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Page created on JCR-UK: 2003
Latest revision (formatting): 10 January 2016

by Cecil Roth
(published 1950)

The Early Communities - Section 2 (Canterbury to Edinburgh)


Legend speaks of the Canterbury community as being the second oldest in England, dating back to the seventeenth century. According to the account in the Jewish Chronicle in 1845 the community had been founded 'upwards of a century,' and the statement is repeated in a letter published in The Voice of Jacob on 22nd May 1846. I possess the will of Israel Jacob, apothecary, of that city, dated 1692; but there is every reason to believe that he was not a Jew, and the origins of the community are probably to be looked for some half a century after this date.(i)  Definite data are however available only from 1760, in which year, on 3rd March, the 99-year lease of the burial-ground was granted to Solomon Emmanuel. (This document is not preserved, but is referred to in the title-deeds of 1807, preserved in the muniments of the United Synagogue, London). Three years later, a synagogue was constructed, probably taking the place of an earlier extemporised place of worship. The foundation stone is to be seen in the Jewish Museum, London, and bears the Hebrew inscription: And the House which he built unto the Lord was completed in the year 5523.

The anonymous benefactor was probably the Solomon Emanuel or Emmanuel referred to above, the quotation from the account of the building of the Temple in the Book of Kings being a delicately oblique allusion to his name. Subsequently, the proprietary interest passed into the hands of his son(?), Liepman Emanuel, who transmitted it in turn to his son (in-law?) another Solomon Emmanuel, who was the leading member of the community at the beginning of the nineteenth century.(ii) The latter was father (-in-law?) of the bookseller Phineas Solomon, who spent his entire life in Canterbury and whose daughter, Miss Hannah Solomon, of Ramsgate, recorded in 1918 that the synagogue had been founded by her great-grandfather, who lived at the house adjoining it. It was situated in St. Dunstan's Street, which has since disappeared.(iii)

The Cemetery adjoined the Friends' Burial Ground at Forty Acres Road - a turning on the north side of Whitstable Road, just beyond St. Dunstan's Church. It contains about 150 graves, the following names being decipherable:- Abraham, Abrahams, Barnett, Beck, Cohen, Davis, Emanuel, Grouse, Harris, Hart, Henry, Hort, Isaacs, Jacobs, Jones, Kahn, Levi, Lyons, Moses, Nathan, Palache, Ruben, Silver, Simmons, Simon, Solomon, Vockelson, and Weiller; some of these however were not local residents. The records of the community from 1781 are in the Jewish Museum, London, and will deserve closer study: they comprise an historical account written by Jacob Jacobs in the middle of the last century. Among the members of the community may be mentioned Zevi Hirsch of Canterbury, a competent scholar, who patronised the Midrash Phineas academy in London in 1795; and Isaac Nathan, the musician, composer and friend of Byron, who was born there in 1792, his father being the Hazan of the community - probably the same who officiated in 1804 at the Westminster Synagogue* in London and received £2 for his pains. Canterbury was also the place of origin of the Solomon family, long prominent in St. Helena and South Africa, of the famous prestidigitator Joseph Jacobs, Known as Jacobs the Wizard (1813-70), and of Nathaniel Isaacs (1808-72), the explorer of Natal, whose mother was Lemie Solomon of Margate. In 1807, as we have seen, a new lease for the cemetery was acquired, the community being represented on this occasion by Emanuel Solomon, Joseph Abrahams, and Joseph Solomon. The Ashkenazi synagogue of Kingston, Jamaica, possessed a pair of silver bells, presented to it by Napthali ben Aaron of Canterbury in 1799. According to D'Hauterive, La Police secrète du premier empire, a Noah Edward Levi(s), born at Canterbury, was living at Berque during the reign of Napoleon I and was suspected to be an English agent. The Shochet in 1831 was Moritz Sachs, replaced in 1834 by Moses Landau.

