The Jews of South-West England
Thesis by Rabbi Bernard Susser
The Occupation of Jews in the South-West of England
Throughout Europe in the medieval period, Jews were in most cases rigorously excluded from ordinary trade and crafts. Money lending, old clothes dealing, and peddling were the only callings generally permitted to Jews in Europe down to the period of the French Revolution. [C. Roth, The Jewish Contribution to Civilization (New York, 1940), p. 33.] In England, from the resettlement in 1656, policy was particularly liberal and apart from restrictions on retail trade imposed on Jews within the boundaries of the City of London until 1831, there were few limitations on the trades or callings open to them. [Roth, 'Jews in England', p. 254.]
In the second half of the eighteenth century, well-to-do Jews in London, where the bulk of the Jewish population was to be found, engaged in wholesale commerce, brokerage, stock jobbing, and trade in precious stones. Then came a middle class of shopkeepers, silversmiths, and watchmakers. Lower down the social scale were the artisans - pencil-makers, tailors, hatters, and a sprinkling of artists. New immigrants who had difficulty in establishing themselves and were less fortunately placed than the resident Jews, earned their keep by the two activities which required little capital or training - trading in old clothes and peddling. [Roth, 'Jews in England', pp. 228, 290. For a general discussion of Jewish occupations in England see Roth, 'Jews in England', pp. 227-231; Gartner, Jewish Immigrant, pp. 57-99; V. D. Lipman, 'Trends in Anglo-Jewish occupations', Jewish Journal of Sociology, II (1960).] Jews living in the South-West of England engaged themselves in a similar occupational pattern, as will now be described in detail.
Two literary sources clearly indicate that the first Jews to settle in Devon in the early 1730's and in Cornwall about 1760 were, in the main, pedlars. The first was the polemic published by Joseph Ottolenghe in which he mentions Jewish pedlars staying at an Exeter inn about 1733 in sufficient numbers to provide him with at least a partial living as a kosher slaughterer. [Ottolenghe, An Answer, pp. 5, 17. See also supra, p. 49.] The second source is a family history compiled by Israel Solomon in which he recorded a family tradition that about 1760 his ancestor Alexander Moses of Falmouth subsidized young Jews with money and goods thus enabling them to peddle around the neighbourhood of Falmouth, provided that they returned at the end of the week in time to form a quorum for the Sabbath services. [Solomon, Records, pp. 5-7. See also supra, p. 52.]
From both these accounts it is evident that besides the Jewish hawkers in Exeter in the 1730's and Falmouth in the 1760's there was in each of these towns at least one Jew with sufficient capital to open a shop. Indeed, Cecil Roth has suggested that the first Jew to settle in many a country town or village throughout England was a comparatively well-to-do merchant, [Roth, Provincial Jewry, p. 22.] and it is indeed reasonable to assume that the presence of such a man attracted Jewish pedlars to the neighbourhood as they could anticipate credit and help from their well-off co-religionist. [See supra, p. 31.]
The earliest written record of Jews settled in Plymouth is of a land transaction carried out by Sarah, wife of Joseph Jacob Sherrenbeck, in 1744, indicating the presence of at least one comparatively wealthy family. [Ply. Syn. Cat. 3,6.] His co-founders of the Plymouth Congregation numbered at least one shopkeeper among them, a Joseph Cohen who became bankrupt in 1749. [Gent. Mag. September 1749, p. 430.]
There are slight pointers from time to time in the second half of the eighteenth century which indicate the presence of a growing class of Jewish shopkeepers in the South-West. The bankruptcies, for example, of Sampson Cohen of Dartmouth in 1764, Gompart Michael Emdin and Isaiah Samuel of Plymouth in 1765 and 1768, [Gent. Mag. October 1764, p. 499; December 1765, p. 525; December 1768, p. 591.] suggest that there were a number of Jewish shopkeepers. In Exeter, from about 1740, one of the founders of the Congregation was Abraham Ezekiel, variously described as a silversmith, [Ex. Pocket Journal, 1791.] engraver in general, optician, goldsmith and print-seller; [His trade card is preserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.] and 'for fifty years and upwards a respectable tradesman of Exeter'. [Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury, 2 December 1799.] By 1796, five Jews had shops in the fashionable shopping area of Exeter sufficiently well established as to warrant inclusion in the Exeter Pocket Journal. [Ex. Pocket Journal, 1796. There were two silversmiths, an engraver who sold a variety of goods, a pawnbroker, and a stationer.] There is also some evidence that in Cornwall by the 1780's, sales of watches and clocks by Jews had made serious inroads into sales by their Gentile competitors. This is the inference to be drawn from an advertisement by the watchmakers and goldsmiths of Cornwall in 1783 that 'for very substantial reasons' they had resolved not to repair watches bought of Jews. [Sherborne Mercury and Western Flying Post, 31 March 1783.] Apart from this isolated affair no other evidence of any organized opposition by Gentile traders against Jewish competitors in the South-West, nor any widely based criticism of sharp practices or unfair trading methods has been noted. [However, the verb 'to jew' had the connotation, from 1845, of 'to cheat or overreach' (Oxford English Dictionary). For the boycott of Jewish traders at Limerick in 1904, and attacks on Jewish miners at Dowlais see C. H. Emanuel, A century and a Half of Jewish History (1910), pp. 160, 161. There were also anti-Jewish riots in South Wales in 1911 when troops were called out by Sir Winston Churchill, the then Home Secretary (C. Roth, 'The Anglo-Jewish Community in the context of World Jewry', Jewish Life in Modern Britain, eds. J. Gould, S. Esh (1964), p. 99.]
On the contrary, there is reason to assume that in the eighteenth century there were friendly relations between the Jews and their Gentile neighbours in the South-West, as A. Arnold has noted at least four Jewish lads who were apprenticed between 1762 and 1769 to masters not of their faith. [A. Arnold, 'Apprentices of Great Britain, 1710-73', MJHSE, VII (1970), pp. 145-57. Arnold lists 23 apprentices in the South-West with Jewish sounding names, but only these four, and a fifth apprenticed to a Jewish master, can be positively identified as Jews. The references which follow are those given in Arnold's article.] They were:
Another Jewish apprentice in the South-West at this period was Judah Lyon who was apprenticed in 1772 for 42 to Solomon Nathan of Plymouth, jeweller and engraver, the only recognized Jewish master in the South-West whose apprentice was duly registered. [50/68/1772. Nathan (Lipman, 'Aliens List', 44) was born in 1740 in Germany, and came to Plymouth soon after landing in 1756.] Other apprentices in the eighteenth century who may have been Jewish were Benjamin Gubby, [15/173/1738. His name suggests that he was a Sephardi.] apprenticed in 1738 to a barber in Tiverton for six guineas; two apprentices called Nathan Harris, one apprenticed in 1737 to a clockmaker in Crediton, [15/68/1737.] and the other to a Liskeard gunsmith in 1762; [54/212/1762.] Abraham Abrahams, apprenticed in 1764 to a Plymouth watchmaker, [55/31/1764. He might be the grandfather of Abraham Abrahams, watchmaker of Morley Place, Plymouth, who was born in 1794.] and Isaac Abrahams, apprenticed in 1768 to a Plymouth tailor; [56/189/1768.] Reuben Phillips apprenticed in 1761 to an Exeter druggist for 80; [54/83/1761.] and the only girl, Rebecca Phillips, who was apprenticed to a Crediton mantelier (i.e. a mantle maker) for ten guineas. [54/82/1761.] It is unlikely that any of the other ten Devon and Cornish apprentices listed by Arnold were Jewish, and the only evidence of apprentice Jews in the South-West in the eighteenth century which has come to light is that which has been published by Arnold.
A further indication of the amicable relationship which apparently prevailed is the employment by Jewish shopkeepers and tradesmen of non-Jews as pupils and assistants. After the death of E. A. Ezekiel of Exeter in 1806, for example,
James Rickard, Engraver, pupil to the late Mr Ezekiel of this city ... informs the public ... that he intends carrying on the above business .... [Trew. Flying Post, 18 December 1806.]
C. Frost, senior pupil of the late E. A. Ezekiel ... solicits the patronage .... [Ibid.]
It looks as though Ezekiel himself was the pupil of one J. Woodman, because he advertised in somewhat similar terms on the death of Woodman in 1784. [Trew. Flying Post, 5 February 1784.] About 1767, Abraham Joseph of Plymouth engaged a journeyman [Journeyman describes him well. He was born in Dieppe about 1728. He was conscripted in 1747 and served in the French Army. He then worked in Vienna, Berlin, Wesel, Cologne, Nimegen, The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Briel, and Helvoetsluis. He came to London in 1758, and worked in Swansea, Ilfracombe, Drogheda, Dublin, Newry, Fishguard, Pembroke, Swansea again, and then for a year in Plymouth and then, in 1768 or 1769, Redruth.] watchmaker called James Dawson for one year for £18, with 'heat, drink, washing, and lodging, and shaving twice a week'. [Pet. 24 at the Royal Institution of Cornwall.] From Joseph he went on to Moses Jacob of Redruth on a two year contract 'at the wages of sixteen shillings for every five days in each week, excepting Jewish festivals and holidays'. [Ibid. This working week was not onerous, even for those days (see E. P. Thompson, The making of the English working class (Gollancz, 1963), p. 357, quoted in J. G. Rule, 'Some social aspects of the Cornish industrial revolution', Industry and Society in the South-West (Exeter, 1970), p. 71.]
The names of two Jewish artisans who were active in Plymouth at this period have come to light. A list of the members of the Plymouth Congregation who donated to a War Levy in 1779 includes the names of Abraham ben Solomon and Solomon Ze'ev ben Meir KÚ who are respectively described as a carpenter and an embroiderer in gold. [PHC Min. Bk. I, p. 23. There is, however, a possibility that the descriptions 'carpentria' and 'goldshtikker' appended to these names are surnames.]
In the eighteenth century, too, and especially towards its latter part, some of the more assimilated Jews in the South-West engaged in artistic and learned occupations. There was, for example, an Isaac Polack, described in 1760 on his marriage in Cornwall to Mary Stoughton, widow, as 'a Jewish Priest', [St. Glewias Parish Registers, 15 February 1760.] who was an interpreter and translator of commercial and legal documents. He lived at Penryn and advertised in 1776 as follows:
Among the artistically inclined and successful of the Jews in the South-West in the eighteenth century were the three Daniell brothers, one of whom, Abraham, was largely based in Plymouth, as well as Samuel Hart, also of Plymouth, and E. A. Ezekiel of Exeter, all of whom, together with other Jewish artists of the South-West, will be discussed in detail in a later chapter.
