JCR-UK

Susser Archives

Shull Logo

 

              

         
 

Page created on JCR-UK: 2003
Latest revision (formatting): 4 August 2014

THE RISE OF PROVINCIAL JEWRY
by Cecil Roth
(published 1950)

THE BEGINNING OF THE COMMUNITIES,

1740-1840.


 

INTRODUCTION

THE BEGINNING OF THE COMMUNITIES

i. The Setting

ii. The Expansion from London

iii. The Earliest Communities

iv. Conclusions

 

i: The Setting

It is neither original or controversial to state that (except for the medieval period) the historiography of the Jews in England has hitherto shewn little interest in what went on outside the capital. There has thus far been published, so far as I know, an adequate account of only one of the important provincial communities of today - that of Liverpool, on which successive members of the Benas family have worked with commendable energy. Besides this, there is the elaborate history of the Montefiore Synagogue and Foundation at Ramsgate by Paul Goodman and D. A. J. Cardozo; The Nottingham Guardian published some years ago a series of articles on the history of the Jews in that town; Canon Stokes' Studies in Anglo-Jewish History deal fairly fully with the little group at Cambridge; the defunct community of Penzance and the early days of the community of Portsmouth have been the subject of more or less exhaustive studies from my own pen: the late Rabbi Dr. Salis Daiches has written on the Jews of Scotland: and there are several articles, none of them comprehensively based on original sources, on those of Ireland. (I will not give references, which can be found with a minimum of effort in section A.8 of my Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica). I do not think that I am being unfair if I say that (apart from synagogue histories and sporadic studies) little more than this is available to the enquirer, so far as the modern period of Anglo-Jewish history is concerned.(i)

This is regrettable - and not only from the point of view of the student. In view of the overwhelming concentration of the English Jews in London, and of the immigration at the close of the last century which all but overwhelmed the older element, it is not only of interest, but of importance, to demonstrate that the English Jews are rooted in this country - in fact, that their history in one provincial city after the other, far from being a development of the last couple of generations, goes back for as many centuries. I have set out to provide here some of the elements by which this may be established, and the foundations of the history of the Jews in England (as distinct from that of the Jews in London) may be laid. I am conscious of the fact that the wide scope I have set myself and the inevitable limitations to the amount of work of this sort that a single person can adequately perform (limitations of time, of geography, of material, of fortune, of personal contacts), must render my account in many instances inadequate and in some incorrect. must render my account in many instances inadequate and in some incorrect. All I can say in self-defence is that I hope this concentration of material will stimulate further research by persons with greater local qualifications and conveniences. The measure of the success of my work will be not the degree of agreement but the degree of contradiction that it may stimulate.

