< Back

The Jewish Oratories of Cromwellian London

Wilfred S. Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">6. The Jewish Oratories of Cromwellian London On the 24th March, 1656, a Petition to Oliver Cromwell was headed by Menasseh ben Israel and signed also by six leading Sephardi Jews resident in London. In this notable document the Lord Protector is thanked for the protection which he had "bin pleased to graunt us in order that wee may with security meete privately in our particular houses to our devotions." The Petition goes on to request that "such protection may be graunted us in writing as that we may thereafter meet at our said private devotions in our particular houses without fear of molestation."1 1 L. Wolf, Menasseh ben Israels Mission, London, 1901. Introd., p. lxii.</page><page sequence="2">THE JEWISH ORATORIES OF CROMWELLIAN LONDON. 47 I think that one may take that to mean just what it says. At all events it is the fons et origo of my presence here this evening to talk about "The Jewish Oratories of Cromwellian London," and an oratory is, of course, a chapel or small room set apart for private devotion. Now it has only recently been established that a Synagogue in CreechuTch Lane was opened for public worship early in 1657,2 a lease of the building having been acquired by Antonio Ferdinando Carvajal, "the first English Jew," on the 19th December, 1656. A great deal has in the past been written by members of this Society about the secret places of worship of the Commonwealth Jews, and by the wording of Menasseh's Petition to Cromwell it is certainly established that some, if not all, of the signatories were in the habit of holding a "Minyan" (or religious quorum) in their residences. As it is now clear that from its inception the Creechurch Lane Synagogue was conducted quite openly?at all events during the life? time of Oliver Cromwell?it seems desirable to examine afresh the available evidence as to the other places resorted to by Jews of the period either for private or for public worship. I have thus no sensational discoveries to present. There is, however, one historical fallacy which I hope to stamp out, and which was first expounded to this Society in 1902. It has since been propagated by most writers on Anglo-Jewish history. Here is the false doctrine:? ". . . there were two synagogues in London?one for the Sephardim in Creechurch Lane, the other for Ashkenazim (German Jews) in St. Helens. Of the Ashkenazi Synagogue we know as yet nothing except that its Rabbi was named David Mier." (Lucien Wolf, "Jewry of the Restoration." Transactions, v, 10.) Now the place at which Jews assembled for private worship during the Protectorate of which we have the clearest proof is, I regret to say, the house of the Spanish Ambassador, where there was, of course, a popish chapel. This was much frequented by Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were compelled by the exigencies of the times to dissimulate 2 W. S. Samuel, "The First London Synagogue of the Resettlement" (including photograph of the Petition to Cromwell), in Transactions of the Society, x.</page><page sequence="3">48 MISCELLANIES. their true belief under a cloak of Roman Catholicism. Subsequently, as has been seen, in their Petition to Cromwell, they threw off all disguise. When Menasseh ben Israel arrived in London Don Alonzo de Cardenas was Spanish Ambassador.3 He had been attached to the London Embassy for many years in various capacities, and he served the King of Spain as his chief representative in England from the beginning of 1654 until the outbreak of the war with Spain in the autumn of 1655. Of his house? hold not much is known, but his chaplain was one, Father Ker, who quitted London with the Ambassador and was back here in November, 1656, on some secret mission. The evidence in the Robles case, as well as certain depositions from the archives of the Canariote Inquisition, furnish us with the names of several of the Jews who regularly attended Service at the Embassy Chapel; thus, on the 11th May, 1656, one of Robles' employees gave evidence4 "that he hath seen Don Antonio at Masse several times and saith that Alvarez5 frequently went to Masse. Saith that Don Antonio Robles hath been at Masse here in London and saw him at ye Spanish Ambassador at Masse about 6 months agoe." Similarly the Canariote papers allege that Diego Rodriguez de Arias was to be seen at Mass at the house of the Ambassador, and in these the same story is told of Carreras, Carvajal and of other Jews. The Spanish Ambassador's apartments were at that time in Dorset House, Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, in the confiscated portion of Lord Dorset's huge town house.6 Prynne and Violet, the well known anti-Jewish pamphleteers of the period, also make great capital of the dissimulation practised by these leading Jews, and as can only be expected they overlook the effect of two centuries of Inquisition upon the mental honesty of its victims ?to say nothing of the operation of the Acts against Recusants7 which 3 Cal. State Papers, Domestic, Charles II. Vol. iii (1654), p. 43, and vol. vii (1655), p. 599. 