7 Oakley Square – J.W Kolckmann & Family

Before we moving on, I think it should be remembered that the homes and contacts used by Vladimir Lenin and other political exiles during the early 1900s were critical to their safety. Trusted sources and associations were key to their survival and so when it came to lodgings when travelling abroad, the exiles were careful to draw upon tight, reliable networks of likeminded individuals. This was as true of Plekhanov as it was of Lenin, whose 1902 trip to London and the British Museum was facilitated by Swedish medical Practioner, Dr Henrik Kellgren of Eaton Square. As a matter of fact, it was Lenin who Plekhanov turned to when looking for accommodation (Lenin recommended a house on Frerderick Street — Solanus, vol.4, 1990). So you won’t be surprised to learn that Dr Henrik Kellgren himself features in the archives of Russia’s Secret Police *

An entry for Henry Kellgren in Incoming Dispatches dated 1903 reads simply: “data, gathered by Finnish gendarmery, on Vera Pogoryelova, married to Swede Dr. Kellgren; members of Stockholm revolutionary circle.” (Hoover. I Okhrana Records). Lenin and the RSDLP of Russia held their 4th Congress in Stockholm between April and May 1904 and within weeks of the meeting there was a spate of deadly attacks by Swedish Revoltionaries in Finland: the murder of Russian Governor-General, Nikolay Bobrikov on June 16th and a follow-up attack on Bobrikov’s offices in Helsinki, in which 18 employees were killed.

Kellgren’s Russia-born wife Vera (b.1872) appears to have been a member of the emigre community in London that published, Zhizn, edited by socialist journalist Vladimir Posse, one-time editor of Lenin’s Iskra (Posse moved between London and Ireland, 1901-1904). Vera Feodorovna Domelunksen as she was born had managed to escape from Russia sometime between 1880 and 1900. Correspondence between Russia and the British Foreign Office also suggests that Vera Kellgren’s sister Antonina Domelunksen (b. 1878) arrived in Britain in 1920. She became a language specialist, living in Hampstead. She also appears in papers of Sir David Russell. In a sinister twist, the wife of Professor Rolk Hok, a fellow Swede and medical partner of Kellgren, slit her own throat and leapt from the third storey window of their house in Kensington in an apparent suicide in October 1925 (Western Daily Press, 05.10.25).

see further: Swedish Socialist Democratic Party, Zeth Höglund, Fredrik Ström, August Palm, Swedish Labour Movement

* Curiously, the former home of  TUC President Herbert H. Elvin77 Jubilee Street in Hackney — was used by Joseph Stalin during his 1907 trip to London for the 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. The Derbyshire-born Elvin, arrested for disruptive ‘preaching’ in 1891, had been elected Leader of the National Union of Clerks  in 1906. At the time of Lenin’s visit the house was providing shelter to several Russian families. Elvin continued his work in the East End slums for much of his career.

The Kolckmanns of East Prussia & St Pancras

At the time that Winifred D’Esterre Gottschalk Paul and Lenin were lodging at 6 Oakley Square, the family of J.W Kolckmann, wealthy publisher of medical and educational journals was living next door at 7 Oakley Square St Pancras. As his sons were city stockbrokers, it’s intriguing to learn that an associate of J.W Kolckmann Snr was Baron Alfred de Rothschild, Director of the Bank of England and a high ranking member of the internationally recognised banking dynasty who many conspiracy theorists would have us believe financed Lenin’s Bolshevik Party and whose powerful financial strategies helped removed the Tsar. And whilst the links might seem faintly superficial on first inspection, it’s interesting to learn the Rothschilds not only featured in the life of Kolckmann’s neighbour Winifred Gottschalk Paul, but also in the business dealings of Russian Socialist, Alexander Herzen, whose correspondence with Jacob Meyer de Rothschild suggests the banker played a significant role in negotiating the release of his frozen assets in Russia. Herzen was mentioned earlier in relation to properties on Regent Square and Alpha Place.

And when you learn of the Kolckmann’s interests in Russian oil in 1911, the connection gets even more intriguing.

So what do you we know about the Kolckmanns?

