CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Yes, we really have been around that long… Estate agents Prickett and Ellis ready for 250th birthday

08 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Company directors Philip Ellis, Nigel Ellis and Chris Underhill outside the Highgate high street office of estate agents Prickett and Ellis

THEY sealed their first sale when Highgate was a picturesque hamlet to the north of London, George III was on the throne and America was a colony.

Now, 250 years later, estate agents Prickett and Ellis are still going strong – and can lay claim to be one of the oldest firms of their type in London as they celebrate the landmark birthday this week. The firm was founded in 1767 by John Prickett, who sold his first property at an auction held at the Angel Inn on Highgate High Street.

As current director Nigel Ellis explained, the founder was primarily a carpenter, and this trade was the reason he went into selling properties. Mr Ellis said: “This meant he was used as a surveyor, too. The theory was, if you could use a tape measure accurately enough to build a coffin, you could measure a field, too. There was then just a short step to being employed as an agent.”

Mr Prickett surveyed and mapped the Kenwood estate for the Earl of Mansfield while living in North Hill. And the firm’s archives are like a history of Highgate. They have historic details for properties, including a sales sheet that advertises Wood Green for sale – when it was still a wood. In 1886, the first Ellis, called Henry, went into partnership with the Prickett family. The Pricketts had an office in the village but, with the growth of the railways, there was room for expansion. As a railway station was built at Highgate, they set up an office by its entrance.

Mr Ellis said: “The Ellises and Pricketts met through business and Henry Ellis had an office in Chancery Lane. He said, ‘can I come and work with you?’” Now the firm believe they have sold every house in Highgate around “three times over” and the family connection is set to continue for another generation at least, as two of Nigel’s sons work in the firm.

“There was a wave of agencies like ours being sold to bigger groups in the past,” he recalled. “But you can’t sell something that is not yours – it’s the family’s. If I wasn’t the fifth generation and there had not been this longevity, then who knows? “But I feel I am merely the guardian of something that has my family name on it, and I have to ensure it’s there for the next generation.”

Quiet life: Why famous faces love living in N6

PARTNER Chris Underhill has sold countless homes in N6 and has worked with some of the neighbourhood’s “faces”.

But he says the famous people who come into their high street office like the area because no one pays them any attention and there is a healthy disregard for celebrity spotting.

This was partly prompted by the affection felt for the late George Michael, who had a home in the Grove.

“When George Michael moved into the Grove we showed him round,” Mr Underhill recalls. And the singer’s move acted as a catalyst for others. “He spoke to his mates and we had Annie Lennox, Sting and Kate Moss come in. George would say he could walk from his office in the high street, go to the San Carlo restaurant for lunch, walk home and no one would give him a second look. People respected his privacy.”

Jennifer Aniston came in for help finding a home in Highgate

And Mr Underhill recalls showing Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston around the former YHA hostel in Highgate West Hill.

“They were renting Sting’s house out while they were filming in London and they liked Highgate so much they decided to buy a place,” he said. “It had seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, but they felt it wasn’t big enough. I pointed out they could sleep in a different room and wash somewhere else every day of the week.”

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