Giovanni Battista Ortelli was born in 1830 at Lecco in Lombardy. He arrived in England with his parents in 1841/2. At the time of the 1851 census he worked as resident manager of Defendente Ortelli’s scientific instrument business at no. 49 Hatton Garden. Having taken over the family firm, he quickly made his way up. In March 1862 he was a founder member of the Italian Benevolent Society (IBS) which aimed at helping poor immigrants in the Clerkenwell area, many of them living in wretched conditions. One of the aims of the IBS was to suppress begging. Tickets for bread, lodging, medical treatment, and even legal costs were given to the ‘deserving’ along with assistance in repatriation.
In 1884 he founded the Ospedale Italiano. He donated two houses at no. 40/1 Queen Square which were later demolished and a new building erected in 1898. In 1933 a group of British Fascists endowed a bed at the cost of 1,000 guineas dedicated to Benito Mussolini. The hospital was closed during the Second World War. It was re-opened in 1946 as an independent hospital (not part of the NHS). Financial problems forced its closure in 1990. Ortelli died in London in November 1898. His body was taken back to Italy and buried at Appiano.