  • Clara (b.1841) and Johan Wilhelm Kolckmann (b.1842) arrived in England from East Prussia between 1860 and 1870.
  • Their son Adolphus William Kolckmann is born 1871 and John William Kolckmann, 1872.
  • For the first few years they moved between Princes Street and Langham Place before settling at 7 Oakley Square in St Pancras sometime in the late 1890s.
  • Johann Wilhelm Kolckmann is a publisher of medical and education journals and owns and manages a foreign library (Kolckmann’s Foreign Library) at 2 Langham Place. Books include titles by Irish Surgeon, Robert McDonnell (who’d served in Sebastopol) and Karl Philipp Reiff’s English-Russian grammar (1883). The stamp on their books reads: J.W Kolckmann Court-bookseller to the Empress of Germany, 2 Langham Place, London – just a 15 min walk from the British Museum. The early Women’s Rights movement took shape at nearby 19 Langham Place. The Langham Place Circle chaired by Unitarian & medical practitioner Elizabeth Blackwell.
  • Kolckmann Snr places small ads for his ‘Foreign Library’ in The Athenaeum. Lenin was to place similar ads in this journal himself in 1902, and as a result made the acquaintance of Henry Rayment of publisher George Bell & Sons. Rayment was the son of George Rayment, who ran the Regent Park Boys Home at 44 Euston Road St Pancras. The home was founded in 1858 by publisher George Bell 1871 census shown.
  • Their son, William Adolphus Kolckmann also living at 7 Oakley Square in 1911 is a stockbroker with the firm.
  • Their son John William Kolckmann, also a city stockbroker, married an Ada Gertrude Mellor of Wakefield in 1904. Ada’s father John W R Mellor (1845) was Publishers Agents from Slaithwaite in West Yorkshire’s Colne Valley – where Socialist Victor Grayson, supported by Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, seized a significant election victory in 1907. Slaithwaite Unitarian Ministers like F.R Swann played a key role in providing Church venues for the 2nd and 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) that Lenin attended (see Victor Grayson & the Etaples Mutiny). The Mellor family later moved to Chorlton in Manchester (home to so many nascent Communists). I did wonder if Ada Kolckmann née Mellor and her father had any links to the Socialist League’s William Mellor who was born in Crewe to Unitarian Minister Rev. William Mellor. The Rev’s brother was a Unitarian minister in Huddersfield.
  • The clients of Messrs Kolckman & Co included Scotsman, Sir Thomas Barclay economist & former MP for Blackburn. Thomas Barclay had a long & well established relationship with Poland & East Prussia – Konisberg (Kaliningrad) in particular. Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly (Minister of War of the Russian Empire 1812) was probably the more famous of his forebears. In his book Thirty Years, Anglo-French Reminiscences (1876-1906) Sir Thomas Barclay discusses the part he played in resolving the Annexation crisis or the First Balkan Crisis (1908-9). The crisis was a prelude to the First World War. The Kolckmanns acted as brokers to Barclay’s Belwaarde Rubber and Cocoa Plantation Ltd (Dundee Courier 10 June 1910, p.3)
  • Another of Kolckmann’s financial clients was Sir J Bevan Edwards, senior figure at the War Office, ex-Crimean hero and one time MP for Hythe in Kent. Action was taken against Edwards’ company David Payne & Co for an improper £6000 loan from Exploring Land & Minerals Co Ltd where Kolckmann and Edwards were both directors. Kolckmann denied any knowledge of the loan for improper purposes. Kolckmann and Exploring Land & Mineral Company Ltd had already reaped massive rewards in South Africa and Rhodesia and by 1914 it’s interests were expanding to Nigeria.
  • The Kolckmann loan had been used to settle the debts of American Engineer, J Yardley Johnston who’d patented a high-quality printing press (Leeds Mercury 25 March 1903). Encouraged by the explosion in demand for printed material, Sir J Bevan Edwards had entered into a partnership with Yardley, John Lorne Campbell and Henry John Hadrill. The Johnston Die Press Company had offices in London & Paris and a large market began to emerge in Russia & Eastern Europe.
  • The most driven of Bevan Edwards’ press partners was Dr John Lorne Campbell, a passionate Scottish Nationalist & highly respected Gaelic/Celtic scholar. Campbell would later become a close associate and partner of Balkans Intelligence man Compton Mackenzie – co-founder of the Scottish National Party.
  • The Kolckmanns were nominated as directors of the Exploring Land & Mineral Company operating out of Rhodesia but with additional interests in the Transvaal province of South Africa. Lord Milner, famously accused by General Maurice Janin of France of funding Lenin, was installed as Governor of Transvaal (1902). Kolckman’s client, Sir James Bevan Edwards was, like Milner, a senior War Office figure. Milner had been installed as Transvaal Governor to protect British interests in the aftermath of the Transvaal ‘goldrush’.