4 Transactions, i, 85. 5 Duarte Henriquez Alvarez, the uncle of Robles. 6 Walter G. Bell, Fleet Street in Seven Centuries (London, 1911), p. 219. 7 H. S. Q. Henriques, The Jews and the English Law (London, 1908), p. 78. Carvajal himself had been punished for recusancy as far back as 1640 (J. C. Jeaffreson, ** Middlesex County Records," vol. ii, p. 147.)</page><page sequence="4">THE JEWISH ORATORIES OF CROMWELLIAN LONDON. 49 compelled attendance at some Christian place of worship. One of the early Anglo-Jewish chroniclers goes further, however, and alleges that Services held in the Portuguese Ambassador's Chapel were carried out in accordance with Jewish rites, and that the Ambassador himself was a crypto-Jew. This highly fantastic story would appear to have no historical basis, and may be discredited. Of the seven signatories to the Petition of March, 1656, five may be presumed to be very familiar names to the members of the Society. The first autograph is Menasseh ben Israel's, followed by that of his kinsman, David Abarbanel, otherwise Manuel Martinez Dormido; then comes the English commercial magnate, Don Antonio Fernandez Carvajal, who seems to have adopted hurriedly and perhaps for the first time a Jewish signature. When he was buried in London as a Jew years later it was not as Abraham Israel but as Abraham Hisquia Carvajal.8 Of Abraham Coen Gonsales I know only that he remained for many years a faithful son of the Creechurch Lane Congregation, and the Ascamot of the year 16649 and the Hebra Petition (for the formation of a certain charity) of 167810 both bear his signature. Jahacob (otherwise Simon) de Caceres afterwards became (with Carvajal) the lessee of the Mile End Jewish burial ground; he was a man of spirit and of good social standing. Prominent in the West Indian sugar trade he had held freehold property in Barbados in 165211 and of his personal relations with the Lord Protector some interesting reminders have survived.12 Unlike his fellow-petitioners he was seemingly born a Jew at Hamburg or Altona and brought up in the Sephardi congregation there. I have dealt in The First London Synagogue (pp. 24 and 75) with Domingo Vaez de Brito, another petitioner who styled himself "Abraham Israel" and who?dying in London before the provision of a Jewish burial ground?received unchristian burial at Hackney. He was a 8 Transactions, x, 232. 9M. Gaster, History of the Ancient Synagogue (London, 1901), p. 11. 10 Transactions, x, 258. 11 Barbados Deeds, vol. iv, p. 863, recording land held in Nov., 1652, by Simon and Henrique de Caceres, Merchants, "att ye Indian Bridge, by ye lea side." (N. Darnell Davis transcript, Box 1, 72. X, 9. Royal Emp. Inst., London.) 12 Transactions, iii, 95-100.</page><page sequence="5">50 MISCELLANIES. Levantine merchant, but with interests, too, in Barbados.13 Of Isaac Lopes Chillon little is known, probably he was identical with John Lopes Chillon who had been one of Carvajal's business correspondents in Amsterdam,14 and he did not remain here. Turning now to the bona fide Jewish Services which were held in London during the middle of the Commonwealth, it cannot be expected that a great deal of evidence will be available. The assemblage of ten men in a back room of a private house, with a Scroll of the Law, some praying shawls and prayer books, is not the sort of phenomenon of which detailed records are likely to survive. The only Minyan of which we can be definitely certain is the one that met at Carvajal's house in Leadenhall Street. I have mentally classified it as a Canariote Meeting Place, because Carvajal, his relatives and associates in London?albeit Portuguese or Spanish at birth? seem mostly to have resided at some time or other in the Canary Isles, or to have been connected with those parts. A certain Father Pinto, informing against Carvajal to the officials of that Inquisition, spoke of his intercourse with him in London, and after asserting that Carvajal was generally looked upon as a Jew, he added "that upon several occasions he saw the said Don Antonio Ferdinando de Carvajal holding Jewish rites and ceremonies in a back room of the house in which he lived." This report, however, relates to the year 1658 when the Creechurch Lane Synagogue was already being openly kept. Many years later, and when she had become a widow, Senora Carvajal sold outright to the Synagogue two Scrolls of the Law,15 which had hitherto been there on loan. It follows that the services at the Carvajal oratory must have been conducted with some formality, or else a solitary Pentateuchal scroll would have sufficed. 