I have taken as the dividing-line between the old communities with which I have dealt, and the modern which present a smaller degree of general interest, the year 1840. The reason for this is not only that 1840 was exactly a century before this paper was written, and that a century is a fair title to antiquity, but also that there happen to be about this period two or three reliable sources from which, for the first time, a list of Anglo-Jewish communities can be reconstructed. First is A Statistical Account of the Principal Jewish Communities throughout England, by an enthusiastic commercial traveller named A. A. Levy, which appeared in the earliest issues of the The Jewish Chronicle from January to April, 1842. These accounts are not comprehensive, nor do they pay very much attention to the historical aspect, but they serve as a point of departure. Several of the communities included were indeed exiguous and unimportant, while others are omitted which were even then among the largest in the country: for example, Penzance, Sheerness and Falmouth figure, while Portsmouth, Plymouth and Liverpool do not. The list can however be supplemented from those communities which are recorded as having exercised a vote at the time of the election of Dr. Nathan Marcus Adler as Chief Rabbi in 1844. On that occasion, a minimum annual fee of five guineas to the Chief Rabbinate fund was stipulated; hence those centres that appear in this list may all be presumed to have been solidly established. A third contemporary source of information is the list of licences issued to Shochetim during the Rabbinate of Solomon Hirschell between 1822 and 1842, and published by C. Duschinsky as an appendix to his Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue (Oxford, 1921). It is true that the appointment of a Shochet did not necessarily imply the existence of a Jewish community: for several of the persons mentioned acted apparently for private families, or on their own account. Nevertheless, this list is invaluable as a contribution to our knowledge of the distribution of the Jews at this period and furnishes the names of some of the earliest local Synagogue officiants up and down the country. Finally, in 1851 we have first, an account of various provincial communities - taken verbally in some cases from the Jewish Chronicle articles of ten years earlier - in the third volume of Margoliouth's History of the Jews in Great Britain: and, secondly, the religious returns in the census of the same year, which provide among other things the approximate date of the construction of the synagogues in each centre, the seating capacity, and the number of those who attended service on a selected Sabbath.(ii) For another reason, the period 1840-1850 is useful as a line of demarcation. The railway era had indeed begun, but its operation was not yet effective. The most important of the communities in the industrial centres had been founded, but they were not as yet numerically preponderant, as they were to become a little later: and the new economic system had not as yet drawn the Jews away from the country places in which they had established themselves in the reigns of George II and George III. That was to happen in the second half of the century, when the communities of Sheerness, Canterbury, Ipswich, Cheltenham, Exeter, Falmouth, Gloucester, King's Lynn, Penzance, Jersey, Bedford, Yarmouth, Bath, etc. entered upon, and in some cases culminated, their age of decay. Thus the period that we have taken for our review embraces both the old country communities and the most important of the new industrial communities. The remainder of the latter, founded from the eighteen-forties onwards, must be left to some other historian, or some further opportunity.

A needless difficulty has been added to my enquiry by a vagueness of definition on the one hand and inaccuracy of statement on the other. It is not easy to say at what stage a Jewish community comes into existence. Is it when the first Jew settles in a town; or when public worship according to the Jewish rite is first held; or when regular services are begun; or when the worshippers become formally organised; or when a room is set aside for prayer at the common expense; or when a synagogue is at length built? All of these definitions can serve: and in fact in the accepted accounts one often finds the date of the dedication of the present synagogue given as that of the establishment of the community. A better criterion is the date of the acquisition of a burial ground, which unlike the other manifestations of Jewish religious life requires corporate action and thereby a certain degree of organisation. The only Anglo-Jewish community concerning the actual formation of which we are able to speak with any certainty is, as will be seen, that of King's Lynn, whose incorporation (presupposing, however, some previous activity) is recorded in a most interesting document, which has fortunately been preserved.

The sources I have used in my enquiry have been manifold, and for economy of space I have not given extra references for every statement made (the nature of the authority can easily be recognised by the student, and will be useless to the ordinary reader). Printed sources include, in the case of the more important communities, the historical accounts listed in my Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica, section A8; a few articles in The Jewish Encyclopaedia; and the invaluable notes in early issues of The Jewish Year Book (I have used in particular that of 1903/4). The sixty-fourth Annual Report of the Board of Deputies, issued in 1915, contains an account of the findings of the Special Committee into the property of defunct congregations, the information given in which, though very uneven in quality and quantity, is sometimes most valuable. More important for the present purpose have been the muniments of some of the defunct communities, now assembled in London: casual references in the records and registers of the oldest London Synagogues, which often admitted the scattered provincial Jews to membership: circumcisional registers: the wills at Somerset House: lists of subscribers to prayer-books, etc.; obituary notices: old directories: newspapers and newspaper-cuttings: tombstone-inscriptions: family legend and genealogical records: and, for the very end of my period, the early Anglo-Jewish press, particularly The Voice of Jacob, 1841-1846.(iii)

Notes (the Setting)

(i) This was written in 1940: since then, full studies have been devoted to the Jews in Ireland and to the Glasgow community.

