Jews at Walton-on-the-Naze
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Walton-on-the-Naze is a small seaside resort in Essex, associated with Frinton (with which it forms an urban district) and just north of the better known Clacton-on-Sea. Essex coastal resorts have been well-known to Jews, whether as residents or as visitors although today the only substantial seaside Jewish community is at Southend. Walton has never had a formal congregation but there was what might be called a community, based on a convalescent home, and in the course of time there were two synagogues.
The synagogues began in the 1930s but the the first mention of Walton-on-the-Naze in the Jewish Chronicle was in 1908 which referred to the convalescent home. There had been a bequest by Samuel Lewis for such a seaside convalescent home. After considerable search a suitable site had been found at Walton-on-the-Naze, it had recently been purchased and building operations were to start as soon as possible.(i)
Two years later, on 4 May 1910, the Samuel Lewis Convalescent Home was formally opened. The report of the opening noted that Samuel Lewis’s bequest was for £100,000.(ii) The Home eventually catered for 80 people. A smaller bequest of £1,000 was made by Mrs Barnato (presumably Charlotte Maude Barnato, died 1911) which was utilised for a Cottage Home at Walton-on-the-Naze for Jewish children predisposed to Psithisis. This was said to be proving a great success.(iii)
We move on to the 1930s, the era of seaside holidays in Britain, associated often with boarding houses. The first Jewish one in Walton was ‘Saville House’. originally at 31 Saville Street, run by Miss Dora Shuster.(iv) This was advertised as a kosher establishment, and proved to be the longest-lived of the various Jewish boarding houses, defeating those set up in opposition to it. Dora Shuster ran it until the war. It was clearly successful; on 1 June 1934 its advertisement now displayed its extended address, as 31-37 Saville Street, having been also entirely re-decorated.
There was another change, this time an important one, which was the installation within its walls of a synagogue. Near the start of the 1935 summer season, the Jewish Chronicle reported that:
A Siyum Hatorah, in celebration of the presentation of a Sefer Torah by Mr. and Mrs. J. Shuster, will be held at the Synagogue, “Saville House” on Sunday next at 8 p.m. The residents of Clacton-on-Sea are co-operating with Mr. Shuster to form a Congregation and it is hoped that the Jewish residents of Frinton, Holland and Colchester, wishing to join will communicate with Miss D. Shuter, “Saville House”, 31-37 Saville Street, Walton-on-Naze’.(v)
Such a congregation appears not to have taken off and the boarding house did not make much, in its advertisements, of the existence of its synagogue.
The next mention was in September 1935, obviously associated with the High Holydays. It stated that there was a ‘Synagogue. Services held on premises’.(vi) It was only a year later, starting in September 1936, that the almost-weekly advertisements for Saville House regularly included the statement ‘Synagogue on premises’, continuing for the next three years.
There were two other developments in the 1930s. The members of two East End clubs for boys and girls spent summer holidays at Walton-on-the-Naze, and two competing boarding-houses opened briefly in the town. The earlier one was in 1932 when it was announced that Mrs A. Katin, having been established successfully at Eastbourne for 10 years was joining with Mrs Rabin (spelled wrongly as Robin initially) in a fully Orthodox boarding house in Walton. This opened in June 1932 but soon disappeared. The second was in 1938 and was Morris’s Private Residence. It lasted a few months until July 1938.
With the advent of war in 1939 everything changed although just before it there had been a concert at Saville House organised by Mr Gabriel Young and Mrs Shuster which collected £8. 5s for Czech refugees who had given the concert. Incidentally there had been an earlier concert organised by the vicar and local clergy, held at the Congregational Church, which raised £7.(vii)
During the war the east coast was prepared for the possibility of invasion and many residents were evacuated. The Samuel Lewis Convalescent Home was occupied by the military and the north wing was bombed.
There was a revival after the war. In 1948 reconstructing building work on the building began, and in the following year, after an interval of ten years, the Samuel Lewis Convalescent Home was reconsecrated and reopened, at first for 40 women patients. Two photographs exist on the internet, dated 1950, showing the extensions under construction.(viii)
By 1966 the reconstruction of the Home was complete and it was announced that New Year services were to be held in the ‘brand new synagogue’ which had recently been consecrated there.(ix) But ten years later, ‘The Samuel Lewis Convalescent Home in Walton on the Naze – the only Jewish Convalescent Home approved by the National Health Service will close on May 31st through lack of financial support’.(x)
But individual Jews continued to live there. In 1977 a second daughter, Joanne, was born to Ruth and Martin Freedman of Wivenhoe, Essex, who was a granddaughter of May and Nat Freedman of Walton-on-the-Naze, and in 1998 one of those who successfully solved a JC Bible Quiz was Oliver R. T. Woodman of Walton.(xi)
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