First ice cream seller in London! Read all about it!

For the first time, records of aliens who settled in Britain and who became British citizens through the process of naturalisation are available to search by name and nationality and download as part of our online collection. The collection covers the period 1801 to 1871 and includes a small number of early papers relating to denization (a form of British citizenship that conferred some but not all rights of a British subject), and naturalisation by Act of Parliament; but the bulk of the papers relate to those who became British after 1844, when the process for becoming British was very much simplified.

In that year, the Naturalization Act (7 & 8 Vict. c. 66) provided that every alien residing in Great Britain with intent to settle should present a memorial to the Secretary of State stating their age, trade and duration of residence. Thereupon, the Secretary of State would issue to the applicant a certificate granting rights of a natural born subject with the exception of the right of being of the Privy Council or parliament. The Act maintained the taking of the oath of allegiance and Act of Succession and provided that any woman married to a natural born or naturalised person was deemed naturalised herself. It further stipulated that applicants wishing to become naturalised citizens should state their intention to reside and settle in Great Britain. This newly available collection of records consists of the memorials of over 7,000 aliens issued under the 1844 Act, which remained in force until 1871 (copies of the accompanying certificates of naturalisation are in the series C 54).

Design for Great Exhibition wallpaper.

Design for Great Exhibition wallpaper (catalogue ref: BT 43/288/78974)

There is a rich mix of cases from across the world, but most relate to subjects from Europe, as, during this period, immigrants arrived from a number of European countries, notably France and German states, but also – in smaller numbers – from Italian states, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Russian, Poland, and Sweden. Not all of these individuals settled in the UK; many were merchants or people simply visiting the country. The majority were equipped with skills, however. Many were artistic, such as musicians, painters and artisans.

Most settled in London, setting up immigrant communities, many of which still exist today. For example, the centre of the Italian community in Britain established in the 19th century, and indeed to the present day, is ‘Little Italy’ situated in Clerkenwell. Many Italian immigrants were ice cream makers, plasterers, confectioners, restaurateurs, and shopkeepers. Similarly, many German immigrants settled in the East End of London working in the sugar refineries and in the meat and baking trades.

The years 1848-9 brought a number of political exiles to the UK following the European Revolutions of 1848 where a series of political upheavals brought with them a short lived period of unrest and revolutions, most notably the French Revolution of 1848.

The Great Exhibition at Hyde Park in London in 1851 was the first of a series of annual international exhibitions and world fairs promoting culture and industry. The event attracted many pioneers of industry from the European continent as Britain embarked on its Industrial Revolution.

It should be noted, however, that the vast majority of aliens resident in the UK did not become British (as is the case today). Those that did might have wanted to increase their social standing in the community, own and inherit property, or simply further enhance their business opportunities.

Carlo Gatti

Memorial of Carlo Gatti

Memorial of Carlo Gatti (catalogue ref: HO 1/84/2665)

One case included in the collection is that of Carlo Gatti. Born in Canton Ticino, the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, Gatti came to Britain in 1847 and was credited with being the first ice-cream manufacturer in Britain. He took out British nationality in 1855, at the age of 40, while he was a confectioner in Hungerford Market, near the Strand, in London. His application, available in HO 1/84/2665, was supported by many other entrepreneurs who also had businesses in Hungerford Market, though in order to endorse applications, they themselves had to be British. Only four years before his naturalisation, Gatti had exhibited his chocolate-making machine, imported from France, at the Great Exhibition. He went on to become very wealthy. His music hall, known as Gatti’s, opened in 1857 and five years later he sold the property to South Eastern Railway, the land ultimately was used to construct Charing Cross station. He used the money in the sale to acquire restaurants and more music halls (one would eventually became the famous Player’s Theatre, the inspiration behind BBCs Good Old Days television programme of the 1960s and 1970s), before relocating to Switzerland in the 1870s.

Paul Reuter

Memorial of Paul Julius Reuter

Memorial of Paul Julius Reuter (catalogue ref: HO 1/79/2403)

Journalist and founder of Reuter’s News Agency, Paul Julius Reuter, was naturalised in 1857, also at the age of 40, and his memorial papers can be found in HO 1/79/2403. A native of Hesse Cassell, having moved to England in 1851, the records show that he had just embarked on a career as a Telegraphic Agent and was married with three children, residing at 19 Finsbury Square.

His reason for becoming British was that it would enable him to acquire and hold real property in England. Forty years after his arrival in Britain, in 1891, he became Baron von Reuter by Royal Warrant. He died in 1899.