(ii) I suspect that in the returns the date of the establishment of the community occasionally figures instead of that of the construction of the Synagogue. No such details were asked for in any other census.

(iii) As so often, I have to express my gratitude to the late Rev. M. Rosenbaum, who supplemented my notes in many respects in the light of his own invaluable research, and to Mr. Lewis Edwards, who has provided me with some useful data from Masonic sources.

ii: The Expansion from London

The beginnings of the history of the Jews in England outside London are to be traced to the first half of the eighteenth century, or perhaps, more precisely, its second quarter. Even earlier than this, scattered indications may be found, but they are of visitors rather than residents. In 1686, for example, a Jewish wayfarer (who carried his phylacteries, but was careless about ritual food) was murdered at Borton, in Kent (Bibl. BI. 32), but he was doubtless a foreigner on his way to London. Similarly, there were occasional Jewish visitors, such as the Abendana brothers, at the two University Cities. From London, moreover, the Jews of the wealthier sort pushed out into the surrounding countryside for their summer residences, even before the seventeenth century was over. The Da Costa family established themselves at Totteridge, the Mendes da Costas at Highgate, and Sir Solomon de Medina at Richmond (where he was visited by William III); while Moses Hart, on winning the lottery in 1720, purchased himself a house at Isleworth, in which district he was joined by his kinsmen of the Franks family and others. Probably, these early English Jews held services in their houses from time to time, but their centre was London. The same was the case with the Ashkenazi servitors of the Sephardi magnates - for example, Samuel Levy of Epsom, the servant of the Rodrigues, and Leizer Epsom, Cook, who probably belonged to the same household; these two are mentioned about 1718 in the earliest account-book of the Great Synagogue, and were possibly among those responsible for the curious regulation that servants would not be admitted to the synagogue wearing their "Livery-malbushim."

Perhaps the most ample source of information for the early history of the expansion from London is the Membership Roll of the Great Synagogue, which was compiled about the middle of the eighteenth century and thereafter kept up to date year by year. This has been amply used in these pages, and reveals the existence of Jews in many places where communities ultimately sprang up - at Dover, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Bristol and so on. In addition to these, isolated families in many smaller centres were attached to the Great Synagogue. Thus at Poole in Dorset, we find (c. 1760) Moses ben Abraham Levi, known as Moses Abraham (an ancestor of Lord Samuel: his tomb in the Alderney Road burial-ground in London is still legible), whose son, Abraham Abraham, was admitted to membership in 1784/5.(i)

The circumcisional registers are another valuable source particularly useful in this connexion. The earliest Anglo-Jewish specimen I know is that of the Sephardi worthy, Isaac Carriào de Payba, which includes several Ashkenazi names, in London and the provinces alike. A few of these entries--which are among the oldest evidences available for the presence of Jews outside London - will be utilised below. Here mention will be made only of his 72nd entry, dated March 8th, 1750, which records in sonorous Spanish how he had initiated into the Covenant of Judaism, Samuel, son of Levy Nathan, of Frome in Somerset, "which is 120 miles from here." Other circumcisional registers are less informative, because in so many cases the name of the child is given only in Hebrew. Geographically, on the other hand, they are highly tantalising. Rabbi Ash, of Dover, mentions among the places in which he operated between 1768 and 1818: Boston, Bushey, Canterbury, Deal, Dover, Folkestone, London, Lynn, Margate, Norwich, Sheerness and Ostend, as well as Canterbury, Chatham, Dover and Margate, where he officiated at weddings. Myer Solomons, of the Western Synagogue, performed the operation between 1782 and 1839 in Bath, Bristol, Chesham, Brighton, Coventry, Southminster, Chelmsford, Deptford, Ipswich, Yarmouth, Leigh, Spalding, Watford, Greenwich, Brentford, Richmond, Farnham, Greenhill, Oxford, Harrow, Lewes, Bury, Windsor, Romford, Harwich, Sheerness, etc. Another old circumcision register from which much information may be derived is in the British Museum, and there are others in the United Synagogue archives. For the West of England, there is extant the register kept by Joseph Joseph of Plymouth, shewing Jews between 1784 and 1816 in Tavistock, Totnes, and elsewhere (it is now in the Jewish Museum, London). The register of Reb Leib 'Aleph', in the archives of the Jewish community of Portsmouth, mentions, between 1763 and 1808, Jews in Winchester, Bath, Cowes, Arundel, Brighton, Poole, Rochford, and so on. Another useful source of information for the West Country is the Plymouth Aliens' Register of 1798 (appended to the earliest Minute Book). This introduces us to Benjamin Levy who had been living at Arundel apparently from 1782-6; Moses Mordecai formerly of Dartmouth; Levy Emanuel formerly of Truro; and Barnett Levy, who apparently settled as early as 1758 at St. Austell and remained there for seven years.

