the former

Aria College

Portsea and Southsea

Portsmouth, Hampshire




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Former Aria College, Portsmouth
10 Victoria Road North, Southsea,
the address of the former Aria College.
Courtesy Steven Jaffe, June 2024

Aria College


In 1855, Lewis Aria, a native of Hampshire who made a fortune in Jamaica, bequeathed a large portion of his estate (over £25,000) to the establishment of a college "for the support and education of young men desirous of being trained as Jewish ministers". He stipulated the College should be located at Portsea and should be restricted to natives of Hampshire. Students were to be admitted free of all education, clothing, and boarding charges.

It took nearly 20 years before Aria College opened in January 1874. However, from the start, the college was available to students for the Orthodox Jewish ministry irrespective of birthplace. The College was also from a later date also to take in fee paying scholars.

A suitable establishment was built and equipped from two houses in St. George's Square, Portsea. One of these provided a separate residence for the Principal. The college started with four pupils - three from Hampshire, one from London.

In about 1920 another property at 10 Victoria Road North, Southsea, was purchased and equipped for the college. It had its own synagogue.

According to the initial plan, the principal was to teach Hebrew, Religion, English, German and Classics; and two other masters were engaged for French and Mathematics. Later, many pupils received most of their secular studies at Portsmouth Grammar school.

Normally, students were admitted to Aria College between the ages of eleven and 14 years and remained there for between four and five years, until they obtained entrance to Jews' College, London, and later to London University for their degree. However, in its early years there were calls to move the College to London and associate it with Jews' College, because it was alleged the College had not produced a single minister and was being used by local congregants to educate their sons even though they were intended to take up other professions.

Data on the College


Aria College


Initially two houses in St. George's Square, Portsea.

In about 1920 another property at 10 Victoria Road North, Southsea, was purchased and equipped for the College.

In 1939 the College removed to Winchester as a result of war-time evacuation.


The College opened in January 1874. For details, see Introduction above.


The college was temporarily closed from 1905 due to its funding being taken up by an endowment of four students at Jews' College. It reopened in 1907.

The college was temporarily closed in 1919/20 and re-opened at new premises in Southsea.

The college's final closure was announced in 1958. The local trustees took the decision because of "soaring maintenance costs and reduced interest from invested funds". An Aria trust fund was established to grant substantial bursaries to students training for the ministry at Jews' College or similar institutions.(iv)




The College was independent but under the aegis of the Chief Rabbi.


In 1924 a dispute arose between Aria College (headed by its principal, Rev. Dr. Fox) and the leaders of the Portsmouth Hebrew Congregation (headed by its minister, Rev. H. Olivestone) which resulted in the College setting up its own synagogue. Staff and students of the College had previously augmented the main Portsmouth congregation for many years. The dispute lasted four years during which time a complex set of rules was established to govern the relationship between the two synagogues.(v)

Principals:  (To view a short profile of a name in blue  - hold the cursor over the name.)

The following are some of the principals of the College:

Rev. Isaac S. Meisels (first term) - from 1874 until 1876.

Rev. Abraham F. Ornstein - from 1876 until 1882.

Rev. Dr. Moses Berlin - from 1882 until 1884.

Rev. Dr. William Stern - from 1885 until 1894 (previously of Liverpool).

Rev. Isaac S. Meisels (second term) - from 1894 until 1905.

Rev. Joshua Abelson, MA, D Lit. - from 1907 until 1919.

Rev. Dr Jacob Solomon Fox - from 1920 until 1930.(vi)

Albert H. Berman B Sc, barrister-at-law - from 1930 until at the latest 1938.

Rabbi Hyman Klein - from 1938 until 1944.

Rev. Chaim J Cooper - from 1945 until 1951.(vii)


Ministers Educated at Aria College
(To view a short profile of a minister
- hold the cursor over the name.)

These include:

Other Alumni of Aria College

  • Ian (Mik) Mikardo, MP (1908-1993), born in Portsmouth, Labour MP for Reading (1950-1955) and for constituencies in east London (1964-1987). As a teenager he attended Aria College, Portsmouth, with the intention of becoming a rabbi.

  • Chaim Raphael (originally Rabbinovitch) (1908-1994), Middlesbrough born author, scholar and civil servant, wrote about his time at Aria College and Portsmouth Grammar school in his book, Memoirs of a Special Case (1962).


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) For a brief history of the College, see the chapter Aria College by Dr Aubrey Weinberg, on the jackwhite website.

  • (ii) and (iii) Reserved.

  • (iv) Jewish Chronicle report of 17 January 1958.

  • (v) The chapter Divisions Within the Congregation by Dr Aubrey Weinberg, on the jackwhite website.

  • (vi) Jewish Chronicle obituary of 19 August 1938.

  • (vii) Jewish Chronicle obituary of 18 February 2000.

Portsmouth Jewish Community home page

Jewish Congregations in Hampshire

Jewish Communities of England homepage

Page created: 29 October 2023
Page most recently amended: 18 June 2024

Research by Steven Jaffe
Formatting by David Shulman

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