John Julius Angerstein – The Gifted Philanthropist
John Julius Angerstein (1732 – 1823) was of Russian extraction, emigrating to England at the age of 15, where he worked in the counting house of merchant Andrew Poulett Thompson, thought by some to be his father.
At 21 he was introduced to Lloyd’s, where he was to be of legendary importance (much later, he was even the hero of a 1936 Twentieth Century Fox movie made about Lloyd’s, played by heartthrob actor Guy Standing). A skilful underwriter and broker, his talent was such that policies he wrote or sanctioned were called ‘Julians’, and would have no trouble finding backers.
Angerstein was a driving force behind the modernisation of Lloyd’s. When certain underwriters began turning the establishment into a gambling den, he was among those who in 1771 subscribed to a fund to find premises for a New Lloyd’s Coffee House with a clear new set of rules, and in 1774 he played a leading role in establishing Lloyd’s in rooms at the Royal Exchange. He was instrumental in making Lloyd’s a respected, well-regulated institution, run for the benefit of all those who did business there.
A renowned philanthropist, Angerstein was a Chairman of Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund, which still works with armed forces charities to help individuals and their families in need of support. He supported numerous charities, and was instrumental in establishing the Lifeboat Fund.
Notable himself, Angerstein knew some of the most influential people of his time, and could count King George III, Nelson and writer Samuel Johnson among his friends. He was both friend and financial adviser to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger.
Finally, Angerstein was a patron of the arts, and an avid collector. It was the prospect that his lifelong collection of artworks, including paintings by Titian, Rembrandt and Van Dyck, was to be sold by his estate in 1824 that galvanised the founding of London’s National Gallery.
In 1795, Angerstein became Chairman of Lloyd’s.