In 1842, the congregation was reckoned to consist of fourteen full members representing about thirty families; the Wardens were Nathaniel Lazarus and Joseph Barnett, and the Secretary J. Jacobs. When the railway was constructed in 1846, the synagogue in St. Dunstan's was expropriated in order to make the approach to the new station. Since it was held on lease only, the compensation obtained amounted to only about one-quarter of the expenditure required to replace it, and a public subscription list was opened. Sir Moses Montefiore, whose seat at Ramsgate made him take a special interest, gave a liberal donation, and subscription lists were published in the Jewish press at the time. The new synagogue, in a quasi-Egyptian style, on the site in King Street of the former Hospice of the Knights Templar, was dedicated on 19th September 1848 by Dr. Nathan Marcus Adler.

This, like all old communities in market-towns in the Provinces, decayed in the second half of the nineteenth century, though services were again regularly held, thanks to the exertions of a local resident named Coplans, during the War of 1914-18, when the present writer, stationed near by, attended regularly for some weeks. In 1931, some of the appurtenances, including two Scrolls of the law and two pointers (one presented by a Benjamin (b. Daniel) Levy to the Canterbury community in 1824) were deposited in the Oxford synagogue, with due ceremony. The synagogue was sold in 1937, but is still standing and devoted to secular purposes.

Notes to Canterbury

(i) The earliest authentic Canterbury Jew of modern times whom I have as yet traced is Lazarus Moses, whose son Tobias ('Toby') was circumcised there by Isaac Carricao de Payba on July 9th, 1750.

(ii) His name figures on the list of licensed Navy agents in 1816.

(iii) The recurrence of the names Solomon and Emanuel as first name and surname (my sources being sometimes careless about the order) has baffled me, and I am not quite sure whether or no grandfather and grandson had different surnames, the connexion being in the female line.

*Webmaster's Note - The reference to the Westminster Synagogue was, in fact, to Western Synagogue, which at the time was also known as the Westminster Congregation.

Canterbury Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



A few lines will be devoted to the early history of this community in the section on Swansea (below, p.104).

Cardiff Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



At the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887 - that epoch-making occasion in Anglo-Jewish studies - there was exhibited a sketch of the original Chatham synagogue, which was said to have been constructed about the year 1760; while the Jewish Chronicle articles so frequently referred to in this study indicate that the congregation had been in existence 'more than ninety years' before 1841 - that is, since about 1750. Similarly, when the new synagogue was dedicated, on the same site, in 1870, it was reported that the old one which it replaced had been in existence upwards of a century. Hence, though the date at present assigned for the establishment of the community is about 1780, there is good reason for anticipating it by some thirty years. As in other seaport towns, it is possible to reconstruct the composition of the community at the time of the Napoleonic Wars from the lists of licensed Navy Agents. The following unmistakeable names figure in that of 1816:- Lyon Aaron and Abraham Aaron (High Street), Asher Cohen, Lewis Cohen, and Solomon Lucas. The Great Synagogue records of the period provide the name of Isaac Chatham, probably known in secular life as Isaac Abrahams, who subsequently settled in Sheerness. Another local worthy of the eighteenth century was Levi Simon, grandfather of Serjeant Sir John Simon, who is said to have been buried here. Frederick Benjamin Barlin, one of the earliest Anglo-Jewish artists, who was active from 1802 onwards, was the son of one Berliner, the Reader of the Chatham synagogue, the first local functionary known to us by name.