13 His name occurs in a curious document preserved at Oxford among the Rawlinsonian manuscripts, perhaps the accounts of some insurance broker: ". . . St. Hellens Dominego Vass de breto the 9 Maye 1655 from Lond. to the Barbados in the Jno at 3J. 3.10" Fdk. Martin, History of Lloyds, London, 1876, p. 52. The Bodleian Library reference is A. 21. 126. (Thurloe's Papers, vol. xxi.) 14 Transactions, ii, 36. 15 M. Gaster, op. cit., pp. 34, 51 and 123.</page><page sequence="6">THE JEWISH ORATORIES OF CROMWELLIAN LONDON. 51 When Menasseh ben Israel arrived in London in October, 1655, he proceeded at once to the official lodgings provided for him in the Strand, and he seemingly continued to occupy these until his departure for Middleburg in September, 1657. Mr. Lucien Wolf has sought to create a Jewish entourage and to show that Menasseh's landlord was a Portuguese Jew named Antonio D'Oliveyra.16 Were that so, it would be reasonable to assume that some sort of a private synagogue was fitted up in Menasseh's State lodgings. But it is by no means certain, as Mr. Wolf admits, that Menasseh did not live in one of the houses adjoining "Anthony Doliveere's" home. I have since discovered that although an Englishman only by endenization, this Doliveere seems to have been a good Christian; his family's name crops up constantly? and as far back as 1611?in the Parish Registers of St. Martins-in-the Eields, and the baptisms and burials of his children, the intimate details of his testament, and the subsequent re-marriage of his widow exhibit not the slightest Jewish (or even foreign) connotation.17 Menasseh seems to have had some retinue of Jews, which, however, quitted London long before he did. He was also accompanied here by his son, Samuel, who was returning to London, where he had presumably been sharing previously the home of his relative, David Abarbanel. Whether Menasseh's retinue shared his quarters in the Strand is not known, and we are left to speculate as to whether six or more Jews trudged from Aldgate to the Strand in order to make up the quorum of ten, without which the Rabbi would have been unable to conduct a properly constituted Jewish Service. Mr. Lucien Wolf, who has been good enough to discuss this point with me, inclines to the belief that Menasseh must have held Services in the Strand. I venture for once to 16 Lucien Wolf, "Menasseh ben Israel's study in London," in Transactions, iii, 146 et. seq. ("Whether besides being a Portuguese 4Mr. Doliveere' was also a Jew cannot be stated with certainty.") 17 Harleian Soc. Publ., Registers, vol. xxv, St. Martins-in-the-Fields, 1550/1619, pp. 42, &amp; 170. Publications of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. xviii, p. 56 (endenization of Anthony Dollivar, 1636). W. Briggs, Genealogical Abstract of Wills, vol. ii, 1906, p. 95, para. 616. (Will of Anthonie Dollivares ex Register "Wooton," 1658). Harleian Soc. Publ., Registers, vol. iii, St. Dionis Backchurch, London, 1538/1754, p. 34 (remarriage in 1658 of Mistress Dolleueris).</page><page sequence="7">52 MISCELLANIES. disagree, partly because the holding of sucb Services in the Strand must to my mind inevitably have attracted attention, no matter how great was the privacy enjoined, for Menasseh was quite a public character? and yet not a single reference to any such meetings has yet been discovered among the many published diaries, news-sheets and pamphlets of the period. It seems to me that Menasseh must have had a "base" in the City, and that the great Rabbi must have been in the habit of resorting to the house of his kinsman, David Abarbanel. Now Abarbanel, other? wise Manuel Martinez Dormido, after working in Amsterdam for Cromwell's Intelligence Department,18 had come to London as far back as the 1st September, 1654. In Holland he had for years lived as an orthodox Jew, and it was in that capacity