top of page
< Back

The Jews of Falmouth

Alex M. Jacob

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jews of Falmouth?1740- i8601 By Alex M. Jacob BOUT 1740, there began one of those phases of immigration from the Continent which, since the seventeenth century Readmission, have been a recurrent feature ^of Anglo-Jewry and within a short period two sharply contrasted groups had become noticeable in the Community. Under the later Stuarts the newly-won right of entry had attracted bankers, brokers and foreign merchants from Holland and (to a less extent) from the great trading centres of Northern Germany, whilst from the West Indies there was a steady, if smaller, influx of planters and traders who wished to spend their retirement in England and its more temperate climate. At that period retail trade in the City of London was permitted only to members of the jealously restricted Merchants Guilds, but these earlier settlers were not affected since their main interests were finance and foreign trade. For these activities London was the obvious centre and as late as the year of George Fs death no Community existed outside the capital. By the end of the century, however, Jews were to be found in all the major towns of England and in most cases ministers had been appointed and synagogues built. These Provincial settlements were formed almost entirely by Jews belonging to a social and economic level very different from those of their co-religionists in London. By 1750 there was a regular flow of immigrants from Alsace and the German Rhineland, where those who had not left their homes too young to have a trade had been artisans or small shopkeepers. To them London presented few opportunities, owing to the restrictions on retail trade, their lack of capital and the difficulty of obtaining employment caused by sabbath observance. In a short time a "Jewish Problem" had arisen and vagrancy and crime spread to an extent that alarmed Londoners, both Gentile and Jew alike. That this problem was solved was due to the fact that the Ghetto system never applied in England and Jews enjoyed complete freedom of movement. To overcome the difficulties of earning a livelihood in London many immigrants took to the road as peddlers of second-hand clothing, jewellry, trinkets and such other small articles as could conveniently be carried in a pack?a life to which the many immigrants from Alsace were accustomed since in their homeland they had been forbidden to live in towns. These earliest peddlers would choose a market town as their centre, working the sur? rounding country-side, and in due course many settled in these centres, notably as silversmiths. The first towns to attract Jews in this manner were the seaports of the South and West coasts of which Falmouth was one of the earliest. At the present time, Falmouth is regarded as an agreeable resort favoured by elderly invalids who hope to avoid there the rigours of the English winter. In the eighteenth century, however, it was a flourishing port of some consequence in the country's economic life. Since 1688 it had been a packet station for mail to the West Indies, Portugal and the Cape and these connections stimulated trading with those regions. Being the most westerly port of the south coast of England, Falmouth?which is one of the finest natural harbours in the world, being capable of accommodating some 200 sailing vessels? would receive calls from ships awaiting instructions from owners as to the disposal of cargoes, or requiring provisions, water or the execution of minor repairs, whilst, when 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historieal Society of England on 7th March, 1949. h 63</page><page sequence="2">64 THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH gales were blowing, its sheltered position was of great value to shipping. At this period too, Falmouth was the centre of a district where copper, tin, and lead were still being mined and its market served as the shopping and meeting place of miners and their families. The first Jew to settle in Falmouth was one, Alexander Moses,1 who, with his wife, Phoebe, set up there as a silversmith about 1740. Though both he and his wife were in all probability immigrants, his first years in this country may well have been spent in London where a niece lived. But that he was long settled in Cornwall is proved by his having been generally known as Zender Falmouth, Zender being a common diminutive among Jews for Alexander and the use of the home-town's name2 being a widely-spread practice in the Jewish community at a time when surnames were still something of a novelty. During his earliest years at Falmouth, Zender no doubt relied upon the communities at Plymouth or at Exeter3 for communal worship and the provision of kosher meat; his main contacts with other Jews were, however, with those peddlers or chapmen who were becoming a feature of the English countryside4 and of whom a picture has been given by Israel Solomon, who was born in 1803 at Falmouth, where both his grand? fathers had settled after some years of peddling in the district. In the reminiscences,5 written by him in his old age, he related how, until about 1830, there were inns on all the main roads, where Jews could put up, the landlord keeping a cupboard which contained cooking utensils used only by them so as to comply with the dietary laws. This cupboard was kept locked 1 Alexander Moses died 17th April 1791; his wife 15th September 1804. Both are buried at Falmouth. His will, dated 13th April 1791, was proved 21 st November 1793 and was preserved at the District Probate Registry at Exeter until destruction of all records at that Registry by enemy action during the Second World War. 2 C/f. two ancestors of the present writer, Moses Lazarus of Rochford (c. 1740-1814) known as Moshe Rochford and Simon Hyam of Ipswich (c. 1740-1824) known as Simcha Ipswich. Both are mentioned in C. Roth : "The Rise of Provincial Jewry" (London 1950), pp. 19 and 72. 3 Both founded c. 1740. 4 Item 1580 of the "Lady Ludlow Collection of English Porcelain" at Luton Hoo (Beds.) is a figure in Derby China c. 1760 of a "Jew Pedlar and his Wife." 5 Israel Solomon : "Records of My Family," printed for private circulation, New York, 1887. pp. 6/7. Israel Solomon (c. 1727-1802) married Bella Woolf (c. 1726-1816) Solomon Solomon (1764-1819) Israel Solomon B. 1803. Barnet Levy (c. 1731-1791) married Esther Elias (c. 1740-1780) Betsy Levy (1757-1832) Barnet Levy Solomon B. 1806.