Masonic records too are valuable. Thus, about 1800 the Kentish lodges furnish the names of Ebenezer Cohen of Woolwich, Mark Solomon and David Moses of Canterbury, Mark Mordica of Folkestone, Abraham Levi and Simon Gomperz of Hythe, and Barnett Nathan and Jacob Rubens of Dover.

There are other sources of information, almost bewildering in their variety, which shew Jews settled in Hanoverian times in the most unexpected places. Before 1735 - the early date is significant - a pedlar named Moses Emanuel, "a Jew of uncommon leaming", was familiar in the Leicestershire countryside, and used to discuss theological questions with Samuel Carte, Vicar of Hinckley from 1720 to 1735 (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, 11. 482). A tanner named Judah Samuel was established at Wendover (Bucks.) before 1778 (London Magazine, 1778, p. 93). An advertisement in Jackson's Oxford Magazine for Saturday, 5th May, 1770, introduces us to a Jewish watchmaker in a remote Oxfordshire market-town: "Barnard Levi begs to acquaint the Publick that he has opened a shop in the Market Place, Witney; where anyone may be supplied with goods in the jewellery way as cheap as in London: likewise all kinds of silver goods, watches, etc., in the newest fashions. N.B. Watches carefully mended considerably cheaper than anywhere else in the country." In the same area, at Banbury, lived Wolf Benjamin, silversmith, who failed in 1785. In the binding of an Anglo-Jewish calendar for 1785 in the Myers Collection (now purchased for the Mocatta Library) is an advertisement-sheet of Joseph Hart, jeweller and watchmaker, of Saffron Waldon. The earliest list of subscribers to the Jews' Hospital in London, published in 1808, includes Judah Moses of Newmarket and David Moses of Biggleswade, as well as M. I. Nathan of Godmanchester, whom we know from other sources. The Penzance synagogal records, now in my own collection, shew Jews in the early nineteenth century at Truro, Redruth and even the Scilly Isles. There was a clockmaker named David Samuel at York in 1820. The father of Arthur Davis, editor and translator of the Synagogue liturgy, was resident in 1806-9 at Thame. Jacob Levy, of the Hambro' Synagogue (1744-1823) lived at Newbury. At Lea, Reb Moshe Eleazar, father of the nineteenth-century schoolmaster H. N. Solomon, first founded the school which was subsequently carried on in Mansell Street in the East End. The first death advertised in the "new series " of the Jewish Chronicle in 1844 was that of the unhebraic-sounding Grenville Jones of Shrewsbury. On the other hand, a tablet in Tewkesbury Abbey marks the resting-place of Benjamin Jacobs, who died in 1785 aged 40. Harwich provided Nathan Harwich (1726-1808), ancestor of the Raphael family of London, and Simcha Ipswich was another prolific Jew of the eighteenth century. Ellis Wolfe was born in Folkestone in the middle of the eighteenth century, and left the town £500 for charitable purposes on his death in 1816. Moses Lazarus, who hailed from Worms, was generally known from his place of residence as Moses Rochford, and is the ancestor of half of the upper stratum of Anglo-Jewry of older vintage. In 1791, his daughter Frances was married under the auspices of the New Synagogue to Joel Myers, of Maldon, who subsequently removed to Colchester (he was ancestor of the late Dr. Charles Myers). In his former home there seems to have been at one time an incipient community: for when in 1828 Michael Hart Simonson (Michael Zevi ben Simeon) performed the marriage-ceremony at Sheerness between Solomon Davis and Sarah, widow of Hyam Abrahams, the grandparents of Sir Sidney Lee, he was described as "the Shochet of Maldon." The local Jewish settlement continued for a further quarter of a century; indeed, one of the few literary relics of these countryside Jews that we have is a manuscript of the Hoboth haLebaboth with a Yiddish translation, formerly in the collection of the Rev. S. Frampton, executed here in 1847-1852 by Isaac Field. In 1824, Solomon Hirschell authorised a shochet to exercise his craft at Bidefield, and another at Worcester. In the library of Jews' College, London, there is a volume bearing the autograph of Isaac ben Jacob of Fürth, known as Isaac Jacob(s), in Totnes, Devon, with the date 1780. Two Jewish Masons, Abraham Levi and Simon Gompertz, were living at Hythe, Kent, about 1800. From other scattered sources we know of Jews living in the Hanoverian period as far north as Scarborough and as far West at Teignmouth, Dartmouth and even (as we have seen) the Scilly Isles. In the Elkan Adler collection, now in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, there is (MS. 2667) a Scroll of Esther, written by a certain Jacob ben Simon at Whitehaven (Cumberland) in 1776.

