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'Intended for magnificent business', New Court in St Swithin's Lane in the City 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. This section of the Guide describes collections of artefacts and papers relating to the administration and running of New Court, and papers concerning other related premises occupied by the London house.
The first New Court
In 1809 Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) 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 family moved into New Court in March 1809. In 1815, Nathan signed a new 21-year lease for New Court for £175 per annum. Nathan died in Frankfurt in 1836. On his father's death, Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) became the senior partner in the new firm N M Rothschild & Sons, which he formed with his three brothers. 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”.
The second New Court
In 1865, a new building was completed on the site of the first New Court 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, and an impressive iron and enamel sign was hung over the entrance. In 1879 Lionel died and the business was taken over by his three sons, Nathaniel ('Natty') (1840-1915) later to become the first Lord Rothschild, Alfred (1842-1918) and Leopold (1845-1917). During the First World War Alfred de Rothschild constructed a special shelter after war-time air-raid attacks. In 1918 Alfred died (his brothers having pre-deceased him), and a new generation took over: Charles (1877-1923), Lionel (1882-1942) and Anthony (1887-1961) directed the Bank’s affairs from New Court. In 1919 the first gold fixing took place at New Court, on the 12 September. The second New Court survived the London bombing of the Second World War. By the 1960s, the number of staff had increased to over 300, half of them women. The century old building was beginning to show signs of strain. Attempts were made to extend it upwards, but the building was looking dated, at a time when N M Rothschild & Sons were looking resolutely to the future. The time had come to re-build again.
The third New Court
In 1962, the bold decision was taken to rebuild New Court. Senior Partner Mr Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009), and the Partners Evelyn (later Sir Evelyn) de Rothschild (1931-2022), Mr Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012) and Jacob (later Jacob, 4th Lord Rothschild) de 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 inlcuding 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 accomodate the entire staff. A new landmark building was to be 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 for the new building was in 2010; the fourth New Court was completed in 2011. The interior of the building includes many references to the company's history, and a new oak reading room for The Rothschild Archive.
For further published information on the history of 'New Court', see Intended for Magnificent Business: the Story of New Court, The home of N M Rothschild & Sons (The Rothschild Archive, London, March 2000). (000/1247/4, also copy available in the Reading Room).