It is only at the very end of the eighteenth century that it is possible to draw an overall picture of the occupations followed by Jews in Plymouth. This can be done in the first place from the pages of the Universal British Directory published in 1798 which list 12 men and one woman who, to judge by their names at least, were Jewish, as well as a further 5 men with Jewish-sounding names who have not otherwise been identified. The woman, a Sarah Abrahams, is listed simply as a shopkeeper. Abraham Daniell, the miniaturist, is listed. So are Henry Hart, Aaron Aaron, Solomon Isaac and Joseph Joseph who are all listed as silversmiths. Benjamin Levi, optician, and Samuel Cohin together with Emanuel Hart, watchmakers, were probably skilled workmen, as no doubt in his own fashion was Levi Levi, the umbrella maker. Surprisingly, perhaps, only one Jew, Abraham Emanuel, is listed in Plymouth-Dock, and he was a jeweller and silversmith. Jews are listed in the Directory in two more South-West towns. In Barnstaple were Abraham Ralph, described as a silversmith and dealer in wearing apparel and his son, Leape Ralph who was listed as a pawnbroker and engraver. Father and son probably had very similar establishments. In Falmouth, the two Jews who were listed, Alexander Moses and Benjamin Woolf, could probably have described their businesses in much the same terms, though they were simply described as pawnbrokers.
The occupations listed in the Universal British Directory can be supplemented by a register of 58 aliens compiled in 1798 and revised in 1803 which has survived in the records of the Plymouth Congregation. [Lipman, 'Aliens List', see supra, p. 54.] Naturally, the Directory does not list pedlars or the poorer type of trader; nonetheless, using the two sources it is possible to make some observations about the overall occupational structure.
Of the occupations given in the Aliens List, at the top of the economic tree were probably the specialist craftsmen and retail traders in the precious metal, jewellery, watchmaking, and optical trades, of which there were 24 representatives. [Lipman, 'Aliens List', nos. 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 30, 31, 34, 35, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 50, 51, 56, 57; and in the Universal British Directory, Aaron Aaron, Samuel Cohin, Emanuel Hart, and Joseph Joseph who were probably all born in England.] Then came 4 shopkeepers, a hardware dealer and a dealer in pens. [Lipman, 'Aliens List', nos. 36, 49, 52, 55, 37, 27.] Among the skilled artisans were a boxmaker, a pen-cutter, three hatters, three umbrella makers and a tailor. [Lipman, 'Aliens List', nos. 32, 47, 6, 10, 11, 53, and in the Universal British Directory, Abraham Jacobs, Levi Levi, and Abel Alexander.] Next, and possibly lower in the social scale, were 13 men described as dealers and chapmen or as dealers in old clothes, [Lipman, 'Aliens List', 1, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 29, 40, 48, 54.] and then, at the bottom of the ladder, three hawkers or pedlars. [Ibid. 2, 3, 19.] Finally, there were two synagogal officials and a tutor. [Ibid. 16, 33, 28.]
It is now opportune to consider the way of life of the Jewish pedlars in England, with particular reference to the South-West, in the eighteenth century and in the nineteenth, at least until the spread of the railway system.
How did the immigrant Jew without family or friends and who arrived with little or no capital get started? According to an account published early in the nineteenth century, he merely entered a synagogue, made his needs known to the worshippers who then made a quick collection for him and within a day or two of landing would direct him to the provinces with a peddling tray suspended from his neck filled with two or three pounds' worth of stock with which to start trading. [Clegg, Shemoel Hirsch, p. 24.]
New immigrants presumably dispensed with the Hawkers' and Pedlars' Licences, annual cost £4 for the hawker and a further £4 for each of his horses, which were required from 1790 onwards, and kept well out of the way of local constables. [Mayhew, London Labour, I, 338.] The acquisition of a licence was probably a great occasion in a pedlar's life and at least one Jew from Exeter preserved his licence for posterity. [He was Samuel Joyful Lazarus and his licence was issued at Falmouth, 31 July 1843 and is preserved at the Jewish Museum, London.] The process of becoming a pedlar as well as the trials and tribulations of the life has been well described in a biography of one Samuel Harris who arrived in England when he was 14 years old. [Clegg, Shemoel Hirsch, p. 22.] Being fitted out with a pedlar's tray and a small stock of goods by the worshippers in a London synagogue, he spent a week trying his luck in London but without success, so off he went to Birmingham. [Clegg, Shemoel Hirsch, p. 24.] He peddled his goods whilst en route and when he arrived there three weeks later he had made fifteen shillings over and above his expenses. [Ibid. p. 28.] He remained in the vicinity of Birmingham for a few months and did so well that the local Jews said to him, 'You'll drive your own carriage, yet'. But he went to Bristol, and there did so badly that he became as poor as ever. Moreover, he fell ill, was removed to hospital, and survived only through the charity of the Bristol Congregation. [Ibid. p. 30.] Stocked out by that Congregation he made for Bridgewater, passed through Taunton and came to Exeter.
Here I received seven shillings from the Jewish Poor Strangers Fund and a number of donations from Jews who reside in the town, and was able to lay in a nice stock of hardware and again do business, and as I was travelling in Devonshire and Cornwall, the Jews so kindly assisted, that I was soon raised higher than before my illness at Bristol. [Ibid. p. 35.]
Apparently he travelled in the South-West during 1821 and 1822, as his name figures in the Plymouth Congregation's accounts for an offering of 1/8d. he made when he was called to the Torah in November 1821. [PHC A/c 1821, pericope Hayyei Sarah.] In 1822, he returned to Birmingham 'in prosperity', went to Newcastle fair in 1823 and was there robbed by a fellow Jew of all he possessed, so that 'in the twinkling of an eye I was reduced from a gentleman to a beggar'. [Clegg, Shemoel Hirsch, p. 38.]
Once again the local Jews fitted him out and within a few months when he arrived in Manchester he could boast that he possessed stock worth £25 and several pounds in cash. [Ibid. p. 45.] Again illness laid him low, and after a few weeks of sickness was down to his last threepence. [Ibid. p. 48.] The stuffing seems to have been knocked out of him by this time, and although the local Jews collected thirty shillings for him to start him off once again, he turned to a Methodist and asked if he could get a situation in a Christian house. [Ibid. p. 55.] Eventually he was baptized, apprenticed to a watch movement maker, then to a hairdresser, and finally became a house servant. [Ibid. p. 63. Few Jews appear to have become servants, and if they did then they served fellow Jews. Moses Isaac was servant to Mordecai Abraham of Plymouth in 1773, and robbed him (Trew. Flying Post 24 December 1773); Rebecca Israel was a domestic servant in the Exeter home of Rebecca and Henry Rothschild and their six children (Census Exeter 1861).] At this stage he disappears from sight.
It may here be added that besides vicissitudes of the type described by Shemoel Hirsch, there were dangers of a more violent description lurking for pedlars on the lonely roads. An eighteenth-century German writer travelling in England informed his readers that all foot travellers were liable to be treated with disdain. [C. P. Moritz, Journeys of a German in England in 1782 (1965), passim.] Reference has already been made to a Jew driven to suicide after some outrage committed against him near Herland Cross in Cornwall in the mid-seventeenth century. [Supra, p. 47.] Then there was the murder of one 'Little Isaac' by a militia man, Edward Jackson, in a wood near Plymstock, Devon, in 1760. According to the report in the Gentleman's Magazine, [Gent. Mag. 1760, p. 43.] Jackson and Little Isaac met and had a pint of beer together. They then walked together for about two miles, and when they entered a wood and the Jew sat down to rest himself, Jackson struck him on the head with a cudgel. The murderer stole Isaac's watch and took some articles out of his pedlar's box. Unfortunately for him, he offered these articles for sale to a Plymouth Jew, Mr Sherrenbeck, [The Gentleman's Magazine gives his name as Sherrenbeare.] who asked him how he had come by the goods. Eventually Jackson confessed and was hung for the murder. Commemorating this sad event, the hill from Hooe Manor to Staddon Heights by Radford Woods is still known as Murder Hill, and the woods were renamed Jew's Woods. [Whitfeld, Plymouth and Devonport in Peace and War, p. 280. This murder whose motive was robbery is to be distinguished from incidents of anti-Semitic hooliganism then current. At Monmouth Assizes in 1769, for example, one Prosser was convicted for tying up a Jew in front of a large fire and stuffing hot bacon down his throat (Annual Register, 1769, p. 92). Following an incident in 1776 when a Jew was assaulted and his chin greased with pork the The Gentleman's Magazine criticized 'a pleasantry that was becoming frequent' (Gent. Mag. 1776, p. 189).] At the Exeter Assizes in 1768, a W. Killard was capitally convicted for 'robbing and barbarously using a Jew, between Newton-Bushel [The present Newton Abbott.] and Totnes. [Trew. Flying Post, 4 December 1767, 25 March 1768.] In the Red Lion Inn, Upshay, 'say the old people, on the oral testimony of their grandsires [i.e. c.1780 - 1810], a Jew pedlar was murdered, and on that account the inn was shunned and at last pulled down.' [G. R. Pullman, The Book of the Axe (1875), p. 587. The late Mr B. Emdon drew my attention to this reference. Up(s)hay is a parish of Axminster.]
