Was born in Stonehaven, Scotland and was articled to A Marshall Mackenzie in Aberdeen from 1890 to 1895, remaining as assistant for a further year. He commenced independent practice in Stonehaven in 1897 but almost immediately thereafter he emigrated to South Africa where he was listed working as an architect in Pretoria in partnership with Granger FLEMING, as FLEMING & ELLIS at Mortgage Buildings, Church Sq in 1899.
According to local information, he was invited to come out to Pretoria by George Heys in order to build Heys' offices at Tudor Chambers, which he duly did design. It would appear that he completed his articles in 1896 and left for South Africa in 1897.
He was admitted LRIBA in the mass intake of 20 July 1911, his proposers being Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, George Sutherland and George Watt.
Ellis's obituary in the RIBA Journal states that he had built up a 'considerable practice in Pretoria' and had returned to Scotland during the Anglo-Boer War, beginning practice in Aberdeen where he remained until his death, mostly designing houses. Although, according this obituary, he had left Pretoria before 1902 and did not return, three buildings by him have been recorded which date after the war. It is possible that he left for Britain during the war, returning as the dates of the buildings suggest, to South Africa after the war, only to leave again for Britain some time later. His name was listed in post-war Pretoria directories as late as 1909. By 1911 he was no longer listed in Pretoria. Perhaps it was at this time that he left the country for good.
There is also a listing of this practitioner on the Dictionary of Scottish Architects.
(Cowie 1989; RIBA Jnl vol 36, 1928-9:300; SAAE&S Jnl Oct 1906:4; UTD 1909)
All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.