  1. Charlie Turpie says:

    London Metropolitan Archives (where I work) holds records of the Unione Ticinese, a mutual aid foundation which supported, immigrants from the Canton Ticino. It was founded in 1874 so may not have included Carlo Gatti since he went back to Switzerland. Our collection reference is LMA/4265

  2. D Davis says:

    Interesting to read about the 1st ice cream maker in Britain. I grew up believing that Toni’s the little ice cream kiosk in Streatfield Road, Queensbury was the first of its kind in the country and probably the first to take ice cream around the streets – Tonibel.

    1. Gloria Mound says:

      My Late Husband”s Grandmother , Hannah Costa, who could trace her lineage back to 1656 in England and 1391 in Spain , had an Ice cream shop / Confectioners/ Tobacco in Roman Road London E. from about 1880. My late Mother -in -Law. Rebecca Costa, born 1892 and her sister Elizabeth, (Bessie) b. 1888 were born there and worked in the shop.

      Gloria Mound
      Netanya , Israel

  3. Colin Moretti says:

    “Carlo Gatti … was credited with being the first ice-cream manufacturer in Britain. ”

    Henry Mayhew, although he does not name Gatti, records in 1851 that:
    “The sale of ice creams was unknown in the streets until last summer and was first introduced as a matter of speculation by a man who was acquainted with the confectionary business and who purchased his ices of a confectioner in Holborn.”
    (London Labour and the London Poor, vol 1, The London Street Folk, pub 1851).

    Ice cream had been around for a long time before that date but it seems that Gatti was the first manufacturer of ice cream for sale.

  4. Colin Moretti says:

    As Charlie Turpie notes, the Unione Ticinese was founded in 1874 and Carlo died in Dongio in 1878 where he had been living but the centenary brochure of the Unione has a list of founding members which includes Carlo Gatti.

    For more information on Gatti I suggest reading “Coffee and Ices, the story of Carlo Gatti in London” by Felicity Kinross (1991)

    1. Gillian van der Meer says:

      My Great Grandfather Massimo Pazzi arrived from Ticino in 1871 with his brother Peter. Massimo founded the Cafe Royal In Croydon – the first licensed restaurant (with banqueting hall) in Cryodon which employed many waiters and chefs from the Ticino region. The Cafe Royal existed in North End Croydon until 1952.

      1. Roger Kershaw says:

        Thanks Gillian. A search on our Catalogue reveals that Massimo Pazzi became British in 1904 and we have his naturalisation papers in HO 144/746/115945. We also have his brother Peter’s case papers in HO 144/396/B21727 . These records have not yet been digitised.

    2. Mark davies says:

      Hello Colin.
      I was doing a random search of my old family whom the family name was, I was told, was Moretti!
      Then I see your post!!!
      Please get in touch if you wish!??!!

  5. Geoff Marsh says:

    When I was young growing up in Battersea there was an ice factory with the name Carlo Gatti. They delivered ice to hotels in London.Is this the same family?

    1. Colin Moretti says:

      “Is this the same family?”


      Felicity Kinross’s book records that Carlo Gatti was also an ice merchant from about 1859 or may be a year or two earlier. She also writes that “… in 1901 the Carlo Gatti Company amalgamated with two other [ice merchants and that the resultant company] was to run successfully until 1981.”

      1. Peter Barber says:

        The ice well in Battersea was indeed part of Carlo Gatti’s ice business _ his headquarters in Kings Cross (rebuilt in the 1890s), now the Canal Museum, has a display dedicated to him. Carlo was the uncle of Stefano Gatti, who founded the Unione Ticinese which is still going strong and has many members descended from Carlo and Stefano – including direct descendants – and from the families whom he brought over from Ticino.


    Yes the cold store in battersea was part of the gatti family,there was also another one carlo gatti cold store in queensbridge road grand father Benvenuto Erclole Andriazzi we think was brought over to england by two of the gatti sons,he was born in dongio,we have only been able to find out so much,and always run into a wall of silence,we believe he was born out of wedlock his possible father,a member of the gatti family,or the family Belgeri a money lender,buried in the same cemetary as Carlo Gatti,along with some of my family name of Andriazzi

  7. ruth wood says:

    Hi, Ive been looking for records eg naturalisation, immigration etc for my great grandfather, Domino Bagnaro born in Naples, in 1867 and on the 1901 census in London aged 34. I know that he had a route where he took his ice cream cart in the Bermondsey area but cant find anything else. Its lovely to read the history. There is a song that was handed down and taught by my grandfather [his son.]

    1. Nell Brown (Admin) says:

      Hi Ruth,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We’re unable to help with research requests on the blog, but if you go to our contact us page: you’ll see how to get in touch with our record experts via phone, email or live chat.

      I hope that helps.



  8. Albert parker says:

    I lived in Scawfell st. In the 50 s&60s and Carlo gattis ice wells were in queens ridge road on the canal bridge. Often used to see their yellow &black trucks loading up with the large blocks of ice.

