enhanced by the expansion of the latter firm, and Mr. and Mrs. Ellis made yet another move to the corner of Moonta street.

Progress and expansion were evidently two words firmly fixed in the mind of the young storekeeper, for the Moonta street store might truly be said to be another of the milestones in his career. His next move was to the premises near to the Beehive Corner, now owned by Mr. T. A. Cook, where he set up business as a pastrycook, which was then known as Ellis Brothers. He later sold that business, and devoted his energy to the management of a restaurant, which he had, in the meantime, established at the Rundle street entrance to the Arcade, Rundle street. That business was, in 1902, removed to King William street, to the premises formerly owned by Doolette & Co. This restaurant — Covent Garden — was wonderfully well patronised by the immigrants from England, possibly on account of the English flavour imported by the name, with which they were all so well acquainted. The establishment of that business may be recorded as yet another milestone in a hard-working career. Encouraged by success, and fully alive to the needs of Adelaide for further first-class cafes, Mr. Ellis secured the basement of Bowman's Building, and opened the Arcadia Cafe. This was done with the help of Messrs. K. D. Bowman and Kither, Mr. Ellis being the managing director.

After 12 months Mr. Ellis bought out his partners, and in 1914 Covent Garden and Arcadia Cafe were floated into a company, known as Ellis, Limited, Mr. Ellis retaining his interest, and the manager directorship. At the same time the company took over the factory and Osborne Hall in Grote street, which had been erected for Mr. Ellis in 1913. Since then the company has added largely to its assets. A quick lunch cafe was opened in Gawler place in 1916, and the Maple Leaf Cafe, Rundle street, in 1917. Recently the business was extended by the formation of three companies—Ellis Caterers, Limited; Ellis Cafes, Limited; and Ellis Bakeries, Limited. Pipiriki House, a well-known guest home at Port Victor, is further evidence of the enterprise of Mr. Eilis. The premises were formally known as the Austral Hotel; but were purchased by him, independently of the company, in 1914. Mr. Ellis was always on wonderfully good terms with his employees, not one of whom was ever heard to say an unkind word against him.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Ellis, Edwin (1857–1925)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 October, 1857
Meadows, South Australia, Australia


14 July, 1925 (aged 67)
Wayville, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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