I have not been able to inspect the title-deeds of the Cemetery, which lies at the rear of the Synagogue, but it is clear that this goes back to the eighteenth century. The earliest inscription that I have been able to decipher is on the tomb-stone of Judah Leib ben Benjamin Wolf, who died in 1797 at the age of twenty; then comes that of Yomtob (?) son of Moses Azriel Levi, 1726-1802. A particularly interesting tombstone with a curious, long and erudite Hebrew inscription marks the last resting-place of Abraham Judah ben Asher (=Abraham Lyon(?) Benjamin), Parnas of the community, who died in 1826 at the age of sixty-three after an operation for removing a gall-stone, which was buried with him! His widow, Hannah, daughter of Jacob (Mrs. Hannah Benjamin), survived him by eighteen years, and is described as a benefactress of the Synagogue and Orphanage: her bequests were administered by the Great Synagogue in London. Other interesting tombstones are those of Solomon ben Mordecai, 1730-1816 (presumably father of or identical with the Mordecai Solomon Rochester whose name with date 1782 is in a copy of the Sepher haHayim in the Jews' College Library): Benjamin ben Abraham, obit 1816: Samuel Lazarus (in Hebrew Samuel ben Jekutiel), 1790-1834: and Joseph Joseph, grandson of J. Millingham, 1833-1840 (I noted, owing to shortness of time, only the inscriptions in Hebrew, which I presumed to be the oldest). More than one of those buried in the cemetery (Lewis, son of Isaac Isaacs, 1841-1860: Ella, daughter of Berman Issachar and Hannah Barnard, d. 1840) are recorded to have been drowned in the Medway. There is in the Synagogue also an old commemoration book, including the names of the Chief Rabbis of England. Between those of Saul Berlin (obit 1794) and Moses Myers (obit 1814) is interpolated that of Rabbi Eliezer ben Rabbi Elhanan, the first Rabbi of the New Synagogue in London.

Captain Lazarus Simon Magnus, of the 4th Kent Volunteer Artillery (which he had raised), and Mayor of Queenborough in 1858, died in January 1865 in his fortieth year. In his memory, his father Simon Magnus (son of Lazarus Magnus, and grandson of Abraham and Elizabeth Moses) replaced the old synagogue, said to have been in existence for upwards of a century, by the present Chatham Memorial Synagogue, on the same site, dedicated in 1870.*

Note to Chatham

* The manuscript of the Laws of the Chatham Synagogue as drawn up in 1844, splendidly indited, was in the collection of the late Chief Rabbi. They were signed, on April 28th of that year, by the following:-

Jehiel Phillips, Samuel Isaacs, Senior Wardens; John Sloman, Junior Warden; Samuel Simons, Simon Magnus, Simeon ben Asher Dob (Hebrew), R. Alexander, Coleman Abrahams, Lewis Casper, B. S. Barnard, D. L. Davis, Chas. Sloman, Saul Isaacs.

In 1856, the Trustees of the Synagogue property were Simon Magnus, Samuel Isaacs, John Lewis Levy, Lewis Cohen and Joseph and Charles Sloman.

Chatham Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



There does not seem to be any mention of Jews in Cheltenham until 1800, when Ephraim Alex, founder of the Jewish Board of Guardians, was born here.* Originally, the local Jews had been attached to the more ancient community at Gloucester (later on, when this decayed, the attachment was to be reversed). According to the official accounts, a congregation was at length established in 1824 through the exertions of Messrs. Lewis Isaacs, Elias Migs and Isaiah Alexander (= Alex?). The Prayer for the Royal Family written for the Synagogue in 1826 is now in the Jewish Museum, London. The earliest recorded officiant was Jacob Koppel Hyman, who received his authorisation as Shochet from Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell in the spring of 1825; while from 1842 to 1849 (when he was sent to organise the nascent community in Cape Town) the Rev. Isaac Pulver officiated as Minister.

The present synagogue in St. James's Square, erected at a cost of £1,500, was opened in 1839 (it was restored in 1864). The congregation appears to have been fairly well-to-do; on October 3rd 1841 the Synagogue was broken into and various ritual appurtenances stolen, including two silver pointers, one with a gold ring set with turquoise. About this time, the Community published its regulations ('Laws of the Hebrew Congregation of Cheltenham. Revised and Enacted 23rd Nisan, A.M. 5600.' Cheltenham, L. Dight, Printer and Stationer, 1840), based however on an earlier code. They reflect a devout, charitable, and eager communal life: the authority assigned to the Chief Rabbinate, and to the practises of the Great Synagogue in London, is noteworthy. The cemetery, in Elm Street, dates from 1844. In A. I. Myers' Jewish Directory of 1874, the community is shewn in a flourishing condition, with Sabbath school and representation at the Board of Deputies. In the course of the next generation, it declined, until in 1903 the Synagogue was closed. Religious life was, however, revived in the autumn of 1939, when the old Synagogue was reopened.