In spite of the dangers on the road some wives of pedlars accompanied their husbands, and the peddling Jewess was apparently not uncommon, at least in Devon. In the Tavistock Subscription Library there are two dolls which represent a late eighteenth-century Jewish pedlar couple, each with his and her own typical dress and pedlar's tray, whilst at a Grand Ball in Exeter in 1814 amongst the various 'characters' was 'a Jew pedlar and his wife'. [Trew. Flying Post, 28 December 1814.] By the very nature of their occupation pedlars leave few permanent records of themselves; and in particular it is hard to consider to what degree they were materially successful. Very likely some made good whilst others did not. But it is significant that the three men listed as hawkers or pedlars in the list of Jewish aliens who were in Plymouth, 1798-1803, [Lipman, 'Aliens List', 2, 3, 19.] do not appear in any other record of the Plymouth or other South-West Congregations. [One of them was an Alexander Sunder. It is tempting to identify him with Sender Alexander, tailor in Cambridge St., Plymouth in 1841, though Sender was apparently born in Devon (Census 1841) whereas Sunder was an alien.] This would seem to indicate that these three, at least, were unsuccessful, or did not settle in the South-West. [Of the forty-six Jewish hawkers and pedlars in Manchester on Census Night, 1841, only six settled in that town (Williams, Manchester Jewry, p. 119).] Similarly, no record has come to light of Jacob Israel [Other than a nine year-old namesake who, according to the 1851 Census, was the son of Aaron Israel, Jeweller, 8 Synagogue Place, Exeter.] who gave his address as Mary Arches, Exeter (which is perhaps the synagogue) other than his application for a Pedlar's Certificate in 1873. [Uncatalogued papers at Devon Record Office. I am indebted to Mr Frank Gent, Crediton, for this information.]
Despite the failures, some pedlars did very well for themselves in a comparatively short time, particularly before the railways spread over the face of the land. Mayhew instances the case of a young man, not a Jew, who accumulated five pounds, bought Birmingham jewellery, became a foot pedlar, then bought a wagon, and was worth £500 by the time he was interviewed; [Mayhew, London Labour, I, 338.] whilst an ex-convict peddling in Australia in 1854, turned £7 into £140 within twelve months. [J. F. Mortlock, Experiences of a Convict, ed. G. A. Wilkes and A. G. Mitchell (Sydney, 1965), p. 129.] It may be supposed, for clear evidence is lacking, that some nineteenth-century Jewish pedlars in the South-West were prosperous. Samuel Joyful Lazarus appears on the books of the Exeter Congregation for the first time in 1818 when he paid £2. 15. 6d. [EHC A/c. 1818.] He took out a hawker's licence in 1843 [See infra, p. 163.] married in 1846. [EHC Marriage Register, 15.] and appears as a householder in Paragon Place on the Voter's Register for Members of Parliament in 1849. Aaron Aarons was granted a pedlar's certificate in 1873, [Uncatalogued papers at Devon Record Office. I am indebted to Mr Frank Gent, Crediton, for this information.] but when he married in 1867 he was described as a jeweller. [EHC Marriage Register, 27.] Another Jew in the South-West who rose from the lowly state of a pedlar to become a wealthy man was Lyon Joseph of Falmouth (1774-1825), though he subsequently lost most of his fortune in a series of disastrous trading ventures. [Wm. Schonfield, 'The Josephs of Cornwall', pp. 11-13; see infra. p. 163.]
Turning now to the Jewish shopkeepers in the South-West of England in the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries, it is possible to give some idea, at least, of their trading activities by reference to their stock in trade. Reference has already been made to the advertisement of Gompart Michael Emdin who styled himself in 1761 as a Goldsmith and Jeweller ... where a great variety of all sorts of silver plate, jewels, trinkets, and all sorts of watches, and haberdashery, wares, may be had as cheap as in London. [Western Flying Post, 2 March 1761.]
E. A. Ezekiel of Exeter published a trade card in 1796 by which he informed the public that besides being an engraver and optician he was a goldsmith and printseller, and sold spectacles, telescopes, quadrants, cutlery, plate, gold seals, watches, prints and materials for drawing. [The original is at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.] In 1800, he respectfully informs the public, and particularly the Gentry who may visit this City at the ensuing Assizes, that he has just fitted up a large selection of Optics, viz. Spectacles mounted in silver, tortoiseshell and steel...reading glasses, Claude Lorraines, opera glasses, acromatic telescopes, magic lanterns, microscopes...wheel and pedement barometers and thermometers...for the hot-house or brewery. [Trew. Flying Post, 13 March 1800, records a barometer made by him. For a similar advertisement by Joseph Abrahams, see Trew. Flying Post, 17 January 1799.]
Some idea of the varied nature of the trade carried on by Gershon Levy of Guernsey and Exeter is given by the articles he bought in 1803 at a prize auction. They included 3 black feathers, 7 neck handkerchiefs, 25 caps for 27/-d.; silk thread and national sash for 19/-d.; 29 pieces Nankeen at 5/-d. per piece; 6 men's coats for £3. 3. 0d.; 8,408 lbs. of coffee for £421. 10. 0d. [P.R.O. H.C.A. 2/235.]
The Jews' shops were apparently so well stocked that they became proverbial; the very term Jew's shop conjuring up visions of a sort of Aladdin's Cave. In a work published in the mid-nineteenth century, a miner, on breaking a crystalline mass of quartz and pyrites, declared in awe that 'he thought he was in heaven. It was so beautiful, he could compare it to nothing else than a Jew's shop'. [J. R. Leifchild, Cornwall: Its Mines and Miners (1862), p. 287.]
By the first quarter of the nineteenth century there was a well established body of Jewish shopkeepers in the main towns of the South-West ranging from the genteel jewellery shops to the coarser old-clothes shops and suppliers to ships' crews. From the second half of the eighteenth century when the British Fleet of 228 warships was manned by some 35,000 seamen and marines, the Jewish jewellers, clothesmen and petty traders of the maritime centres realized the trading opportunities. As a Naval historian has pointed out, 'why should they peddle their wares about the country when a more or less captive customer was to be found in the men-of-war lying at Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham and Sheerness?' [G. Green, 'Anglo-Jewish trading connections with officers and seamen of the Royal Navy, 1740-1820', TJHSE, XXIX (1988), 97 (afterwards quoted as Green, 'Royal Navy'). The following account is very largely based on this paper.] For the most part, at least until after the mutinies of 1797, the lower ranks, particularly pressed men, were not allowed to go ashore when a ship docked, for fear lest they desert. So traders were allowed to go on board, and even encouraged to do so as, until 1813, they were exempted from the £4 licence fee for hawkers and peddlers. They brought with them the goods which the simple seamen longed for - 'old watches and seals, watch chains, rings, fancy shoes, scarlet and blue silk handkerchiefs, clay pipes and fresh food of every description'. The seamen were paid six months in arrears, the lowest paid received sixteen shillings a month, whilst an able-seaman had twenty-four shillings. Seamen who remained on board were paid in cash, but until 1792 those who were paid off received a wage ticket which was only encashable at the Navy Pay Office in London. This was an enormous inconvenience. The traders therefore performed a dual function. They provided the seamen with cash by buying up the wage tickets at a discount, and at the same time they supplied the goods which the seamen wanted. There were complaints that some traders, Jews and non-Jews alike, sold faulty goods at inflated prices and cashed the wage tickets at excessive discounts. An honest trader with good references was, no doubt, welcomed. The letter which Joseph Joseph (c.1766-1846) brought with him amounted to a royal command, if the signature is correctly deciphered:
Twenty years later, Joseph Joseph was still interested in supplying ships and obtained a recommendation from the Flag Officer at Devonport:
The Joseph family were not the only ones to enjoy illustrious patronage. Phineas Johnson of Exeter and Plymouth prevailed on the London Jewish magnate Abraham Goldsmid to secure an introduction from Lord Nelson in the following terms:
The bearer Mr Phineas Johnson being recommended to me by Mr Abm Goldsmid as a very honest man for transacting business for seamen - You'll please to allow him on board Ivy at Plymouth Dock. Lord Nelson will feel much obliged to any Captain who may be pleased to show attention to the recommendation of Lord Nelson's friend and neighbour Mr Goldsmid.
Merton Sept. 12th 1805. [Catalogue of Anglo-Jewish Art and History, item 433.]
Moreover, they were now reaping the fruits of a reputation for industry and honesty. As early as 1794, the local press paid tribute in an obituary of him to the business ethics of Abraham Joseph I:
He was one of the people called Jews, but the actions of his whole life would have done honour to any persuasion. He amassed a considerable fortune by very fair and honest means. [Trew. Flying Post, 27 November 1794. For a similar encomium in the Liverpool Mercury, 7 October 1825, about a prominent Liverpool Jew, Samuel Yates, see Kokosalakis, Ethnic Identity, p. 64.]
Conditions in the Royal Navy in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were hard for the officers and harsh for the men. The ever present hope of prize money made a cruel service bearable. In Plymouth, between 1793 and 1801 nearly 1,000 captures were sold off. [Green, 'Royal Navy', p. 101.] After the battle of Trafalgar each seaman received £6. 10s., not a great sum in itself, but it did represent eight month's wages. The capture of a West India merchantman could earn a boatswain enough to buy a cottage and some land, whilst the captain could receive enough to buy an estate and set himself up for life. But the mere capture of an enemy prize or the seizure of contraband in a neutral ship did not of itself put money into the pocket of the sailor. The prize had to be dealt with in port, lawyers appointed, evidence and witnesses secured for the hearing in the Prize Court. There might be appeals and further litigation. If the capture was 'condemned', then ship and cargo had to be sold at auction, expenses paid, and five per cent of the net sum available for distribution sent to Greenwich Hospital. It might be years before any money was distributed. In the meantime, ship's crews could be broken up, men killed in action or died of disease, or dismissed after loss of limb or injury. Officers had their Prize Agents who looked after their interests, becoming in effect their bankers. The seamen, however, were forced to turn for assistance to the tradesmen of the naval towns who were the link between themselves and the naval authorities. At first, the system was unofficial and based on mutual trust. Abraham Joseph I certainly earned that trust, as his obituary in the local press indicates:
As an agent for seamen, his practice was well worthy of the imitation of every person in that business, as several orphans and indigent widows can testify. [Trew. Flying Post, 27 November 1794.]
In the course of time, however, it became clear that many seamen were being cheated by unscrupulous slopsellers, and especially by publicans and brothel keepers. Legislation was enacted in 1809 which required all lower deck seamen to be registered with a licensed navy agent who was to protect their interest. To obtain a licence, a Navy Agent had to post a bond with two sureties, under penalty of £200. [Bail bonds for navy agents which gave full name, domicile, and profession of all agents, and similar details of two bondsmen were preserved at the P.R.O. (H.C.A. 30, Miscellanea), but were destroyed before the author could see them. Some of the agents were men of high social standing, e.g. Lt Col Tucker, secretary to the Admiralty; and all had to swear that they were worth more than £5,000 (H.C.A. 30/14, 15).] The first list of 174 Licensed Navy Agents for the whole country in 1809 includes some 66 Jews. [Green, 'Royal Navy', p. 115, n. 33.] The rapid proliferation of Jewish naval agents is itself an indication of the esteem in which Jewish traders were held. Between 1807 and 1814, whilst the number of navy agents in England as a whole increased sevenfold, the number of Jewish agents increased thirtyfold, as Table 25 indicates.