  • In 1910, just 12 months before Lenin’s arrival at 6 Oakley Square, 7 Oakley Square’s William Adolphus Kolckmann incorporated and acted as brokers to the Scottish-Maikop Oil Company, founded with the explicit intention of exploiting freshly suspected oil wells in Maikop, Southern Russia.
  • The directors of Scottish-Maikop Oil Company included Sir Griffith Thomas (key figure in Welsh mining/shipping industry (Swansea), Hugh Law (Irish Nationalist/Cumann na nGaedheal MP), Ernest Hirsch (German stockbroker), Edward Ormerod (Manchester Mining Engineer) and Sir Edward Durand Bart (Military statesman). Both Sir Griffith Thomas served on the General Munitions Tribunal for Wales during World War 1.
  • Kolckmann’s Maikop client, Ernest Hirsch was also a Director of Spies Petroleum Ltd which was expanding its oil interests from Russia’s Grozny region to Maikop in 1910. In January 1917, immediately prior to the Russian Revolution, Spies Petroleum oil production had slid from 211,434 tons in 1915 to 136, 286 tons in 1916 (‘Maikop Spies Poor Showing’ — Gloucester Citizen, December 1917). After the revolution some stability was maintained and production looked set to increase (p.3 Gloucester Citizen — 02 August 1919). Hirsch was born in (Waldenburg?) Germany and at the time of the 1911 Census was visiting medical practitioner William Wollaston Groomer.
  • In March 1910, immediately prior to the formation of Scottish-Maikop Oil Company, the company’s co-founder, Hugh Law MP was pressing First Lord of the Admiralty, Reginald McKenna over the failure of the British Government to compete with Germany in the provision of oil and other utilities for the British Royal Navy (the Anglo-German Naval Arms Race were entering a critical pre-War stage). Law asked McKenna if it was the intention of the Admiralty to ‘make greater use in the future of oil fuel’ (15 March 1910, The Scotsman).
  • The ‘recent fountain of petroleum’ led to a flurry of company formations including The Anglo-Maikop Corporation Ltd (featuring Liverpool MP, Sir William Rutherford) and The Maikop and General Petroleum Oil and Producers Limited and Spies Petroleum set up by Kolckmann’s co-director, Ernest Hirsch. Situated on the western tip of the Caucasus, the Maikop field’s proximity to the Black Sea made it ideally placed for shipments.
  • Under Alexander III & Nicholas II Baku Russia overtook the US as an oil power. Under the the two regimes it became known as Black City with 2,000 oil wells, and 200 refineries. The Tsar’s success was largely down to the loans provided by the Rothschild family (see: Batumi-Tblisi-Baku Railroad)
  • Tsar Nicholas owed terrific debts to the Rothschilds & other foreign investors with the most powerful being the Rothschilds (owners and main stakeholders in Caspian Black Sea Oil Company) and the Nobels from Sweden (Nobel Brothers Petroleum Company). However, just as we have seen in Libya since 2011, the Tsar’s failure to establish stability in the Baku region has meant oil prices were in a constant state of flux. Bolshevik activity during the 1905 Revolution and Azeris/ Armenian tribal tensions resulted in declining production & rollercoaster oil prices (‘Baku Oil Field Annihilated’, The Telegraph 09 September 1905 ). The editor of Petroleum World described it as ‘the most awful blow that has fallen on the industry since oil has been pumped from the earth and expressed the fear that whole of the vast fields may be reduced to ashes’.
  • ‘Boss of the Black Sea’, and future Soviet-leader Josef Stalin played a fairly busy role in the banditry, piracy and terrorism that plagued the Baku oilfields during this period. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s 2008 biography, Young Stalin does an admirable job of chronicling all this. Montefiore describes how many wealthy oil barons (Rothchild’s David Landau Felix Somary among them) contributed funds to the Bolshevik cause. We have seen much the same collaboration between billionaire Oil Barons and the Islamic Rebel Militias assaulting Libya’s Oil Crescent today. Like Stalin, the Libyan rebel militias operate a protection racket that have economic impacts globally. In installing himself as leader of the refinery storehouse workforce in Batumi, Stalin’s regular schedule of strikes and arson attacks meant he held the balance of power at a very early stage. As Batumi was the ‘gateway to Europe’ as far as Russia’s oil output was concerned, the Rothschilds would have very little option but to capitulate.
  • In July 1917, Kolckmann and Hersch associate, George Tweedy of the Anglo-Maikop Corporation offers a withering critique of the ‘hampering’ regulations placed on oil development by the recently deposed Tsar, hoping that the ‘new Russian Government would appreciate the benefits to the nation of adopting new laws and regulations and encouraging the development of these oilfields’. Tweedy goes on to explain how the Tsarist regime squandered significant opportunities from speculators (Anglo-Maiko Corporation Meeting, May 30th 1917).
  • By 1910, Russia’s oil and Mineral Wealth was considerable, yet in areas like Mailop largely untapped. In 1916 Pyotr Bark, Britain’s Finance Minister said this of Russia’s vast mineral resources, “There can be no doubt that the Empire of Russia will prove a fruitful source of exploitation for British Capital after the war & that Russian & British interests will be united in the most intimate fashion.”
