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William Ellis was born in the 1680s. Little is known of his early life. He had sufficient schooling to write many books but the absence of classical allusions in his works suggests a basic education in a village school, or as an apprentice, rather than that of a gentleman. He was related to the Sherard brothers, both distinguished botanists. From stray comments in his books we learn that, prior to taking up farming, he was for a while an Exciseman. An uncle was a London brewer: Ellis was his executor and spent some time himself as a brewer in London. He may have been apprenticed to his uncle, carrying on the trade after he died.
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