Table 23: Jewish and Gentile Navy Agents, 1791-1818
(Source: Annual Register; Steel's List; Green, 'Royal Navy', p. 133.)
In Devon and Cornwall a large number of Jewish navy agents applied for licences and were appointed between 1812 and 1814, and although the number gradually declined together with the volume of business after the Napoleonic wars, [There are 32 Jewish and 21 non-Jewish navy agents in Devon and Cornwall listed in John Murray's Navy List, 1819, and only 7 Jews in 1825.] the very number indicates a considerable degree of mutual trust. [This trust was not always repaid by the sailors. An E. Moss of Chatham (probably Elias Moss, of Portsmouth and later of Plymouth) advanced £100 to a boatswain, and wanted to receive the sailor's wages direct from the Admiralty. The man, however, had deserted his ship, got no pay, and Moss lost his money (P.R.O. Adm. I, 4440/243).]
Naval agents could do well from their agencies. According to Green, 'Just one London Prize Agent between 1806 and 1814 paid £4,225 to six Plymouth-based Jewish Navy Agents'. [Green, 'Royal Navy', p. 107.] Joseph Joseph of the Barbican, Plymouth, received £2,258 on behalf of seamen over a period of nine years from just one London Prize Agent, whilst Samuel Hart of 33 Market Street, Plymouth, received £826 from the same source. [Ibid. p. 110.]
As the Jewish traders increased their standing in the Gentile world it is not surprising that the most able of them received patronage from high places. The first of them in the South-West was Abraham Joseph I (1731-1794) whose trade card proudly proclaimed that he was a 'slopman [Slops were ready made clothing and other furnishings supplied to seamen from the ship's stores; hence ready made, cheap, or inferior garments generally.] to His Royal Highness Prince William Henry'. [The original was in the possession of the late W. Jessop, Chicago.]
Not all the Jewish traders were so well recommended and respectable - some sailed close to the wind, particularly when incomes dropped after the Napoleonic wars and yet prize money had to be paid out. Jonas Jonas of James Street, Plymouth Dock, and a Naval Agent for just seven months, had his licence revoked when he was committed to Exeter Gaol on suspicion of forging an order in the name of Thomas Warren of HMS Lightening, thereby receiving £31. 15s. 2d. from Greenwich Hospital. [Green, 'Royal Navy', p. 123.] One man seems to have escaped a serious charge largely because of his lawyer, as the gossipy beadle of the Plymouth Congregation recorded in his account book:
Some licences were revoked. Asher Nathan of 30 George Street, Plymouth lost his licence in 1812 for not giving notice of change of abode in order to evade just claims of seamen; Samuel Hart lost his on 20 January 1817 for not paying out prize money of £2. 6s. 6d. but it was subsequently reinstated; Sampson Levy's was revoked on 15 January 1819 for not accounting to the widow of Joseph Hodgman, late of HMS Triton, for not paying prize money, and for moving to Liverpool without informing the Navy Pay Office; Lyonell Nathan's was revoked in July 1819 for not accounting to John Johnson, late of HMS Spider, but it was restored the following month as he was judged to have acted more from unintentional neglect than from a dereliction of his duty. [Green, 'Royal Navy', pp. 123-125.]
Some Jewish traders in England sold cheap and shoddy goods and there is no reason to suppose that the Jews in the South-West did not also do so. [Martin Valentine 'one of the "Cheap John" fraternity' died at an inn at Camelford, June 1844 (H. E. Douch, Old Cornish Inns (Truro, 1966), p. 43. The Jew pedlar's retort to a dissatisfied customer whose razor did not shave is a classic: 'You gave but the price of the handle - I made you a present of the blade' (Universal Songster (1825), I, 108).] The Universal Songster, for example, records a couplet which was commonly sung at the time:
So sure as I'm a smouch [= Jew, by rhyming slang, perhaps from the Dutch smouse = news [brought by itinerant] Jews.] and my name is Mordecai I cheated all the world. [The Universal Songster, I, 262.]
But the book also quotes ballads which declare:
A Jewish shopkeeper in Exeter seems to have taken advantage of, or was imposed upon by, an extremely eccentric customer. He was Solomon Levy, a 'jeweller, carrying on business in a large way', who, in 1827, claimed some £463 for goods sold and £200 for cash advanced on a dishonoured check. [Trew. Flying Post, 16 August 1827. The Special Jury sitting with the Lord Chief Justice found that Levy had known that the customer was insane when he dealt with him.]
Jewish traders were at risk from their own co-religionist servants. In 1773 Mordecai Abraham advertised:
Shopkeepers selling second hand goods are particularly likely to be offered stolen goods and may easily succumb to buying them. Even in the medieval period Jews were forbidden to take as pledges bloodstained clothes (which might have been acquired as the outcome of violent robbery), [Roth, Jews in England, p. 105.] and it does seem as though in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries some Jews in England were prominently engaged with stolen goods. For at this period a thieves' captain was known as 'the Aaron'; and an 'Ikey Mo' or just 'an Ikey' was the cant term for a receiver of stolen goods. [Partridge, Dictionary of Slang, s.v. AARON, IKEY MO. Ikey Mo is short for Isaac Moses.] Some Jewish dealers at Plymouth took full advantage of the pilferage, or rather pillage, at Plymouth's Naval Dockyard from which goods worth an estimated half million a year in the 1770's were spirited out, [Such perks are currently known as 'rabbits'. One Recorder in the 1960s told the author that it was almost impossible to empanel a jury in Plymouth which would convict a dockyard labourer of pilfering.] and copper, in particular, 'was sold to the Hebrews who infested the lanes near the yard'. [Whitfield, Plymouth and Devonport in times of peace and war p. 261.]
At least one Exeter Jew was fortunate to escape the halter. He was Uriah Moses, who was tried at the Old Bailey on the 10th January 1798 for cutting out the glass of a draper's shop to steal the stock. He was sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to transportation, and he arrived in Australia on the Royal Admiral in 1800. [Information from F. W. Moses of Sydney in a letter dated 1 November 1978, based on the trial transcript, the shipping indent and J. S. Levi, G. F. J. Bergman, Australian Genesis (1974) (afterwards quoted as Australian Genesis), pp.162, 163.] On the other hand, some pawnbrokers, like William Woolf of Plymouth or Joseph Marks of Exeter, were commended by the local magistrates for reporting stolen goods. [Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Herald, 9 July 1853; Western Times, 24 February 1844.]
It is possible to indicate the business activities of three Jews living in the South-West in the latter part of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries. The first, Joseph Hart of Plymouth, came to England from Mannheim in 1770 aged 14. [Lipman, 'Aliens List', 35.] By 1779, he was sufficiently well established in Plymouth to contribute one guinea to the War Levy. [PHC Min. Bk. I, p. 23. Only 4 out of the 42 contributors gave more.] In 1798, he is described as a silversmith, and when he died in lodgings on 16 June 1822, he left four bank notes of one hundred pounds each, silver and gold coins, and 'much gold and silver', a total value of seven or eight hundred pounds sterling. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 174.] His landlord refused, at first, to hand over the fortune, and the Plymouth Congregation had to take steps to secure it for the benefit of his heirs. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 174.]
The second businessman, Abraham Joseph I (1731-1794), also of Plymouth, had wide interests as a mercer and draper on Barbican Quay, [Bailey's Directory, 1783.] and subsequently became a wholesale slopdealer to the Navy. [Gent. Mag. 1794, p. 1156.] In 1781, he also had a property on Southside Quay, he bought the adjoining property in 1783 and another nearby in 1794 as well as one on Great George Street. [Plymouth Town Rental.] At his death in 1794, he had two leasehold dwellings on the Barbican, two others elsewhere, three dwellings on the quay in East Stonehouse, and freehold dwellings in Castle Street, Stillman Street, and Pyke Street. By his will, dated 22 October 1794, he left £500 each to his wife and to three children (the other two having each already received £500), about £4,000 to be divided among the rest of his family, two scrolls of the Law with their appurtenances and £260 to various charities. [P.C.C. 91, Newcastle.] The house in which he had lived, 6, George Street, was sold after his death and appears to have been a desirable residence. The advertisement of its sale reads:
In 1806, his son Joseph Joseph was paying conventionary rents on three houses on Southside Quay, one in Catherine Lane, and cellars at the lower end of Castle Street. [Plymouth Town Rental, 1806.] In 1817, of the 162 properties belonging to the Corporation of Plymouth which were let, eight were let to Jews, and five of these to Joseph Joseph. He had his father's cellars in Castle Street, a plot of ground near Dung Quay, a dwelling house on Southside Quay, a shop with chambers and lofts in Whimple Street, a cellar and loft in Middle Lane together with a messuage in Lower Lane. For the leases of all these Joseph had paid considerations totalling £367. [Plymouth General Rental, 1817.] Despite the extent of his interests, his income did not match his needs, and in July 1817 his licence as a Navy Agent was revoked because of his bankruptcy. [Green, 'Royal Navy', p. 124.] By 1818, he had run up a debt of £90 to the Plymouth Congregation which he was unable to pay, and for the security of which he had to deposit the silver ornaments to the Scrolls of the Law which his father had left him. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 145.] Presumably on account of his financial straits, Joseph left Plymouth for London in December 1817, going on to Gibraltar on 11 June 1819, [PHC Burial Ground A/c. 1820, p. 4.] and returning to Plymouth about 1824. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 222.]