In some instances there was more than one household, and possibly an organised religious life all trace of which has now disappeared. Lincoln may be taken as a case in point, for the Jewish tradition here was a long one. Nathan Elias, or Nathan ben Elijah Lincoln, ancestor and namesake of Ney Elias, the eminent explorer, was admitted to membership of the Great Synagogue in 1766/7.(ii) Another Lincoln Jew of the period was Samuel Samuel, a travelling jeweller, who died at Louth in 1804, and whose son, Emanuel, was one of the first persons of Jewish birth to enter the University of Oxford. Mordecai Moses, of Lincoln, silversmith, a native of Frankfurt, died in 1810, his death being recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine. Here, too, lived Jonas Lazarus, Jeweller and Freemason, whose marriage at Godmanchester in 1810 to Rosceia (daughter of Moses Nathan, formerly of Huntingdon) was reported at length in the newspapers of the period.(iii) Yet another local Jew associated with the Great Synagogue at the time was one Simeon Lincoln; while an S. Cohen living at Lincoln was among the subscribers to the Norwich synagogue in 1848. It can hardly be imagined that so numerous a group did not hold regular religious services.

A Great Synagogue member who hailed from Margate was Nathe ben Naphtali, who was admitted a member in 1766/7: he is probably to be identified with Nathaniel Solomon who married Phoebe, daughter of Simeon ben Menahem de Metz. Among their twenty-two children were Edward Solomon, watchmaker of Margate (1799) and Saul Solomon, Napoleon's only friend at St. Helena, who was born at Margate in 1780. The family subsequently played a truly great part in South African life. Among the subscribers to the Midrash Phineas, published in London in 1795, was Lipman b. Alexander "Margate."(iv) Before it became a watering-place the town clearly attracted many Jews by reason of its busy little port. In Deal, there were in 1814 three Jewish Navy Agents - Abraham Aaron, Emanuel Emanuel, and Moses Moses; here too lived Michael Levy, one of whose 26(!) daughters was Sir Sidney Lee's other grandmother.