that he installed himself in this Metropolis, as his two Petitions to the Government plainly show. In a sense Dormido was "the first English Jew," since Carvajal, for whom that title is claimed, albeit endenizened as an English citizen in 1655, did not publicly avow his religion until he appended his Jewish names to the Petition of March, 1656 (which is referred to at the beginning of this Paper). At the close of 1660 Dormido was living in St. Helens, Bishopsgate, and he may well have resided there for some time previously. Since he had not originally belonged to the Carvajal (or Canariote) set, it seems likely that he gathered round him a group of Jews and formed a little private congregation. In the second of the two Informers' lists of 1660 (Tran? sactions, v, 6, 7), "Sinor Dormedio and Sin Solomon, his sonn" are shewn as living in "st. tellens," whilst in the first Informers' list an address is given of a certain Jew (who cannot positively be identified) as "in St. tellens a sinigoge." (See Appendix.) In August, 1656, Domingo Vaez de Brito was a Jewish resident of St. Helens, but before the close of that year he had moved away to the small corner house adjoining the Creechurch Lane Synagogue.19 Thereafter we have no mention?either in the Informers' lists or else? where?of any Jew living in St. Helens other than Dormido, and it 18 Lucien Wolf, "Cromwell's Jewish Intelligencers," in Essays in Jewish History, p. 105. 19 W. S. Samuel, op. cit.9 pp. 32, 33 and 127.</page><page sequence="8">THE JEWISH ORATORIES OF CROMWELLIAN LONDON. 53 seems reasonable to assume that the so-called Synagogue there was located in his house. The use of the indefinite article indicates, more? over, that "a sinigoge" in St. Helens was of much smaller importance and less within the public knowledge than "the synagoge" in Creechurch Lane which immediately precedes it in the list. According to the first Informers' list the officiant of the minor Synagogue in St. Helens was "Sin David The Prest," and this may quite possibly refer to Manuel Martinez Dormido himself, since his Jewish name was David Abarbanel. On the other hand "Sin David" was perhaps some young Jew who acted in a sense as chaplain in the Dormido household, but whose full name has not come down to us. At all events there is certainly no basis here for the assumption that we are dealing with a German Jews' Synagogue having a certain "Rabbi David Mier" as its incumbent. It will be noticed that the St. Helens Meeting House was still in use in January, 1660, whereas the Minyanim (other than Carvajal's) referred to in the Petition of March, 1656, had presumably been broken up on the institution in the early spring of 1657 of the public Synagogue in Creechurch Lane. If I am right in supposing that Menasseh used his kinsman's home as his headquarters in the City, where he could not only pray with his brother Jews, but also mix with them with greater freedom than is allowed to a public personage residing in State lodgings in the Strand?then the quarrel with the Creechurch Lane Congregation, in which Menasseh undoubtedly became involved, would have furnished a reason for the continued and separate existence of the Abarbanel Minyan, and possibly for its development into a private Synagogue ministering to the spiritual needs of a definite group of London Sephardi Jews. As the Parish Records of St. Helens are missing for the Common? wealth and Restoration periods I have been unable to collect any further evidence about the St. Helens Meeting House. No doubt it ultimately became merged in the Creechurch Lane Synagogue, since Dormido was in 1664 the principal Warden of the latter?and had possibly filled that office for some years. From September, 1658, to March, 1659, a certain Mascarenhas was observing the Portuguese Jews of London with a view to informing against them to the Lisbon</page><page sequence="9">54 MISCELLANIES. Inquisition. Carvajal was then still living, Menasseh had already left these shores. At that time, at all events, the existence seems established of this second Meeting House (for Sephardi Jews). Here are the informer's words:? "All of whom and their wives attended the Synagogues, and this deponent has heard them on various occasions say that it was time to go there."20 To return to the 1656 Petitioners, another of them, Domingo Vaez de Brito, may in that year have been holding private services at hi house?then in St. Helens. One of his Jewish associates was Manuel Pereira, who stayed with him in August, 1656, and who is to be