Artefacts: The New Court Shield
“The words ‘New Court’ were nowhere visible and there was no name-plate or other indication that this was the office of N M Rothschild & Sons. It was evidently something that everybody knew….I might have noticed the red shield projecting over the lane but the five arrows and the motto Concordia Industria Integritas which appeared on it conveyed nothing to me nor were the intertwined gilt letters NMR easily decipherable from below.” Ronald Palin, Rothschild Relish (London: 1970).
The lines above are taken from the opening paragraph of the autobiography of the former Company Secretary of NMR, who records his first experiences at New Court in 1925. Palin’s words say a great deal about the way in which the Rothschild business at New Court was identified. Only in 1946 were the words 'New Court' engraved in the stone of the entrance. The shield that Palin describes still proudly hangs from New Court in St. Swithin's Lane, and has long been considered to be one of the finest examples of a company emblem in the City.
The provenance of the shield is unknown, and no papers relating to its making have come to light. It is thought to date from the time of the second New Court, commissioned by Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879). This building, in the style of a grand Italian ‘palazzo’ to the design of Thomas Marsh Nelson, of the firm Nelson & Innes was built on the site of the first New Court, and opened in 1865. During restoration in 2011, the shield was examined by an expert who suggested that the sign might well date from the 1860s. It can clearly be seen hanging from a bracket over the stone arch in photographs of the second New Court from the 1940s. When New Court was reconstructed for a third time in the 1960s, a suitable place was found for it in a niche on the wall within the courtyard of the new building, and when New court was gain rebuilt in 2008, it was incorporated into the designs for the fourth New Court.
Intringuingly, images dating c.1915 put on public display in the refurbished Gunnersbury Park Museum in 2018 show an identical shield in position hanging from a bracket on the terrace of Gunnersbury Park mansion, the London home of Lionel's son Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917). Other images at Gunnersbury show the shield being packed into a lorry in the 1920s. It may be that the shield was sent to Gunnersbury for safe keeping during the First World War, on the instructions of Leopold's brother, Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918), who was then Senior Partner. During the war, Londoners lived in fear of German zeppelin air raids; at the insistence of Alfred, the Dividend Office gallery at New Court was packed with sandbags to protect the Bullion Room below, and an air raid shelter was built in the corner of the Drawn Bond Department. It is likely that the shield was then returned to the second New Court for installation c.1926, when Gunnersbury Park was sold by the Rothschild family.
Upon the demolition of the third New Court in 2008, the shield passed to the custody [but not ownership] of the Archive and was extensively restored, before being proudly re-hung outside the fourth New Court in 2011, to once again grace St Swithin’s Lane.
The New Court Shield, photographs, c.1950-1960
000/214, 5 items
Folder of photographs and artwork of the New Court shield, from the Secretary's Department. They may have been gathered together to produce artwork for logos and publications, based on the New Court shield design. Note:other photograohs of the New Court Shield will be found in 000/207.
The New Court Shield: plaster facsimile relief, c.1980-1990
000/2751, 1 item
Artefacts: The New Court Shield: plaster facsimile relief: large plaster relief of 'The New Court Shield' [almost identivcal to the orginal except smaller scale], depicting the five arrows symbol, 'NMR' and the latin motto; Concordia, Industria Integritas'. Provenance unknown but possibly commissioned for display in one of the NMR offices in the UK, or for a corporate event.