JCR-UK

Nottingham Jewry
in Victorian Britain

 

 

   
 


Extract from papers on
Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain

Papers prepared by Dr. (later Prof.) Aubrey Newman for a conference at University College, London, convened on 6 July 1975 by the Jewish Historical Society of England
(Reproduced here with Prof. Newman's kind consent)

Paper first published on JCR-UK: 20 September 2016
Latest revision: 11 December 2016

NOTTINGHAM

Published Data

A  -  In 1839 seven families were worshipping in a private house. In 1845 there were 3 Ba'ale Batim and in 1851 there were 20 appropriated seats, 6 seatholders, and 25 attenders at service. The estimate of population was 50.

1874[a]

Temporary Synagogue, 7 George Street. The synagogue is not a special building, but a large room fitted up for divine service. In consequence of alterations to the neighbourhood being projected by the Corporation the house in which Divine Service was previollsly held has been pulled down. Steps are being taken by the Congregation to preserve a suitable site for the building of a small synagogue. A new burial ground, situated in Forest Side, Nottingham, has been purchased from the Corporation by subscriptions collected from members and friends; but the burial ground is incomplete owing to want of funds.

1901[b]

Jewish population, 500.     1900, 1 death.

Synagogue, Chaucer Street (founded 1845). Synagogue built 1890. Seatholders, 125. Income and expenditure 1899, 500.

Hebrew Philanthropic Society (founded 1885), Relief of resident poor and strangers, medical assistance. Income and expenditure, 80. Administrative expenses 12.10s. About 150 persons per annum are relieved. The meetings of the members are held in the vestry of the synagogue, and the officers and committee are elected yearly by ballot.

Hebrew School.

Zionist Social Club, members 140.

[A - Primarily from The Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), by Cecil Roth]
[a - The Jewish Directory for 1874, by Asher I. Myers]
[b - Jewish Year Book]

 

Board of Deputies returns

  births marriages burials seatholders

1852

3

2

2

16

1860

 

1

2

12

1870

 

0

1

20

1880

 

2

2

20

(1889)

 

2

3

50

1890

 

2

2

36

1900

7

2

9

103


NOTTINGHAM
Prepared by Samuel Simpson

(For the Community's early history, see "Nottingham" in Cecil Roth's "The Rise of Provincial Jewry", 1950)

The early history of the Congregation, related by Cecil Roth in his Rise of Provincial Jewry, can be traced back to the late eighteenth century, and some of its institutions dated back to the early nineteenth century. Its cemetery can now be stated as having been consecrated in 1823 and not, as earlier thought, in 1828. A civic parade to the ground, led by the Mayor, the lay head of the Nottingham community, and the minister, can be dated to 23rd February 1823.

Continuous organisation, with a minister and regular services, began with the appointment of Mordecai Marshall as minister and shochet; it was he who had in the local poultry store a notice proclaiming 'Rev. M. Marshall, Killer of the Jews'. Services were held in private homes and then, by 1847, in rooms rented annually. As with other small communities ministers in Nottingham did not stay long, many going on to bigger congregations or else retiring from the ministry and continuing to live in the community as laymen. But in March 1858 the minister in Nottingham, Lewis Goldberg, was engaged in fixing a mezuzah on a door at the top of the stairs, stepped backwards, and falling down stairs received fatal injuries. An appeal had to be made in the national press for his widow and five children, 'the Nottingham Congregation being few in number, have not the power to do much in accomplishing this object'. That there was little difficulty in replacing him is shown however in a letter published by Jacob Jacobs of Derby describing the Yom Kippur service in Nottingham in 1858, and included as an appendix.

The community attracted a certain degree of early immigration; as with Derby, a number of German Jews arrived after 1848, and, by 1853 a list of Jews in Nottingham shows a watch-maker, tailors, jewellers, pawn-brokers, and several lace-manufacturers. This latter was of course one of the principal local industries. One of the Nottingham lace-makers, Lewis Heymann, later moved to Birmingham where he eventually became Mayor; the family retained its local personal and industrial connections, for in 1881 another of that name represented Nottingham on the Board of Deputies.

The community was beginning to acquire some prominence, and in 1869 the Chief Rabbi made a pastoral visit to it. That year a new burial ground had had to be bought, and an appeal was made in The Jewish Chronicle, with the approval of Dr. Adler, for assistance in building a wall round the new ground. According to the notice, on 24th December 1869,

'The Nottingham Congregation is a small one, numbering seven to eight families. It is at a considerable distance from any other Jewish congregation having a burial ground, and Lincoln, Derby, Leicester, and other near towns in which Jews reside and have no burial ground send their dead to be buried in Nottingham.'

