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Our History

History of ELA Basel - The Swiss British School

ELA Basel was established in 1993 and has been dedicated to the education and development of children for nearly 30 years. Initially we set up as a small English-speaking childcare centre called ‘Tiny Tots’. This later grew into the Early Learning Association and expanded to include the mandatory Kindergarten and Primary School age ranges in Basel. ELA Basel - The Swiss British School is now housed in two locations (Gartenstrasse 93 and St Alban Vorstadt 58) in the centre of the city. Both locations have been renovated to create bespoke, fit-for-purpose centres for the children.


Ulmenhof (or Elms Court) is the historical name of the ELA Basel Early Years and Lower Primary School (Kindergarten). It is located on Gartenstrasse in the business centre of Basel, close to the main train station known as the SBB (Schweizerische Bundesbahnenmain, or Swiss Federal Railways). In 1840 this area was part of the Botanical Gardens of Basel. Towards the end of the 19th century the Botanical Gardens were moved to a new site at Spalentor. In 1893, Gartenstrasse 93 was commissioned by Professor Jacob Wackernagel, a son of the German linguist Wilhelm Wackernagel. Professor Wackernagel was married to Marie Stehlin and they moved into “Ulmenhof” where they raised a family of six children before moving to Göttingen, Germany in 1902. The name “Ulmenhof” was chosen because the garden was filled with elm trees, or Ulmen. The prestigious mansion was designed by Edward Vischer-Sarasin and Edward Füter-Gelzer, Basel architects who were also responsible for the SBB building.

In 1942 the house was bought by a company called Ruhr and Saar-Kohle, and an additional building was added to the rear with garages and rooms for concerts. The Ulmenhof was used as their headquarters until the mid-1990’s. It was then owned for a short time by an investment company and a lawyer before it was bought by a trust. In 2003 it was declared a protected property and in July 2008 ELA Basel moved into Ulmenhof from two other locations and once again the property and grounds became a place for children.

Gartenstrasse is now home to 140 children in Early Years aged 3 months to 4 years and 62 children in Reception and Year 1 aged 5-7. In 2019 we constructed a brand new purpose built playground for the children as part of our commitment to outdoor learning and play.

First day of School at Ulmenhof – August 2008

ELa Basel teachers and students posing outside on the first day at Ulmenhof















St. Alban-Vorstadt


The house at St. Alban-Vorstadt was built in 1855 after a plan from Melchior Berri, a well-known Swiss architect, who owned a construction business and a school of design and construction in Basel. Not only was he a Swiss master builder but also an honorary member of the Architectural Society of London.


Until the end of the 19th century the area belonged to the monastery of St. Alban and they used the site to press fruit and grapes. The land was eventually purchased by the Vischer-Staehelin family who sold it to the banker Merian-Forcart in 1907. In 1855 the house at the corner Malzgasse/St. Alban-Vorstadt was built for Eduard Merian-Bischoff and his family. The back building was added some decades later when the location was used for business purposes, first for trading silk and textiles, later for building materials. In 1998 it was bought by a private bank who then sold it to a private owner in 2011.

ELA Basel moved in with its Upper Primary School in 2013 and now caters for up to 190 children from the ages of 7-12.