Note to Cheltenham

* Jewish pedlars had, of course, been familiar long before this: the name of Moses Myer, of Cheltenham, Chapman, figures in the London Gazette as early as June 1749.

Cheltenham Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



A few lines will be devoted to the early history of this community in the section on Dublin (below, p.57).

Cork Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



My earliest reference of Jewish interest in Coventry relates, not to Jews by birth, but to proselytes. According to the eminent Ezra Styles, President of Yale, whose Diary is replete with material of American Jewish interest, there was a family from this city who became converted to Judaism in London, thereafter being more strict in their observance than Jews by birth. This would suggest that there were Jews in the city at that time, say about 1750. The first settlers may, however, be traced only from 1775. In B. Poole's History of Coventry (1852) reference is made to the death on December 13th 1835 of Isaac Cohen, a Jew, aged 108. He had been an inhabitant of Coventry about sixty years, and his wife had predeceased him in 1833 at the age of 101 (cf. also the obituaries in the Gentleman's Magazine). When in 1809 the foundation stone of the new Synagogue in Birmingham was laid, it is recorded that 'many ladies and gentlemen of their persuasion, from Coventry and other towns ' were present. One of the most important local Jewish families was that of Harris, to which Sir George Jessel's mother belonged; and it was here that Henry Harris, one of the earliest Anglo-Jewish Attorneys-at-law whose name is on record, was born in the second half of the eighteenth century.(i)

In 1800, or thereabouts, there was a little nucleus of Jews in the city, and it is to this period that the congregation traces its origin. The Isaac Cohen mentioned above was the founder. According to a series of articles on the dissenting places of worship in the city, published in the Coventry Standard in 1889, services according to the Jewish tradition were held at his house, in Trinity Passage, from approximately the beginning of the century. It was under the Presidency of his son(?), Phillip Cohen, that the present Synagogue was dedicated in 1870. The earliest records date back to 1868 only, but there is no reason to doubt the report that organised services had been held long before.(ii)

Notes to Coventry

(i) J.C. 27.i.1899.

(ii) See for fuller details an article in The Jewish Chronicle for June 5th 1936.

Coventry Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



Dover appears to have been the oldest 'seaside community' in England. Jews were, indeed, scattered all along the Kentish coast in the second half of the eighteenth century. Before 1762, Hirsch ben Moses Levi Dover (1734-1779), otherwise known as Henry Moses, who had married a daughter of Meier Polack, Secretary of the congregation, was admitted a member of the Great Synagogue, London. His son, Elias or Edward (who became proprietor of The Globe company), changed his name subsequently to Goldsmid, adding a certain degree of unnecessary confusion to Anglo-Jewish genealogical records.(i) According to the Jewish Chronicle account three gentlemen who were in the habit of spending the summer months there, viz., Samuel Moses, Elias Goldsmid and Elias Polack, established the congregation about the year 1770: it looks as though all were members of the same family. Rabbl Ash was active at Dover about this period, a record of circumcisions performed by him throughout Kent, from 1768 to 1818, being preserved in the Jewish Museum, London. Masonic records provide about 1800 the names of Barnett Nathan and Jacob Reuben or Rubens(ii) of Dover, both described as 'Chapmen.' On November 2nd 1833 (according to a document in the Jewish Museum, London) Jacob Reuben and other members of the Jewish community petitioned the Harbour Board for a lease of a piece of ground in Paradise Pent whereon to erect a Synagogue. Moses Levy, of Frankfort, was authorised to act as Shochet there in 1825.