Another place where there was a Jewish nucleus, which never developed into an organised community, was Chelmsford. Here, in the middle of the eighteenth century, lived the Isaacs family, ancestors of the Marquess of Reading, invariably known in the Synagogue registers and even on tombstones by the sobriquet of Cansfort. Attached to the same congregation, a little later on, was Godfrey M. Daniel, previously of Billericay (1800) and Samuel Levy (d. 1828), of the same place: while a circumcision register of 1802 presents us to the first public appearance of Samuel ben Eliakim Cohen of Chelmsford. A lady born here in 1790 is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Nice.

Rachel Mayer, grandmother of Mr. Leonard Stein, is said to have been born at Hanley in 1825, her father being a prominent member of the local community; but it is improbable that its origins are so remote.

Barnstaple, too, seems to have boasted at one time a rudimentary organisation. In his obituary notice in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1805 it was recounted of Abraham Ralph, silversmith, the oldest shopkeeper in the locality, who had died that year after a residence of over forty years, that "the Synagogue Assemblies were always held in his house." This doubtless means that it was under his hospitable roof that the local Jewish residents gathered from time to time for Divine service, this being the normal genesis of a Jewish community in those days. Ralph, incidentally, provides us with yet another instance, in addition to those already given in the precious pages, of the Jewish silversmith and watchmaker in the English country-town in the middle of the eighteenth century. It is becoming apparent that the pioneers of these early Anglo-Jewish communities followed more dignified callings than was formerly imagined.(v)

It is worth while to draw attention to the fact that this dispersal of the Jews throughout England, mainly Ashkenazi though it was, was not restricted to that element; and that at one time there was a not inconsiderable Sephardi diaspora, largely emanating from London. The Dublin community, as is well-known, was originally founded by fugitive Marranos. There was a David Henriques who died in Newcastle in 1775, and an Abraham Osorio resident at Nottingham in 1788. The earliest Jewish settlers in Exeter, apparently, were Italian Jews: and later on we find here a De Castro and an Ancona. The Liverpool directory of 1790 furnishes the names of a D'Aguilar(vi), a Fonseca, and a Nu nes: while another Aguilar died at Margate in 1774. The De Pass family, which played so important a part later on in the life of South Africa, came from King's Lynn. There was a Dr. Benjamin Lara at Portsmouth, and possibly also a conventicle (Hebra) following the Spanish and Portuguese rite: Daniel da Souza, of Portsea, figures in the Navy List of 1816, and various Sephardim are buried in the local cemetery. There were Benzakins in Gloucester and Lindos in Jersey, while Moses Fernandez as well as the family of Castro lived at Ross in Herefordshire. At Birmingham, a notary public and lexicographer named Daniel Lobo was living in 1780-1. About 1764 we find a jeweller of Twyford named Castelfranc(o) - an Italian Jewish name - who passed an opinion on an antique gem found in a tomb at Winchester (Nichols' Literary Anecdotes, vi. 178). At Norwich, Alcy and Lewis Bendon, of Morocco, are interred (1853-4), and Brighton, in the eighteen-twenties, knew Lindos, Mocattas and Ricardos. It was nevertheless not until late in the nineteenth century, that any Sephardi community was established outside the capital, except for the Montefiore family chapel at Ramsgate; and those who constituted them were in the main recent immigrants from the Levant.

It would be an exhausting task to collect, and hardly less exhausting to read, a comprehensive record of these isolated Jews of pre-Victorian England. More than enough has however been said to shew that at this period Jews were scattered throughout the country, from Yorkshire in the north to Kent and Cornwall in the south, though most thickly in what are now termed the "Home Counties."

Notes (the Expansion from London)

(i) Later on there was living at Poole another Jew, Moses Levy, who in 1814 presented a punch ladle, still preserved in the local Masonic Museum, to the Lodge of Amity (H. P. Smith, Lodge of Amity, Poole, 1937, p. 208). In 1818, according to a manuscript record I have just acquired, the Chief Rabbi, Solomon Hirschell, by dint of a 'beautyfull admonation' (sic) restored peace in the bosom of the Jacobs family of the same place.