The third South-West Jewish businessman whose affairs are comparatively well-known to us was Lyon Joseph [No relative of the Joseph family of Plymouth just mentioned.] of Falmouth (1774-1825). His career illustrates well the change of fortune that could befall a businessman of those times. Lyon Joseph began life as a pedlar, but he made his fortune shipping goods to the ports of the Peninsula not occupied by Napoleon. After goods so dispatched were declared contraband, Lyon Joseph sent further consignments which were seized and confiscated. In this bad speculation he lost £20,000. He despatched one of his ships, the Perseverance, to Gibraltar, but the captain ran it to Lisbon, misappropriated the cargo and absconded. Lyon set up some relatives in trade in Gibraltar and lost £7,300. He sent three thousand pounds worth of commodities to a Jew in Cadiz who stole them, became a Roman Catholic convert and when Lyon arrived to claim his goods he threatened to denounce him to the Inquisition. He lost fifteen hundred pounds worth of uninsured goods in a vessel shipwrecked in the Cove of Cork which were salved and then seized by the Government who claimed Droits of Admiralty. He eventually retired to Bath, a broken man. [Wm. Schonfield, 'The Josephs of Cornwall', pp. 11-13.]
As the nineteenth century progressed, besides the shopkeepers and hawkers already discussed, a number of craftsmen and artisans can be identified who lived and worked in Plymouth. For instance, in the period 1812-1838, scattered references can be found to a feather dresser, [Levi Benjamin (Ply. Direct. 1822).] two fringemakers, [Aaron Lyons, (Ply. Direct. 1822), and Zvi ben Judah Lyons (PHC Burial Ground A/c. 1820, p. 78).] a huckster, [Elizabeth Benjamin, if she was a Jewess (Ply. Direct. 1822).] a shoemaker, [The son of Libche Truro (fragment in PHC Min. Bk. II).] three straw bonnet makers, [Eliza Emanuel (Ply. Direct. 1812), Fanny Lyons (Ply. Direct. 1822), Julia Marks (Ply. Direct. 1836).] two tailors, [Sander Alexander (Census, 1841), Eleazer Brock (PHC Marriage Register, 2).] two umbrella makers, [Samuel Benjamin (Ply. Direct. 1812), W. Benjamin (Ply. Direct. 1814).] and a boxmaker. [Judah Zvi ben Solomon, known as Zalman Boxmaker, who died in 1821. His effects were sold up for £17. 6s. 9d, the burial and other expenses were £5. 6s. 3d. The balance of £12 was given to Abraham Emanuel of Dock in settlement of a loan he had made to Zalman.]
There were probably many other Jews who were skilled workers but they were not of sufficient importance to be listed in the directories of the period. Of the artisans just mentioned, one of the fringemakers, the shoemaker, the two tailors, and the boxmaker, for example, were not listed in any local directory and have been noted from other sources, primarily synagogal account books.
In the mid-nineteenth century a clear view of the occupations held by Jews in Plymouth, Exeter, Falmouth and Penzance can be determined, using the 1851 census. From the census returns the occupations of 176 adult Jews of both sexes resident in the South-West on the night of the census were noted. These occupations may be classified under the headings of Annuitant, Commercial, Manual and Professional/Clerical. Tabulating the occupations in their respective classifications produces the following picture:
The classification given above must be used with some caution, as some of the occupations could fall under more than one category. Some of the dressmakers, dyers, milliners, shoemakers and watchmakers, for example, might well have been described as 'commercial' rather than as 'manual'. Bearing this in mind, it may be said that in 1851 some 59 per cent of the Jews in the South-West were engaged in one form or another of commerce and that three out of every four of these were probably self-employed, some 22 per cent were apparently engaged in manual trades, about 13 per cent were in what appears to have been professional or clerical occupations, [There were 24 in all in this category, of whom 16 were probably self-employed whilst the remainder were employees.] and about 7 per cent were retired annuitants. Table 26 sets out the figures broken down into the four main communities of the South-West.
Table 26: Occupations of Jews in the South-West of England, 1851
(Source: Census 1851.)
As earlier, in the mid-nineteenth century, some of the Jewish shopkeepers maintained establishments of high repute inasmuch as they had the patronage of royalty. In the period 1837-1840, eight Jews in England traded by appointment to Queen Victoria and no less than 3 of these were established in Devon and Cornwall. They were Alexander Alexander, [1804-1887. He invented an eye shield for the Earl of Carnarvon, and wrote A treatise on the nature of vision, etc. (London, 1833) and Observations on the preservation of sight (Exeter, 1837). In 1845 he presented an address to the Queen Dowager 'in grateful acknowledgement of his late Majesty's patronage of him in his [Alexander's] boyhood' (VJ, 29 August 1845).] optician at Exeter; Henry Harris, [Chief Rabbi Hirschell considered the announcement of Harris' appointment of sufficient importance to warrant entering it into his daybook (Roth, Great Synagogue, p. 141). Both Alexander and Harris were warrant holders to King William IV.] jeweller, at Truro; and Aaron Levy, [Born Plymouth 1811, died there 1860.] jeweller at Plymouth. [P.R.O. L.C. 5/243. The others were two embroiderers in London, two jewellers in Brighton and Portsmouth, and a quill and pen manufacturer in Edinburgh.]
It is possible to make some assessment of the annual income of Jewish households in the South-West in 1851, by the number of servants which they kept. One contemporary correlation of Victorian income groups with the number of servants kept indicated that a widow or spinster with £100 per annum could have one (perhaps part-time) servant; a family with £150 - £300 per annum, one whole-time cook general;a family with £500 per annum, a cook and a maid; with £750 per annum, a cook, a maid, and a boy; and with £1,000 per annum, a cook, two maids, and a manservant. [Marion Lochhead, The Victorian Household, pp. 30-31, quoted in V. D. Lipman, 'The Structure of London Jewry', p. 256, n. 13.]
Before making any comparisons with the general population of England or with the Jewry of London, two observations must be made. None of the Jewish families in the South-West in 1851 kept a man servant, so families with three or four female servants (who may also in some cases have doubled up as shop assistants) may have had a lower income than that suggested by Marion Lochhead which was based on two females and a male. Secondly, a household may have had no living-in servant, and yet be very comfortably placed. The bachelor establishment of the Nathan brothers, Nathaniel, Jacob and Henry, did not keep a living-in servant in 1851, nor in 1861, yet Jacob Nathan at his death in 1868 left an estate of some £14,000, [JC, 5 July 1867.] which at five per cent - and his pawnbroking business and properties [In 1857 he owned 27 properties with a gross value of £411 per annum (Plymouth Town Rentals).] may well have produced a better return than that - would have brought in some £700 per annum. [His charitable donations in 1852 noted in the Jewish Chronicle alone amounted to £70.]
Bearing these points in mind, it can be shown that the Jewish community in the South-West in the mid-nineteenth century may well have been comprised of a small upper middle class, i.e. families with three or more servants; a larger middle- and lower-middle class, with one or two servants; and a lower class with no servants [This class would almost certainly have some families on relief, but there is no evidence to show how many.] forming about half of the community.
Utilizing the 1851 census returns which give the number of servants in a household and on the basis of these criteria, it is possible that of the 57 Jewish families in Plymouth in 1851, 28, or about half, earned less than £150 per annum as they kept no servant, 19 may have been in the £150 - £300 per annum income bracket as they had one servant; 7 kept two servants and may have had an annual income of some £500; two families kept three servants, possibly indicating an income of about £750 per annum; and the one family with four servants may have had an annual income in the region of £1,000 per annum. [For the sake of comparison it may be mentioned that in Manchester one Jewish merchant had seven servants, including a butler; two had five; two had four and one had three (Williams, Manchester Jewry, p. 87).]
The 27 Jewish families in Exeter in 1851 had a very similar income pattern. Seventeen families, or rather more than half, kept no servant and possibly earned less than £150 per annum; 7 families kept one servant indicating that they may have been in the £150 - £300 per annum income bracket; two families each with two servants may have earned about £500 per annum; and the one family with three servants was possibly in the £750 per annum income group.
In Falmouth, 4 of the 6 Jewish families had no servant in 1851, indicating that their annual income may have been below £150; the one family with one servant could have been in the £150 - £300 per annum income range; whilst the other family with three servants may well have been comfortably placed in the £750 per annum income group. In Penzance there were also 6 Jewish families in 1851, and, financially, they may have formed a more homogeneous group, as two had no servants, possibly implying that they earned less than £150 per annum; three kept one servant and may have been in the £150 - £300 per annum income bracket; and one household had two servants, possibly indicating an annual income of £500.
The class structure of the Jewish community in Devon in the mid-nineteenth century, expressed in percentages of the total number of Jewish families in Exeter and Plymouth, and compared with the figures given by Lipman for the Jews of London on the same basis, is set out in Table 27.
Table 27: Classification of Jews according to social class in Exeter, Plymouth and London in the mid-nineteenth century
(Source: Census 1851; Lipman, 'The Structure of London Jewry', p. 258.)
The figures set out in Table 27 for the South-West and London correspond quite closely with regard to the upper middle class, and Exeter and London especially in the other two classes. But Plymouth seems to have had more equally balanced lower and middle class Jews than London. On the national scale it may be observed that in 1851 there were 1,038,791 servants in a total population in Great Britain of 20,816,351 persons which is approximately one servant to every 20 people. [Census of Great Britain in 1851 (1854), p. 72.] In 1851, there were 278 Jews in Plymouth with 43 servants attending them, that is one servant to 6.4 Jews, whilst there were 129 Jews in Exeter with 14 servants attending them, that is, one servant to every 9 Jews.
Just as there were Jewish apprentices in the South-West in the eighteenth century, [See supra, pp. 146, 147.] so there were in the nineteenth. The census returns of 1841, 1851 and 1861 reveal the presence in Plymouth of 4 Jewish apprentices. In 1841, there were Phillip Ezekiel, aged 15, apprentice silversmith in the establishment of Aaron Levi in Bedford Street; and Henry, 15 year-old son of Mark Jacob, apprentice shoemaker in his father's business in East Street. [Census, 1841.] In 1851, there was George Morris, a 15 year-old apprentice watchmaker, who was the son of William Morris, jeweller of 35, Cambridge Street; [Census, 1851.] whilst in 1861, there was Henry, apprentice clerk, the 14 year-old son of Abraham Rosenberg, a pawnbroker of 13, Union Street. [Census, 1861.]
As noted before, at some time between 1851 and 1861 the Jewish communities of the South-West began to decline. [See supra, p. 69.] This decline in numbers, though halted in Plymouth by the 1870's, may also have been associated with a decline in overall wealth. This may be seen by the lower ratio of servants in the total population of Jews in both Exeter and Plymouth, particularly the former. According to the 1861 census, the 73 Jews in Exeter had 5 living-in servants, that is one servant to every 14.6 Jews, whilst in 1851 there was one to every 9.0 Jews. In Plymouth, the gradual drop is perhaps best expressed schematically:
The same result is apparent from the occupations of Jews listed in the census returns, as may be seen in Table 28.