The community had no cemetery until the eighteen-sixties, when the Harbour Board presented a piece of ground for use for the purpose: previously, use had been made of the House of Life at Canterbury, where several graves of early members of the Dover community may be seen.

In 1841, the Congregation consisted of only eight families. But it was reinforced over a number of years by a local Jewish school, Sussex House, conducted by a certain Mr. R. I. Cohen, whose advertisements and activities attracted a good deal of attention in the Anglo-Jewish press in the eighteen-forties. It was stated in 1851 (when the synagogue, opened in 1835, was situated in Hawkesbury Street) that 'from the months of November to April inclusive divine service is performed morning and evening in the schoolroom of Sussex House, the attendance being so great and the synagogue not being large enough to hold the congregation and the pupils of Mr. Cohen.' The community came to an end a year or so back, not having been revived after the War of 1939-45.

Notes to Dover

(i) Presumably the Moses Moses who was a licensed Navy Agent at Dover in 1814 belonged to the same family.

(ii) Probably the later I. Reuben, of Dover, subscriber to the Institution for the Relief of the Indigent Blind of the Jewish Persuasion in London in 1827.

The mother of Mrs. Arthur Davis (and grandmother of Nina Salaman, the most gifted Anglo-Jewish poetess) was daughter of a Mr. Reuben, called 'the handsome Jew of Dover,' whose portrait is owned by Dr. Redcliffe Salaman.

Dover Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



The Dublin community is in a category by itself geographically, chronologically and ethnographically, for - alone in the British Isles, outside London - it dates back to the 17th century and the major share in its early history was taken by Sephardim. There is little that I can add to the earlier researches on the subject.(i) It is enough to say that one or two families of Spanish and Portuguese origin settled there not long after the Readmission: that according to tradition a community was formed about 1660(ii): that it was reinforced at the time of the Glorious Revolution and knew a brief period of prosperity: and that in 1718 a cemetery was acquired. Later on, the original Sephardi element died out, being succeeded by Ashkenazim: and in 1746/7, the community was represented by Jacob Phillips, who corresponded on its behalf with the authorities of the Bevis Marks synagogue about the Cemetery. Of the Dublin Jews of this period we know also of Mordecai ben Moses Nathan, called Mordecai Irelander, Shochet and cemetery-keeper in London, who died about the year 1745; and Samuel I. Davis, commonly known as Sam Irishman, member of the Portsmouth and subsequently of the London community. In 1784, the Jewish element in the city must still have been fairly strong, for we find several Jewish names registered in this year with the Dublin Goldsmiths' company: to the number may be added Levy Wolf as early as 1744, Isaac Davis in 1787, and perhaps Abraham Davis, Freeman of the Goldsmith's Company, 1752-1764.(iii)

At the close of the eighteenth century, the congregation decayed and the Synagogue was closed. According to tradition, the effects were sold and lost, except for two Scrolls of the Law which were saved by two brothers Cohen from a woman who was taking them to England. The congregation was revived, however, in 1822. From then onwards, the history is uninterrupted if uneventful. The link between the old community and the new was apparently a certain L. Phillips, last surviving member of his family, who was born in Dublin in 1774 and died there at the age of 91 in 1865.

There was a synagogue at Cork also in the first half of the eighteenth century, with its own Shochet and its burial-ground in Kemp Street; it was founded apparently between 1731 and 1747, but was defunct by 1796. Abraham Solomon, naturalised in 1769, father of the notorious quack doctor, Samuel Solomon of Liverpool, was among the local residents(iv): probably Isaac Solomon, the silversmith, who maintained the Jewish associations of the city from 1801 to his death in 1845, was another son. It was only in 1883 that the community was re-established. There may also have been an organised Jewish group in Belfast, where Mr. N. L. Hyman has discovered a reference of 1771 to a 'Jew Butcher,' and about the same date to a vendor of gold and silver, Israel Wolf, described as 'one of the Jews.'