  • In September 1917, just months after the February Revolution & several weeks before Lenin’s October Revolution, H.D.L Minton embarked on a series of lectures around the North of England highlighting the opportunities that Russia’s vast mineral resources offered British Traders.
  • As the Bolshevik uprising got underway in July 1917, reports began to emerge from Reuters that there was a ‘scheme to transfer’ Russia’s vast mineral resources to America. It coincided with news of a further $100,000,000 loan to Russia from the United States Government.
  • Prior to Lenin seizing power in 1917, about 20% of the world’s oil came from the districts around Baku, at this time a part of the Russian Empire. After temporary British seizure in 1918, in which General William Thomson was installed as governor it was reclaimed by the Bolsheviks.
  • Within months of Russia & Germany signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, some were beginning to feel that Germany would be prepared to accept any peace deal provided she was free to exploit Russia’s ‘inexhaustible mineral resources’ – Graphic 31 August 1918. Journalist Dr. David Soskice claimed that Lenin had told the Soviet Executive Committee that Russia was pledged to pay a 6,000,000,000 ruble indemnity to Germany. To pay it, it would be necessary to hand over practically exclusive rights to exploit its minerals. Given the Kolckmann and the Rothschilds substantial oil and Mineral investments, it’s interesting at the very least.
  • In July 1919, some two years after the Revolution The Telegraph reported that over 7,000 Germans were now occupying senior financial & technical positions in the newly established Soviet. Lenin dealt a huge blow to Bark’s predictions of great post-war intimacy between Britain & Russia.
  • Lenin’s Bolshevik triumph in 1917 ushered in a whole era of state centralized production and distribution. It may be significant to note that both Lenin & Stalin suppressed any revolutionary EcoSocialists attempting to infiltrate the Bolshevik ranks, Aleksandr Bogdanov among them.
  • In April 1885 J.W Kolckmann & Baron Alfred de Rothschild, director of the Bank of England, were celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the German Hospital in Dalston, Hackney. This East End ‘refugee’ hospital had been the relief initiative of Dr J.C.H Freund (see Christine Lattek’s Revolutionary Refugees: German Socialism in Britain, 1840-1860)
Kolckmann-rothschild-london-morning-post-Morning Post 27 April 1885
London Morning Post Morning Post 27 April 1885
  • Among the stewards were Russian Consul General, Vladimir Weletsky, the inspiration for Joseph’s Conrad ‘Mr Vladamir’ in his 1907 ‘anarchist’ or ‘dynamite’ novel, The Secret Agent. Weletsky had just been transferred to London from the US in 1884. Conrad is believed to have been introduced to Weletsky at the Russian Embassy on becoming a British subject in 1886. Weletsky was a patron of the Society of Friends of Foreigners in Distress.
  • Another name alongside Kolckmann, Weletsky and Rothschild is Chairman Baron John Henry von Schroeder an Anglo-German banker of J. Henry Schröder in London. Kurt von Schröder featured prominently in the rise of Hitler.
  • Several of the men who featured in the Interim government of February-September 1917 and the eventual Bolshevik Government had studied engineering and minerals mining. Lenin’s early key ally, Georgi Plekhanov had studied at Saint Petersburg Mining University (renamed the G. V. Plekhanov Leningrad State Mining Institute in 1956). In spite of his professor at the Mining Institute remarking that he would have made a ‘great scholar’, Plekhanov ditches his studies and dedicates his time to revolutionary causes. Yet abroad he maintains contact with the Scientific community and was said to be immersed in Scientific research. Alexander Serebrovsky is another. This early member of the RSDLP had studied at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology and became known as the ‘Soviet Rockefeller’.

The image of Lenin & Plekhanov ‘prospecting’ in London in different ways to those imagined is a fascinating one. It was clear from Bolshevik Robert Minor’s famous cartoon of 1911 — the father of Communism Karl Marx surrounded by various Wall Street bankers — that showed the extent to which Bolshevism and Socialism had become a lucrative stock option. Lenin’s subsequent ‘crowdfunding’ activities in Europe, and later handing mineral and exploitation rights to multi-national syndicates, including Germany, may have given Plekhanov additional cause to regard Lenin a German agent but within the dramas of negotiation and Real Politik it was perhaps only to be expected. Lenin was nothing if not adaptable. And he was playing for high stakes: the fulfilment of the Soviet dream. Out of compromise they would conquer. Our of kickbacks and rollbacks would come rule.

you may also like reading:

Lenin @ 6 Oakley Square — 1911





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