Table 28: Occupations of Jews in Plymouth
The decline is concealed in the commercial section listed in Table 28 because the 1881 figures contain a much higher proportion of hawkers of one kind or another than the earlier returns.
Further evidence on occupations of Jews in nineteenth-century Plymouth can be gained from the marriage register of the Plymouth Congregation. The occupational groupings of the 287 Jewish men, grooms and fathers of brides and grooms, admittedly not all from Plymouth, involved in 149 marriages celebrated there between 1837 and 1912, are set out in Table 29.
Table 29: Occupations of male Jews according to
Before attempting to draw any conclusions from the figures in Table 29, it is first necessary to detail the occupations in the various groups. The first figure after each occupation in the following list indicates the number of men following that occupation in the period 1837-1875, whilst the second gives the same information for the period 1876-1912:
Barber 0,1; Bookseller 0,1; Butcher 0,1; Cement Merchant 0,1; Coal merchant 0,1; Corn merchant 0,1; Distiller 0,1; Draper 0,1; Furniture dealer 0,18; General dealer 53,25; Glass merchant 1,0; Grocer 0,2; Hairdresser 1,1; Hawker 5,7; Ironmonger 1,0; Jeweller 19,5; Linen merchant 1,0; Manufacturers 0,3; Marble and madrepore dealer 1,0; Master tailor 0,1; Merchant tailor 1,0; Naval agent 1,0; Pawnbroker 16,6; Photographer 0,2; Picture dealer 0,1; Property dealer 0,1; Rag merchant 0,1; Salesman 7,14; Shopkeeper 18,19; Silversmith 5,0; Tobacconist 2,0; Traveller 16,1; Wholesaler 3,0; Wine merchant 0,1.
Baker 0,1; Boxmaker 1,0; Cabinet maker 0,1; Cap maker 0,1; Electroplater 0,1; Farrier 0,1; Frame maker 0,2; Glazier 3,0; Last maker 1,0; Painter 1,5; Printer 0,1; Shoemaker 3,2; Tailor 9,32; Upholsterer 0,2; Watchmaker 5,5.
Chemist 0,1; Clerk 1,1; Dentist 1,1; Doctor 1,0; Musician 0,5; Optician 2,0; Surgeon 1,1; Synagogue officials 7,4.
Once again, [See supra, p. 165.] this classification must be used with some caution, as it is difficult to be sure that all those described under the heading of 'manual' are correctly so labelled. The baker, cap maker and electroplater, for example, may have been engaged largely in commercial activities in enterprises where these trades were carried on by employees. Similarly, perhaps the barber, butcher, hairdresser and photographer might have been better placed under 'manual' rather than 'commercial'. A further point to note is that not all the men whose occupations are given in the Plymouth Congregation's Marriage Registers were Plymothians. Many of the grooms and their fathers were from out of town. Nonetheless, it may be assumed that generally speaking the bride's family and the groom's came from similar backgrounds. Bearing these two points in mind, it is possible to make some general observations. Taking the period 1837-1912 as a whole, it is evident that those engaged in commercial activity in one form or another far outnumber all other groups put together, and that the numbers in the various groups roughly parallel the situation shown above for the year 1851. [Ibid.] The ratio of the various groups to the total number of occupations for the period 1837-1912 and for the year 1851 only is given in Table 30.
Table 30: Distribution of male Jews by occupational class in Plymouth, 1837-1912, and in 1851, expressed as a percentage of those gainfully employed
(Source: Plymouth Hebrew Congregation Marriage Registers.)
The main observation to be drawn from Table 30 is that as the nineteenth century progressed there was a marked decrease in the number of Jewish men engaged in commercial pursuits and a corresponding increase in the number who were engaged in manual trades. This is a further pointer to an apparent decline in the overall wealth of the Jewish community in Plymouth in the latter part of the nineteenth century. There were, moreover, growing numbers of Jews in Plymouth after 1860 who earned their livings by occupations traditionally associated with impoverished immigrant Jews in England from about 1860 to 1910. The Marriage Register of the Plymouth Congregation records one glazier in 1854 and two more in 1860; [PHC Marriage Register, 32, 42, 43.] two hawkers in the period 1837-1859 and then ten more from 1860 to 1901; [Ibid. 2, 7, 40, 43, 44, 79(2), 80, 81, 82, 83, 119.] the first painter appears in 1860 and there are five more between 1894 and 1906; [Ibid. 42, 107, 113, 119, 123, 139.] the first tailor is mentioned in 1838, followed by another two in 1854 and 1856 and then by thirty five more from 1862 until 1912. [Ibid. 2, 32, 36, 47, 48(2), 51, 57, 77, 78, 82, 88, 108, 109(2), 110, 111(2), 113, 114(3), 117, 118(2), 120, 121(2), 125, 127, 137, 140, 143(2), 150(3), 154.] By 1860, there was a network of over 10,000 route miles of railway covering the face of England, [Encyclopaedia Brittanica, (1951), 18, p. 947.] and the pedlar had become largely redundant. Instead of the road to riches, peddling was identified with pauperdom. Lloyd Gartner quotes one Joel Rabinowitz, Hebrew writer by choice and pedlar by necessity:
The element of danger which accompanied the pedlar in the eighteenth century did not disappear in the nineteenth. For example, one Tobias Tobias, an immigrant from Germany, was brutally assaulted in May 1853 near Exeter. [JC, 27 May 1853.] The poor fellow was so maltreated that he became deranged, his left eye and hearing on the left side were destroyed. [JC, 22 July 1853.] His pockets were rifled but his miserable stock of 8-10 pounds of red wax beads on string in a cheap case was untouched. [JC, 27 May 1853.] When he recovered, a collection in the Anglo-Jewish community as a whole raised some £22 which was judged more than ample to put him back on his feet. [JC, 11 November 1853.]
As in the course of the nineteenth century new industries and avenues of trade emerged, some Jews in Plymouth were quick to seize the new opportunities. The new art of photography, for instance, attracted a Jewish practitioners. As early as 1870, before the use of dry plates, Abraham Titleboam of Devonport was in business as a marine photographer, [See Illustration 8 for the letter head of his firm, Abrahams and Sons, 39 Catherine Street, Devonport. His sons adopted his first name as their surname, calling themselves 'Abrahams'. His grandson Reginald Lewis, father of Gabrielle and Andrea, was the photographic correspondent for the Daily Mirror in the South-West.] as was Wolfram Ullman. [Census 1871. He was the great-grandfather of Mrs Ruth Overs, Netanya.] According to the 1871 census, the Exeter-born Joseph Jacobs of 23 Union Street, Plymouth, was an electro-gilder and tobacconist. The combination of occupations leads one to suppose that his tobacconist shop acted as a depot and he as an agent for an electroplating workshop. On the other hand, 17 year-old Alfred Brock is listed in the 1881 census as an 'electro-plater', [The term was apparently first used in 1870, (Oxford English Dictionary).93; and at his marriage in 1887 he still describes himself as such. [His address was 9, Union Street, Plymouth (PHC Marriage Register, 93).] In 1896 he claimed that his were the oldest electroplating works in the West of England. [Eyre's Plymouth Directory, 1896, p. 387.] In the early part of the twentieth century, Tobias Brand of Frankfort Street, and later of Mutley Plain, put on sale the first refrigerators to be seen in Plymouth, [Personal recollection of his widow.] whilst, at the same period, the firm of J. Sanger changed naturally from being wholesale incandescent and gas fitting merchants to wholesalers of electrical goods. [See Illustration 8 for letter heads.]
No description of the occupations of Jews in the South-West would be complete without referring to the various kinds of work done there by Jewish women. The record is understandably incomplete, as it is in general Anglo-Jewish history, both because Congregational activity is andro-centric, and also because women's activities are relatively under-represented in the documentary record. [The following two paragraphs are taken from R. Burman, 'Jewish Women and the Household Economy in Manchester, c.1890-1920', The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry, ed. D. Cesarani, (Oxford, 1990) (afterwards quoted as Burman, 'Jewish Women').] Jewish women have been seen preeminently as homemakers, and although some attention has been given to their economic activity before marriage or as widows, by and large it has been assumed that they became financially dependent on their husbands in a framework of conjugal domesticity. [Burman, 'Jewish Women', p. 56.] The debate and sharp distinction between 'home' and 'work' and a woman's place in them was not resolved until the latter part of the nineteenth century. But the stark alternatives often masked the economic contribution of working- and lower-middle class women, partly because their activity was not quantifiable and, even when it was, because it was under-recorded, even in the Census figures. [Loc. cit., p. 57.]
To judge from later experience at the close of the nineteenth century in Manchester, it would be surprising indeed if none of the South-West Jewesses took in lodgers. They almost certainly ran the household economy, taking the wages from working children, and even their husbands, returning to the wage earners only pocket money. In this way, they continued the traditional role of the family as an economic entity. Many women helped their husbands, and reference has already been made to Jewesses who accompanied their pedlar husbands. It is surely significant that the very first record of the Plymouth Congregation is the use of land as a cemetery belonging to Sarah Sherrenbeck. [See below, p. 128.] In the 1851 census a number of Jewesses style themselves as assistants to their husbands, [E.g. Fanny Rosenberg, general dealer and Agnes Moses, haberdasher.] and it is therefore only natural that widows continued their husbands' businesses. [E.g. Phoebe Levi, dealer in toys; Mathilda Lazarus, haberdasher; Hannah Silverstone, dealer in shells; Zipporah Levy, pawnbroker; Anne Franks, slopseller.] Daughters also helped in their fathers' shops, and where they remained unmarried continued the business after the death of their father. [E.g. Catherine and Amelia Ezekiel who carried on the business of their father after the death of their brother Ezekiel A. Ezekiel (Trew. Flying Post, 25 December 1806).] By 1881, however, perhaps in response to a change in social climate, only one wife, Charlotte Morris, is described as having an occupation - she was a dressmaker - and it is significant that her husband was apparently away on the census night. Otherwise, in 1881, only widows, and unmarried girls and spinsters are credited with a paid occupation.
