The Jews of South-West England
Thesis by Rabbi Bernard Susser
The Demographic Structure of Jewish Communities
In this chapter aspects of the demographic structure of the Jewish communities of Devon and Cornwall will be investigated. A statistical examination will be made of both the immigrants, as well as of the longer-settled Jewish inhabitants, in respect of their composition by sex, age and marital status. An assessment of health standards will be attempted. Special reference will be made to the great cholera epidemic of 1832 and its effect on the Jews in Devon and Cornwall.
Unfortunately, it will rarely be possible to describe the demographic structure of the four communities over the whole period 1750-1960, as no systematic records have survived (even supposing that they were kept). But enough has been preserved to be able to draw a number of conclusions and to compare and contrast statistical data of the Jews in Devon and Cornwall at certain times with trends in the general population of Great Britain and with other Jewish communities in England and other countries.
Lloyd Gartner has pointed out that younger people tended to dominate the age strata of Jewish immigrants to England in the late nineteenth century, as they generally do in most migrant societies, but that convincingly satisfactory demonstration of this tendency is hard to come by. [Lloyd Gartner, Jewish Immigrant p. 171.] There is, however, clear evidence that immigrant Jews - at least the males, as there is little or no information available about females - in Plymouth at various times did conform to the supposed general tendency. [There is a similar dearth of evidence about the age of migrants from the English countryside to town in the Victorian period. Of 295 male and female migrants to London from English villages, 235 or 85 per cent had been between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five' (E. E. Lampard, 'The Urbanizing World', The Victorian City (1976), I, pp. 16, 17 quoting from Charles Booth, Life and Labour, III, 139).]
All the male Jewish immigrants who were in Plymouth between 1798 and 1803 were registered on an Aliens List. [Lipman, 'Aliens List'.] Their ages on landing in England are given and it appears that they were predominantly under thirty years of age when they arrived in England during the second half of the eighteenth century, as Table 13 clearly indicates.
Table 13: Age of Jewish male immigrants in Plymouth
(Source: Lipman, 'Aliens List'.)
Table 13 shows that the men were mostly in their twenties. Moreover, two of the five men in the two oldest groups also emigrated from their home towns not later than in their early thirties, and possibly even younger. [One was a Solomon Simon, aged 48 when he entered England. He had been in New York, however, for the previous 17 years (Lipman, 'Aliens List', 25). The other was Moses Ephraim who was 39 years old when he arrived in London in 1784. V. D. Lipman gives his date of birth as 1774, (Lipman, 'Aliens List', 28 and see his remarks on p. 189 end), and if correct would make him the youngest immigrant, aged 10. The actual age in the Aliens List is very difficult to read, the clerk in 1798 probably intended to put fifty-four. This coincides better with his age given as 70 in his obituary notices (Gent. Mag. 1815, p. 376). Furthermore, Joseph Joseph notes in his Circumcision Register that Rabbi Moses Ephraim died 27 January 1815 after being a teacher 'in my father's house for 9 years and mine for 23 years'. In spite of his precocity, supposedly receiving a Rabbinical Diploma at the age of 8, it is hardly likely that he came to Abraham Joseph as a teacher aged only 10.]
A similar pattern is apparent in the early nineteenth century. Myer Stadthagen arrived in England as a bachelor in 1828 when he was 24 years old, [P.R.O. H.O. I/85/2732.] and Henry William Morris from Prussia was married in Exeter in 1830 aged 23. [Census 1851.] From the 1851 Census it may be seen that of 16 Jewish aliens in Plymouth, 10 arrived before they were 30 years old, 4 before 40 and 2 by their early forties. In each of these 16 cases the date of arrival has been computed by noting the birth of the immigrant's first English-born child, and assuming that he arrived at least one year before this event.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, a similar pattern of young immigrants seems to have been repeated in the Russo-Polish influx. Unfortunately, it is not now possible to identify all the Jewish aliens who were in the South-West at this period. But reference has already been made to ten Jewish men in Plymouth who filed applications for naturalization between 1879 and 1897. [See supra, p. 74.] From the information which they gave, as well as from other sources, [See supra, p. 73.] the following picture of their age at the time of their arrival in England appears:
Similarly, the Naturalisation Certificate of Meyer Mendelssohn, minister in Exeter from 1854 to 1867, shows that he landed in England in 1850 when he was eighteen years old. [Certificate of Naturalisation, 16 June 1863, No. 4093.]
There is some slight evidence relating to Plymouth from 1841 until 1881 which suggests that more Jewish male immigrants than female arrived in England at that period. The figures extracted from the census returns may be expressed in tabular form, as in Table 14.
Table 14: The number of foreign-born men and women in the Jewish community in Plymouth, according to the decennial census, 1841-1881
(Source: Decennial census returns, 1841 1881.)
Examining the figures quoted in Table 14, it is clear that in Plymouth, at least, foreign-born Jewish men far outnumbered foreign-born Jewish women. It is tempting to explain the increase from one foreign-born Jewish woman in 1841 to seven in 1851 on the basis that the immigrant males noted in 1841 had brought over their wives by 1851. But this is not so, as only two of the immigrant males in Plymouth in 1841 were also noted there in 1851, and both of these had English-born wives. [They were Israel Myers of King Lane in 1841 and 11, York Lane in 1851; the Revd Myer Stadthagen of 21, Queen Street in both 1841 and 1861. There was also a Jacob Lyons in Plymouth in 1841 at 7, Barrack Street and a namesake in 1851 at 19, Barrack Street, who might, notwithstanding that his wife's name in 1841 was Fanny and in 1851 was Barina, have been the same person.]
There is reason to believe that most immigrant Jewish males on their arrival in this country in the mid-nineteenth century were unmarried, though the picture seems to change as the century wore on. Table 15, extracted from the decennial census returns of 1851 - 1881, bears out this proposition.
Table 15: The number of
Jewish immigrants in Plymouth
(Source: Census returns 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881.)
From these figures it is apparent that at least 19 of the 31 immigrants in 1851 [One of the 7 immigrants with a foreign-born wife, Samuel Alexander, only married her legally in November 1851 (PHC Marriage Register, 25). For further details of this man, see infra, p. 364.] and 21 of the 32 immigrants in 1861 arrived as bachelors. These figures approximate to those for emigrants from England in 1861, which the Registrar-General put at rather less than three unmarried adults to every one married emigrant. [Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Registrar-General, (1861), p. xxx.] The proportion is reversed by the next census, because in 1871 and 1881, the respective figures are 19 out of 70 and 9 out of 61.
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