the former

Halifax Jewish Community

Halifax, Calderdale, West Yorkshire




A Yorkshire Curiosity

by Harold Pollins

Originally published in Oxford Menorah issue no. 221, May 2017, page 2

There never was a Jewish community in Halifax, Yorkshire, despite that fact that in 1895 a minyan was formed and at the 1911 Census there were as many as twelve Jewish families in residence, amounting to 60 persons, probably enough to form a small congregation.(1) A Halifax-born soldier, Pte Cecil Solomon of the Seaforth Highlanders was killed in action in October 1918.

This story centres on one resident in 1899, Philip P. Samuel, born in Sheffield, who appeared in a notice in the local newspaper, the Halifax Courier, 12 August 1899. It reported his recent marriage, as follows.

‘Marriage on Aug.  8 at the Synagogue London, Philip P. Samuels(sic), London, to Floretta (Florrie), fourth daughter of Squire Aspinall, 22, Gerrard-street, Halifax. – Mr. and Mrs. Samuels, on their return from France, where they are spending their honeymoon, will take up their abode in London.’

There are several curiosities about this notice. First, it says ‘Synagogue’ but does not specify which one. Second the bride’s father’s name was ‘Squire’; it was not a title but his forename, and he was a blacksmith. Third the groom’s name was Samuel not Samuels. Fourth, there is no reference, in the Index of Marriages, to any such marriage. Nor can I find any Beth Din authorisation of the marriage. Yet, at the next Census, in 1901, the couple are described as husband and wife, living in Bloomsbury. He is a 45-year old stockbroker, born in Sheffield, and she is a twenty-year old from Halifax.

Philip was the fourth out of eight children, born between 1850 and 1869, of Barnett Samuel, who was first a comb manufacturer then became a music-seller and then a dealer in musical instruments. One of his sons became a piano and organ manufacturer, another a manufacturer of musical instruments, and a nephew also made pianos. He died in 1882.

To revert to Philip. On 29 April 1905 he and Floretta were married in a civil ceremony at the Strand Register Office. Floretta’s father was also deceased, having died in 1902. A daughter was born in the July-August quarter of 1905 an event whose anticipation clearly had led to the marriage. Another oddity was that despite the entry in the 1901 census describing Floretta as ‘wife’, at the marriage in 1905 she was a spinster. I take it that this was in fact their only marriage, but it was Philip’s second marriage, being noted as ‘widower’ at the 1905 marriage. Philip died in 1909 aged 53, his will was proved to the enormous sum of £42,587. His widow, now known as Floretta Aspinall Samuel, was appropriately described in the Census of 1911 as having ‘Private Means’. Her husband had come a long way since his occupational description in the 1871 Census, when he was 15, as ‘Warehouseman’. But I can find no explanation for the 1899 notice of a supposed Jewish marriage between the two. It might have been a hoax or perhaps a kind of public relations handout to explain their cohabitation.

Footnotes    (returns to main text)

  • (i) Including an adopted child, undoubtedly the illegitimate daughter of the Jewish head of household and his non-Jewish housekeeper.

© Harold Pollins

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