The census returns of 1851 provide clear evidence [But, however, see S. Alexander, 'Women's Work in 19th Century London', The Rights and Wrongs of Women, , A. Oakley and J. Mitchell (1976).] that some 28 per cent of Jewesses in the South-West were gainfully employed. In Falmouth 2 out of 6 Jewesses had occupations, in Penzance there were 3 out of 11, in Exeter 9 out of 44, and in Plymouth 32 out of 99.
Table 31 gives the broad categories of occupations of all South-West Jewesses over the age of 14, listed in the 1851 Census.
Table 31: Occupation of Jewesses in the South-West of England, 1851
(Source: Census 1851.)
The occupations extracted from the four decennial censuses from 1851 for the Jewish women of Plymouth may be detailed as in Table 32.
Table 32: Occupations of Jewesses in Plymouth according to the Decennial Census, 1851 - 1881
From Table 32 it would appear that most Jewish women who were gainfully employed in the South-West in the period 1851 - 1881 worked with their hands in trades that were usually associated with their sex in the nineteenth century. The housekeepers all appear to have been running their own family domestic households. As the century wore on, the number of women listed as gainfully employed noticeably decreased, particularly in the manual trades. Expressed as percentages and compared with the relative number of Jewish men in the corresponding groups in Plymouth in 1851, Table 33 sets out the position.
Table 33: The distribution of Jewesses according to occupational class in the South-West of England, 1851, expressed as a percentage of those gainfully occupied
(Source: Census 1851.)
It is perhaps worth noting that in 1851 of the 12 Jewesses listed as annuitants or of independent means there were 8 widows ranging in age from 45 to 89 years old, and 4 spinsters in the 35-50 year-old age group; of the 13 in commerce there were 6 spinsters, 4 married women and 3 widows; of the 28 in manual occupations 26 were spinsters and only 2 were married women; whilst in the professional/clerical group there were 2 married women and 3 spinsters. Most married Jewesses did not work for a living as it has already been noted that there were apparently 42 of them in Plymouth at the time of the census in 1851, [See supra, p. 116.] only 8 of whom were gainfully occupied.
To sum up, Jews in the South-West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries followed quite a wide range of occupations, primarily in commerce, but also manual and to a limited extent, professional or clerical. They hardly engaged at all in the staple trades and industries of the area, such as farming, textiles and mining. [Harry Bischofswerder, a member of the Penzance Congregation, owned the Wheal Helena Mine near Marazion, Cornwall, for a brief while in 1891 and 1892 (JC, 15 January 1892).] The proportion of annuitant men and women and the large number of men in commercial activities in the nineteenth century seems to indicate some degree of economic success.
In the early twentieth century, contemporary observers with no particular axe to grind were in no doubt at all that the immigrants were, when compared with their English neighbours, very unusual people indeed....Whereas the English workman was content for the most part to remain an employee, the over-riding desire of the majority of the immigrants was to control their own destiny by becoming their own masters. [S. Aris, The Jews in Business (1970), p. 232.]
Furthermore, the Jew who wished to remain part of Jewish society and attached to the synagogue needed more money than his non-Jewish counterpart. He needed to pay for his seat in the synagogue, not merely to have a seat in the synagogue but also to preserve his rights of burial; he needed extra money not only for his offerings in the synagogue which were socially, if not constitutionally required but also for the communal calls on his charitable purse; his kosher meat and food cost him more; he had to take a week off work when he was a mourner; he needed some days off work for at least the High Holydays, even if he did not strictly observe the Sabbath and other Festivals; if he kept the Sabbath, he had to pay a shabbos goy to bank up his fire in the winter; and if he wished to preserve any social self-respect in the Jewish community his wife had to have at least a charwoman to come in and scrub the floors and, perhaps more important, the front door step, every week. If he was self-employed he might, just might, be able to accomplish all this for himself. Perhaps he might be able to pay for a good education for his children and who knows, they could then aspire to white collar work or even a profession. The Jew's lifestyle, his whole weltanschauung, was geared to this aim. As a poor Jewish immigrant of no particular consequence told Her Majesty's Royal Commissioners in 1902, "I neither smoke nor drink and believe in everything that will make me better off." [Ibid. p. 233.]
It was this desire for financial self-improvement which drove the immigrant to scour the streets, knocking on doors in all weathers, looking for customers who would buy his sponges, or who would pay him to mend their broken window panes. He might have earned more, and more steadily, working in the dockyard, but he and his children would never rise in the world that way. As late as 1955, the loan department of the London Jewish Welfare Board reported that "the high wages [being generally offered] do not seem to lessen the number of prospective borrowers who prefer to be their own masters, rather than take jobs which might make them more money." [Ibid. p. 234.]
The traditional route in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for the poor Jewish immigrant who came with a trade in his hand, usually as a tailor, cabinet maker or shoemaker, was to go to work for another Jew for a year or two, often in sweatshop conditions. Then, when he had found his legs and learned to speak English he would leave his employer and start up on his own. If he wanted to avoid the competition of the big city, then he would go to the provinces. If he had a wife, then he would soon open a shop, in a poor part of the town, with an upper part for accommodation for himself and his family, in a trade allied perhaps to the one he had learned in Eastern Europe, generally second hand clothing or furniture. He would leave his wife in charge whilst he travelled around the area, buying and selling, making and repairing, until he became established. He would then go up market, to the main shopping area. If he stayed in retailing he could earn a good living and live a comfortable lower-middle class life. If he was more ambitious he would soon learn that it was more profitable to buy and sell houses than bedroom suites. By frugal living, he would save enough to put down a deposit on a house. As he made his rounds, he would see an opportunity, buy a house, let it, and use the rent to pay the mortgage. After a year or two, he could repeat the process until he had several houses. In the meantime, if he had bought shrewdly he would sell a house here and there and begin to amass capital. After two or three decades, he, and his sons or sons-in-law if they chose to join him, would begin to develop property, buy land and build on it shops or offices or factories. Gradually, if they were wise, they would move away from the domestic market, for the landlord of a domestic tenant, as even town and borough councils have discovered, is not a popular figure, either to the tenant or to the public at large. The immigrant's success enabled him to provide his children with an education, for in those days there was no free education after the age of fourteen, except for the very few able to win scholarships. So the second generation might aspire to a profession, in law or medicine, or as ancillary to the business, in accountancy or estate management.
One can trace this progress trail from rags to riches of Jewish immigrants in the late nineteenth century and their descendants in the twentieth century by observing a number of Jewish families in Plymouth.
According to the 1871 Census, the first Fredman to arrive in England appears to have been Jacob David. He and his wife Rachel were born in Russia. Their eldest child, Leah, was born in Birmingham in 1862. By the following year they were in Plymouth when their next child Phoebe was born. By 1871, he had set up shop as a clothes dealer in Queen Street, the shopping centre of Devonport. By now, he had brought over his brothers. One of them, Levy Fredman, was beadle of the synagogue. Another, (Samuel) Wolf, was away on the night of the 1871 Census but his wife 'Freebey' Freedman is described as a 'traveller's wife'. [The surname appears as 'Freedman' in the 1871 Census and in PHC Marriage Register, I (1882)), 79.] He was probably travelling in the same line as the fourth brother, Lavine Fredman, later called Levin Fredman, who is described in the 1871 Census as a hawker of sponges and leather. Levin, his wife and two children shared a house, 98 Pembroke Street, Devonport with Jacob Roseman, also a hawker of sponges and leather, his wife and two children. Wolf, his wife and four children shared a house, 3 Canterbury Street, Devonport, with his married daughter Rachel and son-in-law Israel Roseman. [PHC Marriage Register, I, 80.] One could almost have guessed that Israel was also a traveller in sponges and leather. An Abraham Roseman, a young bachelor of 20, was a lodger, along with two other Jews, at 53 Mount Street, Devonport, and all three were travellers in sponges and leather. As might be expected, at this stage, none of them had a living-in servant.
According to the 1881 Census, Jacob Fredman has moved to 34 Queen Street, Devonport and is now a general dealer, and if nothing else he has had three more children since 1871. In 1882, his daughter, Leah marries Jacob Israel Pollack of London, a corn merchant, whilst Jacob Fredman is described as a shopkeeper. [PHC Marriage Register, I, 88.] In 1886 and 1888, still at the same address when his daughters Rebecca and Amelia marry, he is an outfitter.
In 1881, Levy Fredman was no longer a beadle but a general dealer at 11 Hoe Street, Plymouth. His eldest son, Nathan, aged 22, has married and set up home in a house with two other Gentile families at 66 King Gardens. He, too, is a general dealer. Financially and possibly socially, Levy seems to have improved himself. He has not got much time to further improve himself, for he will die in January 1886, Nathan having predeceased him in 1884. [PHC tomb. C.15; Q.19.]
Woolf Fredman has moved to 12 Queen Street, Devonport, and he is still described as a traveller. His eldest daughter, Anne, aged 22, is not at home, perhaps she is married. In 1882, Sarah, then aged 20 and described as a hawker and the daughter of Samuel Woolf Freedman, [For the name 'Freedman', see above.] also a hawker, married Barnett Cohen, a hawker. [PHC Marriage Register, I, 79.] As yet, Woolf does not seem to have made much progress. But better days are ahead. In 1886, he has moved to 38 Queen Street, Devonport, and calls himself a traveller. His youngest daughter, Golda, marries Morris Sulski, a furniture dealer, the son of Jacob Sulski, a baker. [Ibid. I, 89. He now calls himself Fredman.]
Levin seems to have done well for himself in the decade that has passed since the 1871 Census. He has moved to 4 James Street, Devonport, and he is no longer a hawker but is described as an outfitter. His eldest daughter, Amelia, 14, is a general assistant in his shop, whilst his wife, Hetty, is busy looking after their children, Myer, Aaron, Israel and baby Fanny, all born in Devonport. Most important, though, is that they have a living-in domestic servant. True, she is only 15 years old, but she marks the transition from migrant labourer and the working classes to middle-class respectability. When his daughter Amelia marries Myer Isaac Roseman, a furniture dealer, in 1890, he describes himself as a property dealer. [PHC Marriage Register, I, 97.] He has moved to 24 Catherine Street, Devonport and he is still there trading as a house furnisher in 1894, [G. E. Harfield, A commercial directory of the Jews of the United Kingdom (1894), s.v. PLYMOUTH, DEVONPORT.] and as a furniture broker in 1896. [Eyre's Plymouth Directory, 1896.]