found ?after De Brito's death?lodging with a brother at Lingar's the Plumber's in Creechurch Lane, a kind of Jewish hostel. (See Appendix.) It is also, of course, conceivable that some oratories for Polish (or Ashkenazi) Jews existed during the Commonwealth, for it is known from many sources that a flood of poverty-stricken and persecuted Jews from Bohemia and Poland sought these shores as a result of expulsions from those countries. Samuel Levy, the Cracovian beadle of the Creechurch Lane synagogue, had come to London just about the time the Informers' lists were being compiled. An indication of earlier arrivals is afforded by the frequent references to the presence of converted Ashkenazi Jews in England during the Commonwealth. Thus Eleazar, alias Paul Isaiah (Eleazar bar Ishai) from Muscovy, a sort of professional apostate, mentioned in the preceding note, was here in or before 1652.21 He had a colleague, Abraham bar Samuel,22 who was in 20 Prof. Pedro D'Azevedo in the Transactions of the Academia das Sciencias de Lisboa (Boletim 5a, 2&lt;ia Classe, vol. ix (liv. 2), 1915, p. 461-467). Confirmation may? be found in the introductory matter to Paul Isaiah's The Messias of the Christians and the Jewes (London, 1655):?"and though perhaps there may not be now in England any great numbers of professed Jewes (some to my owne knowledge there are who have their synagogues and there exercise Judaisme), yet, they who live here, as often as they are bound to use their office of Prayer (which is twice a day) so often are they bound to blaspheme . . . &amp;c, &amp;c." 21 Transactions Baptist Hist. Soc, vol. ii, p . 146. 22 Adolf Neubauer, "Additions to Notes on the Jews of Oxford" (Addenda to Publ. Oxford Hist. Soc, vol. xvi, p. 2).</page><page sequence="10">the jewish oratories op cromwellian london. 55 Oxford that same year, whilst Abraham Munday was married in a London Church in 165623 and Jacob ben Samuel Augusto had landed here in 1658.24 There are other instances, notably in the first Informers' list of 1660, where there is reference to ". . . several Spanish Jews ... in Leadenhall Street," and on reflection the writer has erased the word "Spanish"! In the second Informers' list there is a corresponding entry and the Jewish residents of Leadenhall Street are shewn to consist of the Carvajal family and of "Sin David Mier," whose name does certainly not suggest an Iberian origin! (See Appendix.) Apart from the foregoing, and from a general impression that the Ashkenazi Jews would not have been invited to regular worship at the private houses of the Jewish merchant princes from Spain and Portugal, we lack information as to the places of residence of the German and Polish Jews in Cromwellian London, and I am thus unable to give flight to my fancy and to make any suggestions as to where further private places of worship, if any, were located or who attended them. As for the widespread misconception that an Ashkenazi or German Jews' Synagogue, (as distinct from a private "minyan"), was in existence in London during the Commonwealth, of "which David Mier was Rabbi, this I respectfully submit is based on a misinterpretation of the evidence deducible from the Informers' lists. I have endeavoured to dispel the illusion by rearranging the names topographically in parallel columns in the Appendix, and I call particular attention to the sections headed "Leadenhall Street" and "St. Helens." I believe that we must look to the close of the seventeenth century and to the beginnings of Moses Hart's Great Synagogue for the first Ashkenazi synagogue of the Metropolis, and I am afraid that hitherto the United Synagogue has adopted a phantom as its spiritual ancestor! Wilfred S. Samuel. Read before the Society, November 26?, 1924. 23 A. W. C. Hallen, "The Registers of St. Botolph Bishopsgate" (London, 1889), vol. i, p. 585. 24 Cal. State Papers, Domestic?1670 (w. Addenda, 1660-1670), p. 684.</page><page sequence="11">00 CS &lt;2 &gt; o CO - ? 1 3 O J? ?GQ O 02 3 I? i ?f&gt; o M o S 9 GQ GQ .9 .g .g .9 2 GQ GQ GQ GQ [ g? ? .O (S3 I ? be ? ?311 -2 GQ .? GQ 1 B* 1 0 ? 2 2 ft QQ 1 i GQ QQ ? I? Bs .a? 00 ^ fr O ki fr H tf H GQ o GQ P-i o m GQ ?2 'S 9 H W , EH GQ 0*8 i 5 QQ GQ PQ E ^ gl? c2 i3 'S 3 Ii 8 ? a 0 |a 6 3 00 ? a 2? ? ? gGQ n GQ GQ e? ,3 GQ PM 1?1 i _d zi ? III M -P 'd 33 .S ? Mil fi ? CO ^ to g m ? S ? ? GQ e? 1-5 ? s o 9 s o ? *P ? 9 ^ H ? . o (-4 e? GQ ? o g 1J " ? 8 ..S e? a ja v?v?'; ? 9 e9 * . ?&gt; C? ^ ? ? ? ^ 81 m g q 5 ? ? .g .g .g .g c? PhGQGQGQGQGQ fM a I M.g o ? GQ ^</page></plain_text>