(ii) His son-in-law Pheis or Philip Levy (known in Hebrew as Pheis ben Moses Lincoln), founder of the firm of Philip Levi & Sons of George Yard, Lombard Street, was admitted to membership in 1781/2: some of his descendants, who called themselves Phillipson, played a prominent part in the development of the pastoral industry in South Australia. A Benjamin Wolfe of Lincoln, silversmith, failed in 1777.

(iii) Jonah (b. Mendele) Lazarus was father of Isaac: Lazarus, Lincoln, the first Melbourne mohel.

(iv) The reading is not quite clear. W. E. G. Solomon's Saul Solomon, 'The Member for Cape Town' (Oxford 1948) gives the older Saul Solomon's birthplace as London, about 1776.

(v) There was a Levy family also resident at Barnstaple at this period, when Betsy Levy of this place married Isaac Jacob of Totnes, who has been mentioned above: three of their sons (later Jacksons of Liverpool) married Abraham Ralph's three daughters.

(vi) Not probably o professing Jew, being Solomon d'Aguilar, father of Lt.-General Sir Charles d'Aguilar.

iii: The Earliest Communities

In most cases, the pioneer Jews in the provinces led isolated lives, coming presumably to London or the nearest big centre for the High Holydays. It was only in a minority of instances that they were ultimately numerous enough to organise themselves in a Jewish sense. Precisely when this process began it is not easy to say. In a broadsheet of 1689, The Case of the Jews, it was specifically stated that there was then no Jewish settlement in the country outside the capital, and the statement is repeated in his Anglia Judaica of 1738 by D'Blossiers Tovey, who believed that no Synagogues were tolerated elsewhere in the Kingdom. It is in the course of the following generation that we are first able to trace organised Jewish groups in the provinces - at Portsmouth (1742), King's Lynn (1747), Plymouth (1752) and so on. (Fuller accounts will figure later on in these pages). It must be borne in mind that positive information is available in only a minority of cases. The evidence however justifies the assumption that it was in the second half of the reign of George II, or roughly between 1740 and 1760, that the first provincial communities came into being. In 1800, there were about twenty of these. By the time of the accession of Queen Victoria, the number had doubled. I have, in fact, been able to identify some forty in all which existed in Hanoverian England. Of the total, about half were in sea-ports - Brighton, Bristol, Chatham, Dover, Exeter, Falmouth, Gloucester, Hull, Jersey (St. Helier), King's Lynn, Liverpool, Newcastle, Penzance, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheerness, Sunderland, Woolwich and Yarmouth. It was only in the nineteenth century that the inland communities, in the new manufacturing centres, attained their preponderance. During this period, on the other hand, some fifteen of the previous forty (of which half were in the small seaports now declining in importance) became extinct. It should, however, be added that in several of the places in question - Exeter, Penzance, Lynn, Bedford - Jewish life re-emerged in the difficult period from 1939 onwards, when they became centres for children and other evacuees from London. It is perhaps worth while to point out that many of these eighteenth-century communities were in the same places (Gloucester, Bedford, Lynn, Canterbury, etc.) which had known Jewish communities in the Middle Ages and still retained their importance - to lose it, however, with their Jewish communities, with the progress of the Industrial Revolution.

As my terminal date for the purpose of the present investigation I have taken the year 1840, as has been mentioned. It may, however, be added, for the purpose of record, that the community of Cardiff was traditionally founded in this year and was certainly in existence by 1847: that of Wolverhampton, established according to report in 1850 by one Marcus Gordon, certainly had a place of worship though not a cemetery in that year (J.C. 25.x.1850): that of Merthyr Tydfil was founded in 1848, the synagogue being built five years after: that of North Shields had fourteen members in 1851: and that of West Hartlepool was in being in 1852 (according to a document in my own possession). The Census of 1851 provides us with details of congregations also in a few other places, including Tynemouth (i.e. North Shields?) (24 attendants: founded in 1846) and Dudley (10 attendants: founded in 1848).(i) Services are said to have been held in Bradford in the eighteen-thirties, but the community was organised only some forty years later.