Levin's son, Myer, continued the family business and occupied himself in Local Government, becoming Mayor of Devonport. When he died in 1927 he left a very considerable fortune. Levin's daughter, Fanny, married Reuben Lincoln, at one time minister of the Jewish Congregation in Bradford, and later minister of a New Jersey, USA, Congregation and eventually becoming a business man. Their children included Fredman Ashe Lincoln Q.C. who served in the Royal Navy during World War II, rising to the rank of Captain, his son is a rabbi. One of Samuel Wolf's great-grandchildren became a conductor. Another was Arthur Goldberg, solicitor and Lord Mayor of Plymouth, whose son, David Goldberg Q.C., is a prominent barrister. The descendants of the Fredman brothers are today scattered across the world and to tell their story fully would require a book of its own.
Towards the end of the century a commercial directory notes in Plymouth and Devonport 19 general dealers, house furnishers and furniture manufacturers, clothiers and outfitters, who were probably all much of a muchness, though some were no doubt more prosperous than others; 12 watchmakers, jewellers, and pawnbrokers; 2 picture frame makers; a financier; a diamond merchant; a hotel keeper; a tobacconist a dairyman; a fish merchant; a bicycle dealer; and a musician. [~See note 5, supra, p. 124.] These were all self-employed and had their own business establishments.
The entrepreneurs of the early part of the twentieth century followed a similar pattern. Thus, Ephraim (Frank) and Eva Holcenburg and their two daughters, Peggy and Gussie, arrived in England about 1909. They stayed in London for two years or so, moved to Exeter, and then on to Plymouth. He was a furrier, and using Plymouth as his base, he travelled the markets of Devon and Cornwall, and as far afield as Wales. Whilst he was travelling, selling and repairing furs, his wife and daughters opened the Imperial Fur Company in Frankfurt Street, Plymouth in 1913, moving to better premises in nearby George Street in 1925. Frank died in 1934. Business, however, prospered and the widow and her daughters opened a fashion shop, Woodhills, in 1936. The daughters married and the family, having made a tentative start in property, took part in the redevelopment of blitzed Plymouth after the war. [Letter to the author from Mr David L. Maxwell, Dublin, 8 February 1989.]
Between the two World Wars, some of the more assimilated families began to take up a wider range of business activity. The Brock family, for example, was old-established in Plymouth. Eleazar (George) Brook (as the name first appeared) was a tailor in Plymouth when his son, George, a hawker, married Sarah, daughter of Lyon Levy, in 1838. [PHC Marriage Register, I, 2.] His son, Lewis Brock, was a hairdresser when he married Henrietta, daughter of Aaron Nathan the Plymouth constable, in 1860. [Ibid. 40.] In the 1871 Census he describes himself as a musician. Indeed, later, together with his five sons, Henry, Charles, Alfred, Jacob Nathan (John) and Ernest, they were known locally as Brock's Band. Charles became a bookmaker, with a share in a Plymouth nightclub and a clothing factory. By his will in 1947, he left some £25,000. Alfred, we have already seen as the first electro-plater in the West Country, had a jewellery shop, and left £1,400. Ernest became wealthy. He was a partner with his brother and another in the clothing factory which employed several hundred people until it was destroyed in the Blitz, he was a bookmaker, and he went into property. He was elected to the town council. When he died in 1950 he left £125,000. His widow, Lillian Ada, known as Cissie, a convert to Judaism and very proud of her new faith, also a Town Councillor and prominent in local affairs, carried on his property business.
A branch of a London Jewish family might settle for a while in Plymouth to look after expanding business interests. Members of a Smith family had been resident in Plymouth between the First and Second World Wars. A Caroline Smith died in 1933 and was buried in the Gifford Place cemetery. [PHC tomb. P.27.] In 1940, Mary Smith and her daughter Esther were the first civilians in Plymouth to be killed by enemy action. Mary's son Nat, married a non-Jewish Plymouth girl. He was in the entertainment business, he had a small cinema and was a bookmaker; their son became a professor in America, patented a chemical process and became a multi-millionaire. A second son, Morry, had a barber's shop cum fruit shop cum bric-a-brac shop in Union Street. Another son, Hymie, settled in Exeter, where he was a bookmaker. Yet another son, Joe, was in bookmaking, but in a big way. He had business connections with the Stein family of London. [Cyril Stein is currently chairman of the public company, Ladbrokes.] A daughter, Hetty, married Solly Silver who became a well-known bookmaker in Plymouth. Solly Silver introduced a Plymouth scrap metal company, Davies and Cann, to a branch of the Smith family trading in non-ferrous scrap in London. In 1952, the directors of Davies and Cann sold their interest to the Smith's. So Jack Smith and his wife Evelyn, and four sons, Malcolm, Harry, Derek and Colin, together with their six-weeks-old daughter Mary, came to Plymouth to manage the business. The business was expanded to deal with ferrous metals as well, and the sight of obsolete submarines being dismantled at Smith's Wharf, Pomphlett, became a familiar one to all who crossed Sutton Bridge. Jack and his family, strongly observant and closely identified with the Congregation, emigrated to Israel in the 1960's. [Letter to the author from Mr Jack Smith, Haifa, 6 March 1989.]
Not all the Plymouth Jews were self-employed, some were employees, particularly after the Second World War when discriminatory practices were dropped. Mr Aloof, the Plymouth shammas, had three sons who all grew up and remained in Plymouth, Sidney, Lionel and Percy. Sidney, was apprenticed to a Jewish watchmaker, Kingfield, and went into business on his own account; his son Brian remained in Plymouth, also in business on his own account. Lionel became manager of a jewellery shop belonging to a member of an old-established Plymouth Jewish family, the Nelson's; his children moved to London where they married extremely observant Jews, his son, Martin, became a hasid, and is employed as a shomer (ensuring that food in shops licensed by the Beth Din is kosher). Percy, later to become president of the Congregation, when he came out of the army was employed by the Post Office in its then Telephone Service; his son, Marcus, qualified as a chef and is employed by a leading London hotel. Not all employees remained so attached to the Jewish community. One, employed in the dockyard, drifted away. So did another, employed as a conductor on the Corporation buses. These two returned in their old age. Others have disappeared without trace.
From the above account it is clear that in the twentieth century, as in former times, a few Jews prospered and left considerable fortunes, many lived their lives comfortably, earning a little more than they spent. When they died some surviving relative took out Letters of Administration to wind up their small estate of two or three hundred pounds. [Calendar of Probate and Letters of Administration, published annually by the Registrar-General.] Most, however, just kept their heads above water, lived in rented accommodation, and left only a few personal effects which needed no formal legal procedure to liquidate, and few records or traces of themselves.
[The remainder of this chapter is still to be reformatted, but a comparison with the original text is first required.]
n* See supra, p. 31. 
or other Congregations. 
unsuccessful, or did not settle in the South-West. [102a]
Of the forty-six Jewish hawkers and pedlars in Manchester on Census Night, 1841, only six settled in that town (Williams, Manchester Jewry, p. 119). [102n]
For a similar encomium in the Liverpool Mercury, 7 October 1825, about a prominent Liverpool Jew, Samuel Yates, see Kokosalakis, Ethnic Identity, p. 64. 
For the sake of comparison it may be mentioned that in Manchester one Jewish merchant had seven servants, including a butler; two had five; two had four and one had three.
Williams, Manchester Jewry, p. 87. 
The record is understandably incomplete, as it is in general Anglo-Jewish history, both because Congregational activity is andro-centric, and also because women's activities are relatively under-represented in the documentary record.* Jewish women have been seen preeminently as homemakers, and although some attention has been given to their economic activity before marriage or as widows, by and large it has been assumed that they became financially dependent on their husbands in a framework of conjugal domesticity.+The debate and sharp distinction between 'home' and 'work' and a woman's place in them was not resolved until the latter part of the nineteenth century. But the stark alternatives often masked the economic contribution of working- and lower-middle class women, partly because their activity was not quantifiable and, even when it was, because it was under-recorded, even in the Census figures.#
To judge from later experience at the close of the nineteenth century in Manchester, it would be surprising indeed if none of the South-West Jewesses took in lodgers. They almost certainly ran the household economy, taking the wages from working children, and even their husbands, returning to the wage earners only pocket money. In this way, they continued the traditional role of the family as an economic entity. 
*The following two paragraphs are taken from R. Burman, 'Jewish Women and the Household Economy in Manchester, c.1890-1920', The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry, ed. D. Cesarani, (Oxford, 1990) (afterwards quoted as Burman, 'Jewish Women'). [118n*]
+Burman, 'Jewish Women', p. 56. [118n+]
#Ibid, p. 57. [118n#]
It is surely significant that the very first record of the Plymouth Congregation is the use of land as a cemetery belonging to Sarah Sherrenbeck.* 
*See below, p. 128. [119n*]
n But nonetheless somewhat suspect, see S. Alexander, 'Women's Work in 19th Century London', The Rights and Wrongs of Women, , A. Oakley and J. Mitchell (1976). [119a]
Gradually, if they were wise, they would move away from the domestic market, for the landlord of a domestic tenant, as even town and boroughcouncils have discovered, is not a popular figure, either to the tenant or to the public at large. 
Another, (Samuel) Wolf, was away on the night of the 1871 Census but his wife 'Freebey' Freedman is described as a 'traveller's wife'.* [123a]
*The surname appears as 'Freedman' in the 1871 Census and in PHC Marriage Register, I (1882)), 79. [123a n*]
but is described as an outfitter. 
When he died in 1927 he left a very considerable fortune. Levin's daughter, Fanny married Reuben Lincoln, at one time minister of the Bradford Congregation and a New Jersey Congregation and later a business man. Their children included Fredman Ashe Lincoln Q.C. who served in the Royal Navy during World War II, rising to the rank of Captain, his son is a rabbi. One of Samuel Wolf's great-grandchildren became a conductor. Another was Arthur Goldberg, solicitor and Lord Mayor of Plymouth, whose son, David Goldberg Q.C., is a prominent barrister. The descendants of the Fredman brothers are today scattered across the world and to tell their story fully would require a book of its own. [124a]
n* For the name 'Freedman', see above. [124b]
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 - 2016 JCR-UK. All Rights Reserved