the former

Sheerness Synagogue

& Jewish Community

Sheerness, Swale, Kent




JCR-UK is a genealogical and historical website covering all Jewish communities and
congregations throughout the British Isles and Gibraltar, both past and present.

Town of Sheerness

The port town of Sheerness, with a population of about 12,000, is the second largest town on the Isle of Sheppey, in the county of Kent in south-east English, situated close to the river Thames estuary.

It is part of the local authority district of Swale, formed in 1974 by the amalgamation of the municipal borough of Queensborough-in-Sheppey (which comprised the whole of the Isle of Sheppey) with several other local authorities..

Sheerness Jewish Community

There was a Jewish community in Sheerness from the late eighteenth century, reaching its peak as Sheerness attained its greatest importance as a naval port during the Napoleonic Wars, and the community included a significant number of licensed navy agents amongst its members. Following the end of those wars, the community began to decline and became defunct in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Jewish conscripts in the Russian army were imprisoned at Sheerness in 1854. They were captured by the British navy on the island of Bomarsund in the Baltic Sea during the Crimean War. They were visited at Sheerness by Sir Moses Montefiore and they were provided with a sefer torah and a reader for the high holy days. The prisoners were later dispersed to a number of prisons in the south of England.(i)

Congregation Data


Sheerness Synagogue


The congregation was founded in 1790.(ii)

Synagogue, Services and Closure:

The synagogue was in Blue Town, Sheerness, Kent (between Sheppey Street and Kent Street)(iii)

A new synagogue was built in 1811(v) and restored in 1841.(vi)

In about 1887, the Synagogue was in such a deplorable condition that, on the advice of the Chief Rabbi, it was dismantled,(viii) although it was not demolished until 1935.(ix)

During the World War I, a weekly service was held at Sheerness for Jewish servicemen. Rev. Herman Shandel of Ramsgate also visited the town periodically as an assistant chaplain. Some larger services (which could attract up to 150 men) were held at the Masonic Hall, Sheerness and at the Garrison Gymnasium.(x)


Orthodox - Ashkenazi

Some Officers of the Congregation: (xii)

Isaac and Samuel Abrahams - founders of the congregation on about 1790.

Abraham ben R. Judah Leib - chazan in 1816.

Rev. Joseph Benjamin - chazan from 1837 to 1844.

Isaac Jacobs and Moses Abrahams - wardens in 1840s.

John Jacobs - president in 1853.

S. Russell - president in and about 1855(xiii)

Asher Jacobs - amateur reader in 1855(xiii)

Membership Data:


1845 - 10 ba'alai batim and 2 seatholders (Chief Rabbi's Questionnaire)

1853 - 15 seatholders (C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry)

Number of Seatholders - Board of Deputies Returns(xvi)







Registration District:

Kent from 1 April 2003(xviiv) - Link to Register Office website.


Search the All-UK Database

The records in the database associated with Sheerness include:

  • 1851 Anglo Jewry Database (updated 2016)

    • Individuals in the 1851 Anglo Jewry Database who were living in Sheerness during the 1770s (2 records), 1780s (1 record), 1790s (5 records), 1800s (21 records); 1810s (32 records), 1820s (29 records), 1830s (13 records), 1840s (18 records), 1850s (26 records), 1860s (6 records), 1870s (5 records), 1880s (5 records) and 1900s (1 record).


Online Articles and Other Material
relating to the Sheerness Jewish Community


Notable Jewish Connections with Sheerness

  • George Bilainkin (1903-1981), traveller, diarist, journalist and author, lived at Sheerness from at least the 1960s until his death.

  • Henry Russell (formerly Levy) (1812-1900), singer, pianist and song-composer, whose works include "Cheer, Boys, Cheer" and "Life on the Ocean Wave", was born in Sheerness. He was father of: William Clarke Russell, author of sea-novels and biographies; Sir Herbert Russell, the war-correspondent; and Sir Landon Ronald, the composer.


Sheerness Jewish Cemetery Information

Jewish Cemeteries in and around Sheerness:

  • Sheerness Old Jews' Burial Ground, between 2 and 4 Hope Street, Sheerness ME12. Opened 1804 and last burial believed in 1855. Among the disused cemeteries administered by the Board of Deputies;

  • Isle of Sheppey Cemetery, Jewish Section, Halfway Road, Minster on Sea, ME12 (also known as Halfway or Queensborough Cemetery). A very small cemetery, in use from 1859 until 1899. Maintenance funded by the Board of Deputies.

See also IAJGS Cemetery Project - Sheerness.


Sheerness Jewish Population Data


5 families

(The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950)


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) The Jewish Chronicle, 31 January 1997.

  • (ii) C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry, referring to a Jewish Chronicle report.

  • (iii) C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry.

  • (iv) Reserved.

  • (v) C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry, quoting a report from The Star of 12 May(?) 1911.

  • (vi) C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry.

  • (vii) Reserved.

  • (viii) C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry, and a note in the Jewish Year Book 1935.

  • (ix) A note in the Jewish Year Book 1935.

  • (x) The Jewish Chronicle, 23 June 1916, 15 December 1916 and 26 April 1918.

  • (xi) Reserved.

  • (xii) Unless otherwise stated, mentioned in C. Roth, The Rise of Provincial Jewry.

  • (xiii) Based the Jewish Chronicle of 26 October 1855 which reported from Sheerness that "[t]he annual meeting of this congregation was held on the 14th inst. Mr. S Russell was re-elected president...A vote of thanks was also accorded to Mr. Asher Jacobs for his services as amateur reader during the holidays."

  • (xiv) and (xv) Reserved.

  • (xvi) Paper on Sheerness from 1975 conference on Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain organised by Aubrey Newman.

  • (xvii) Previous Registration District: Folkestone (from 1 April 1941 to 1 April 1974); Shepway (from 1 April 1974 to 1 April 1998); and Ashford with Shepway (from 1 April 1998 to 1 April 2003). All registers would now be held by the current office.

Jewish Congregations in Kent

Jewish Communities of England home page

Page created: 9 November 2005
Data significantly expanded and notes first added: 16 January 2024
Page most recently amended: 20 February 2024

Research and formatting by David Shulman

Explanation of Terms   |   About JCR-UK  |   JCR-UK home page

Contact JCR-UK Webmaster:
(Note: This is to contact JCR-UK, not the above Congregation)

JGSGB  JewishGen

Terms and Conditions, Licenses and Restrictions for the use of this website:

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 - 2024 JCR-UK. All Rights Reserved