  9. peter jannece says:

    My grandfather, Michele Iannece immigrated to Chichester, West Sussex in 1899 from Campagna in the province of Compania Italy. He lived in High Street which was demolished for the construction of the Northgate roundabout.

    His son Francesco Jannece (was Iannece) started an ice cream company in Chichester’s Northgate. He was in business up to the 1940s.

    Francesco was my uncle

    Does any one remember them?

    If so, please contact me?

  10. michael altuccini says:

    My great grandfather Genaro Altuccini had an ice cream cart which I remember just at the end of ww2. I believe he had a license for Hammersmith Bridge.Does anybody have any information

  11. Sue Medlicott says:

    My Father – John Hudgell – was the chief engineer at the Carlo Gatti Cold Stores on 118 Queensbridge Road and he, my mother and brother lived in the purpose built flat next door from 1963 and stayed on when it was sold to Ross’s. As a child I remember the night watchman to be an old gentleman called Mr. Begonzi . Actually my Father’s Father – my Grandfather – Victor Hudgell was the engineer at The Carlo Gatti Factory in Battersea.

  12. Ian Harris says:

    Sue – I have what I assume is a wooden-handled awl or ice-pick (?) that I inherited via my father from my grandfather (both now deceased) and it is marked ‘CARLO GATTI’ and ‘BATTERSEA 0072/5’ in red lettering. My grandfather also scratched his name on it as if to indicate possession or ownership for some reason. He did not work as far as I know at the cold stores business: as much as I know of his career was that he worked in a motor dealership in Chelsea and for some of his later working years lived in Streatham, so could have passed through Battersea regularly to get to work, although it does not explain how he came to have this item. I can only assume that Gattis employees used a proprietary icepick in their work and somehow one of these found its way to my grandfather. All that is by way of background, but I wonder if you know (i) what the numbering might have meant and (ii) what dates the Gattis cold store might have existed between, so I can maybe pinpoint the item’s background a bit better. Many thanks

  13. Jo says:

    My great grandfather Francesco Milano came over from Amalfi in 1880s married arcangela ligorno who was from ravello- he started an ice cream shop in 7-9 Toulon street camberwell – he had a very successful business for 20- 30 years and had 12 children. ( 9 survived to adult hood ) I would love to know more about the shop it’s in the census for 1901 and 1911 – both him and his wife died in the 1920s and were around 50 – 60

  14. Hil Maher says:

    My uncle, Antonio (Tony) Avitabile, (place of birth unknown) married my father’s eldest sister (Catherine Tarrant) early WWII, and had an ice cream cart from which he sold ice cream around Bermondsey. There were links to a family Amodio who may have had an ice cream parlour in Tabard Street where my mother lived over the shop and they later became greengrocers. Any further info appreciated.

  15. Lynne Cowley says:

    Hi Michael Altuccini. I am distantly related to John Alexander Altuccini, born 1926, died 2011(?), so I’m very interested in your ancestors too. I have put my tree on Ancestry and if you have more information I would love to hear from you.

  16. Daniela Cardillo says:

    My grandfathers Luigi and Angelo Cardillo from Cassino used to work for the Gattis in the 60s and 70s and lived in Clapham Common, my dad Marino and uncle Carmine Cardillo then later went on to buy the car garage IMC in queenstown road battersea which has since been sold and they are now retired.

  17. Danella says:

    My Nan came to England from Naples in the very early 1900’s, the family name was Mastrallio and the had an ice cream business in Italy. I don’t know anything about my great grand parents or any family still in Italy. My nans names was Marie Louise Mastrallio and when married she became a Wheatley. They lived in Stratford, East London.

  18. Michael Genaro Altuccini says:

    Lynne Crowley

    My Great Great Grandfather Genaro Altuccini came from Picinenso and lived in Fulham London.
    Where he made ice cream,his son Alexander ( my Great Grandfather ) had from what I have been able to find is a little confusing. My parents were divorced during the 2nd WW my fathers name was Henry Genaro. I have some records which I found through family search Archive companies, but not yet completed. Can anybody fill some of the gaps

  19. Daniel Deefholts says:

    Hello Michael,

    Interesting! I was trying to find out some more information about my ancestors online then saw your comment.

    My third-great grandfather’s mother was Vittoria Altuccini (Picinisco). I have a few Altuccini on my tree and then DNA matches with a few descendents.

    Feel free to contact me.

  20. David says:

    I worked with Pepe(school holidays job) who collected the ice from Battersea and would meet me at Victoria station at about 5:30 and then after a hearty breakfast at Queens Buckingham Palace Road we would deliver large chunks of ice to hotels restaurants in W1
    I also worked the east London route who collect me from home in Balham.
    Good memories,Pepe was a lovely man

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