The total cost of ground and wall was 600, of which 200 had been collected locally.

Some indication of the development of the community is afforded also by the marriage register; according to a report made on it in 1874 to the Board of Deputies the first entry had been made in October 1840 and the then last one in August 1872. There had been various irregularities in connection with it; in 1858 for instance the Minister had forgotten to sign it.

By 1877 however there was an attempt made to provide a permanent synagogue; an abortive attempt was made to purchase an episcopal chapel for alteration, but only 1500 was available. In 1889 a plot of land was bought for 1000, and the foundation stone was laid for a building the cost of which was estimated at 2000. The congregation put 21400 towards the cost and an appeal was launched for the rest. The building was opened by Dr. Hermann Adler in July 1890.

Two other features of the congregation deserve mention. In 1884 the Hebrew Philanthropic Society was established, with the object of giving loans and relief to the poor, visiting the sick, and providing watchers for the dead. By 1902 it was disbursing some 500 a year. In its origins it was much more humble, and the early rules laid down that 'five pounds shall be taken from the funds of the society during the first twelve months, to be granted as loans to deserving members. The President and Treasurer shall offer to lend one pound each, and the committee ten shillings each for the first twelve months.'

The other feature was the arrival in Nottingham from Brighton of Captain Saul Isaac in 1870. In 1872 he was invited by the local conservative electors to stand for the borough in the next election, and in 1874 he was elected as the first Jewish Conservative member of parliament.

* * * * * *

APPENDIX

Jacob Jacobs' description of a service in Nottingham, 1858.

Dear Sir,

There being no congregation where I reside, I repaired previous to the day of Atonement just past to Nottingham, in order to attend the synagogue there, and very much to my satisfaction I found a well-ordered, though small congregation. The synagogue was well-attended, and the services admirably performed in the good old orthodox style by two very able readers, the one an auxiliary engaged for the occasion, the other the local Rabbi, a very able functionary and evidently a good grammatical Hebrew scholar; besides this, the order was excellent, and all things seemed to be well regulated by the courteous and energetic president Mr. W. A. Jonas.

To all this however, there was a considerable drawback caused by the inconvenience arising from the entire unfitness of the apartment used as a synagogue, the same being the upper chamber of an old factory, long, narrow, low-pitched, ill-ventilated, in fact, hardly any ventilation whatever. Think sir, what an atmosphere there must have been with a great deal of gas burning, and the congregants numbering between fifty to sixty. On Col-nidre night it was scarcely bearable, the next day it was not quite so distressing as there was no gas lighted.

We had however, made but small progress with the morning service, when a loud rumbling noise was heard from below, and a most unpleasant vibratory motion was communicated to the narrow uncomfortable benches on which we sat (veritable stools of repentance were they) large wheels were evidently revolving and other machinery in motion. I enquired of the gentleman who sat next to me what it all meant, "Oh" said he, "It is the factory underneath the synagogue at work." "And pray," said I, "what do they manufacture?", when 'Oh horresco referens', what do you think his reply was? "Pork sausages, sir." I was indeed amazed, and if I had not received the positive and united assurances of several of the most respectable members of the community to this curious and extraordinary fact, I could not have given credence to it.

I believe you will agree with me that the Nottingham congregation may challenge Europe, nay, the world to produce another synagogue having under the same roof with itself a pork sausage and pie factory, and that too on a large, a most extensive scale, as this is evidenced by the formidable machinery whose rumblings disturbed our Yom Kippur devotions.

I have called your attention, Mr. Editor, and that of your numerous readers to this singular, curious, and most injudicious arrangement for various reasons, and having done so, I will just add a few words more on the subject because truth to say, my mind is not quite at ease. I noticed among the adjuncts of this congregation several venerable Polish Rabbis. Pray, sir, over the predicament, if one of these pious and portly personages were prompted to pry and peep at the process, and so got absorbed into the vortex of this infernal machine, he would at once be converted into pork pies. There would be a howl of exultation from the conversion society, (who I am not sure have not some shares in the concern). This would be a conversion with a Vengeance; Think, sir, of the articles on the subject in "Punch", and the "Jewish Intelligence", how Dr. M'Caul too, would proclaim the triumph of the new paths over the old.

Certainly the "Old Paths" never contemplated a synagogue in juxtaposition with a pork sausage factory. Having now eased my mind, sir, by calling your attention to these matters.

I am yours very truly,

                               J.J.

Derby, September, 1858.


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