Note (the Earliest Communities)

(i) For a list--not quite complete--of English synagogues in 1853, reference may be made to the Jewish Chronicle of that year, page 394: there are less systematic details in the issue of July 23rd, 1847.

iv: Conclusions

It remains only to sum up the conclusions of this antiquarian investigation and to place them in their historical setting. My researches lead me to conclude that the Jewish settlement in London began to spread out into the surrounding countryside, where some of the well-to-do purchased summer residences, before the end of the seventeenth century and in the first quarter of the eighteenth. In the second quarter, itinerant merchants from the capital (mainly Ashkenazim) began to perambulate the countryside, some of them settling as watchmakers and silversmiths in the more important market-towns and sea-ports, where they were reinforced by others who came direct from the Continent. No communities appear to have been organised until after 1740, but in the next twenty-five years they make their appearance in Bristol (before 1753), Canterbury (before 1760), Exeter (before 1763), King's Lynn (1747), Liverpool (1750), Plymouth (1752), Portsmouth (1742), and probably also at Birmingham (?1730), Falmouth (?1740), Ipswich (?1741), Norwich, Penzance (?1740), and Sunderland (?1768). Before the end of the century, these are followed by Bath (c. 1800), Brighton (c. 1800), Cambridge (c. 1774), Coventry (c. 1800), Dover (c. 1770), Gloucester (before 1784), Swansea (c, 1780), Manchester (c. 1780), Sheerness (1790). Another fifteen or so are added to the list by the close of the Hanoverian era. Of these old provincial communities, something like one-half no longer exist.(i) In the second half of the nineteenth century the Jews tended to abandon the smaller centres of population, succumbing more and more to the fatal attraction of a handful of large cities--the universal phenomenon of the age throughout the Jewish world.

My treatment in the following pages has been uneven. When a good deal has been written about the history of a community and it is readily accessible, I have been content to recapitulate what is already known. Important congregations which are flourishing today I have gladly left to the enthusiasm of hypothetical local historians. On the other hand, I have devoted considerable space to those of which all trace is now lost, carrying the story down in some cases to the period of their final decay. But my principal interest is in the eighteenth century, and it is the Urgeschichte rather than the Geschichte of the Jewish communities of the provinces that I am attempting to provide.

To the names of isolated provincial Jews of the eighteenth century given in the foregoing pages may be added the Sampson family of Bury St. Edmunds, members of which, born there in 1789-1800, subsequently lived in Charleston, S.C., where a large number of English Jews apparently settled after the Napoleonic Wars; see B. A. Elzas, The Old Jewish Cemeteries of Charleston (1903).

Note (Conclusions)

(i) From Dr. V. D. Lipman's inspection of the originals of the census returns of 1851, it is dear that the 'synagogues' at Bury, Lutterworth and Haslingdon (and one of those at Leeds) were in fact places of worship of a non-Jewish (though perhaps Judaising) sect who called themselves 'Israelites.' It may be added at this point that there does not seem to be any historicity in the local legend regarding the former synagogue in Sansome Street, Worcester, though a few Jews resided in the city.


Top of page

Next Section (Section 1)


"The Rise of Provincial Jewry" Table of Contents

Susser Archive Table of Contents

Susser Archives Home Page

 

 
 


About JCR-UK   |   JCR-UK home page  |   Contact JCR-UK Webmaster

JGSGB  JewishGen



Terms and Conditions, Licenses and Restrictions for the use of this website:

This website is owned by JewishGen and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. All material found herein is owned by or licensed to us. You may view, download, and print material from this site only for your own personal use. You may not post material from this site on another website without our consent. You may not transmit or distribute material from this website to others. You may not use this website or information found at this site for any commercial purpose.


Copyright © 2002 - 2014 JCR-UK. All Rights Reserved