Notes to Dublin

(i) Cf. now in particular B. Shillman, The Jews in Ireland, Dublin 1945.

(ii) This is in fact improbable, since the original Regulations of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in London, drawn up in 1663 (cf. Barnett, El Libro de los Acuerdos, p. 5) postulate that all Jews in England, lreland and Scotland were to be attached to it. It seems obvious from this that there was no other community in the British Isles.

(iii) One may call attention also to another member of the primitive community, Solomon M. Hyams, senior, 'a native of Dublin, Ireland, and for fifty years a citizen of South Carolina, who departed this life on the 28th July 1837' and is buried in Charleston, S.C. (B. Elzas, The Old Jewish Cemeteries at Charleston, S.C. (1903) p. 37).

(iv) In 1753, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in London informed those of its Yehidim who were accustomed to obtain kosher meat in Cork and other parts of Ireland that Abraham Solomons was the only person there qualified to perform shechita. 

Dublin Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK



A full account of the settlement of Jews in the Scottish capital has been written recently, but a good deal of additional information may be added to it. The first professing Jew known to have lived there was one David Brown (presumably to be identified with David Pardo, a relative of the Hazan in London, the two surnames having been used interchangeably at this time) who was permitted to reside and trade in the borough in 1691; he was followed by Moses Mosias in 1698 and Isaac Queen in 1717. We know that on January 19th 1712 a Jew had his evidence admitted in a case at Edinburgh before the Lords of Council and Session, who took into consideration the fact that Sir Solomon de Medina had recently been knighted.(i) In 1750, a certain Wolf (i.e. Benjamin) of Edinburgh figures in the accounts of the Great Synagogue in London. On November 11th 1761, Brother Isaac Solomon, embroiderer 'insisted, with the liberality wrongly denied to his people, in defraying the increased fees demanded from his friend, Bro. James Somerville . . who was entered that night.(ii) It is possible that the customs official Shadrach Moyse, active in Edinburgh from 1780 onwards, was also a Jew, though I personally feel inclined to doubt it. On the other hand, there is some reason to believe that there was an organised community as early as 1780. In this year, there was buried in the old Hoxton cemetery of the Hambro' Synagogue, London, a certain Zipporah b. Menahem, wife of Issachar ben Abraham 'from the Holy Congregation of Edinburgh.' This phrase is never used except in relation to an established Jewish nucleus with regular divine service, and one must conclude that Edinburgh was already provided with this. But this fact itself shews that there was no cemetery, the House of Life having been acquired in 1795 by a local chiropractor, Heyman (not Herman) Lion, who published a book on the subject of his profession a little later. The present communal organisation is said on the other hand to date to 1816, when the twenty Jewish families then resident in the city established a synagogue in a lane off Nicholson Street. The earliest minister was according to tradition Moses Joel, who died in 1862. He was however licensed to act as Shochet only in 1831, and I suspect that he was preceded in office by the scholarly controversialist and friend of Solomon Hirschell named Meir Rintel (Cohen), author of various Hebrew works: for the latter's son Moses Rintel, subsequently Hazan in Brighton (to 1844) and afterwards Rabbi in Australia, was born here in 1823.(iii)  In 1817, the congregation removed to a yard in Richmond Court, where it remained for upwards of half a century; from 1833 to 1840 there was also a rival body in the same street. It is interesting to note that one of the founders of the communal Philanthropic Benefit Society, established in 1838, was a non-Jew, James Douglas.

Notes to Edinburgh

(i) Decisions of the Lords of Council and Session, ii. (1761) p. 708.

(ii) R. S. Lindsay, History of the Mason Lodge of Holyrood House, Edinburgh 1935, i. 174. (Information of Mr. E. Edwards.) I do not believe that the Bro. Joseph Spiers mentioned (1765) in the same work i. 167, was a Jew.

(iii) John Lazar, the fourth Mayor of Adelaide, was born in Edinburgh in 1801.

Edinburgh Jewish Community home page on JCR-UK


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