</page><page sequence="3">THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH 65 And when a Jew used the utensils, he saw to the cleaning of them and before putting them away . . . wrote with chalk in the bottom of the utensil his name, [the] day of the [Jewish] month and year together with the portion of the Law read on the Sabbath of that week?all in Hebrew . . . Some of the hotels were in the centre of populated districts, and the peddlers . . . would congregate of a Friday evening at these hotels and stay over Sabbath . . . They generally formed a club and one of their number, licensed by the rabbi to slaughter animals, was paid by the club for one day's loss of profit... to get to the hotel on Friday early enough to kill animal or poultry [or to] purchase fish . . . and cook or superintend it [so] that it should be quite kosher. Such visitors to Falmouth kept Zender in touch with his co-religionists and made possible the necessary quorum for services. But as he saw his six children growing up, he must have felt the need of giving them better opportunities of associating with their fellow-Jews and of making more formal arrangements for communal life. With a number of these peddlers therefore, Zender entered into a compact whereby he paid for their peddlers' licences and advanced, on credit, a stock of small cutlery, buckles, jewelry and watches which they hawked around the country. They, for their parts, undertook to return to Falmouth every Friday in time to act as one of the Minyan ; on Sunday they settled their accounts and received fresh stock before resuming their travels of the following week. Zender also insisted on their renouncing their foreign names in favour of forms which, whilst still Jewish, were more English. At a time when use of synagogal names was still more prevalent than that of surnames, which were subject to wide variations, this caused little difficulty. Thus included among Zender's proteges was Israel Solomon, who had been born in Ehrenbrietstein, where his family name had been Behrends; whilst another protege who had started life as Bernard (or Issachar) Beer appears variously as Bernard or Barnet and his surname as Joel, Jewell or Levy.1 The experiences 2 during his first years in England of this Barnet Levy, as he seems most usually to have been called, are typical of many of those who ultimately made their homes in Falmouth. Coming to London from his native Alsace about the middle of the eighteenth century, he was looking for a friend from his native town when he met a young Jewish girl?Esther Elias by name?whom he promptly resolved to make his wife. In London, however, it was impossible for him to earn a living from his trade ?that of a soap-boiler?so he reluctantly took to peddling, his travels bringing him to Falmouth where Zender befriended him. After some years in the district as a peddler, he had saved enough to set up shop at Falmouth, whereupon he travelled back to London to ask for Esther's hand. When her father asked for references, Barnet Levy gave him the name of Zender who, by a coincidence, was the uncle of Esther's mother ; the marriage was approved and shortly after the newly-married couple set out for Cornwall. In later years their grand-son described the journey of over 300 miles. Both the mail 1 When administration of his estate (he having died intestate on 15th May 1791) was granted to his son, he was described as Barnett Levy. After this son's death in the following year, administration was granted to his three daughters and two others, when he was described as Barnet Levy (like the will of Zender Falmouth, these documents were destroyed by enemy bombing at Exeter during the 1939/45 War). 2 "Records of My Family," pp. 5?6. The story was also told in a slightly different version by Major William Schonfield in a paper given before the J.H.S.E. on 20th December 1938, entitled "The Josephs of Cornwall." Major Schonfield was married to Florence, daughter of Lionel Joseph and great-great-grand-daughter of Baxnet Levya whose daughter Judith married Lyon Joseph.</page><page sequence="4">66 THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH coach and the post-chaise, were too expensive and "the next great travelling conveyance" he explained "was Russel's wagon, an immense vehicle covered by canvas, with six heavy horses, a driver and a heavily-armed guard . . . (The journey from London to Falmouth took three to four days) ... In front . . . space was kept for passengers and their seats were straw and hay . . . Such a conveyance did not suit Esther, so she rode behind her husband on a pack-horse all the way." By 1766, Zender had attracted a number of Jews to Falmouth and in that year he acquired a building on the sea-front for use as a synagogue.1 He also engaged a minister, whose duties, apart from officiating at services, must also have included those of shochet, mohel and religious instructor to the rapidly-increasing number of children in the youthful community.2 For these services the salary as late as 1860 was 25/ weekly, which no doubt explains why one holder of the office3 later supplemented it by book-binding. Amongst the first duties falling to the minister must have been to officiate at the Barmitzvah of Zender's younger son and at the wedding of his eldest daughter.4 And in the years that followed, the Chuppah seems to have been in constant use, so that the inter-relationship of the various members of the congregation soon became very involved. At a later stage, marriage between first cousins was to become very common, but in these early days there was little likelihood of its happening, since those settling in Falmouth were not related to each other. But from the beginning there were many instances of several members of one family all marrying into the same other family. Thus the brothers Henry and Isaac Joseph married, the one a daughter and the other a grand-daughter of Zender, the one sister-in-law thus being the other's niece?and to add to the confusion both bore the name Judith; whilst the two step? brothers and the step-sister of Henry and Isaac Joseph married the two daughters and the son of that Barnet Levy who has already been mentioned and who had himself married a great-niece of Zender.5 Barnet Levy's youngest daughter, Sheba, married her maternal uncle, Elias Elias, who was something of an eccentric and who, having failed in business in London?because, his nephew related, his education gave him a foolish pride which disinclined him to follow his father's trade as a tailor?settled about 1815 in Flamouth, where his family supported him.6 There he became a conspicuous figure not only on account of his political views but also because of his attire. For he continued to wear the French pre-revolutionary style of clothing?a full cloth coat and 1 Situated in Hamblyn's Court, later called Dunstan's Court, ultimately the site of the gas-works. 2 Ministers at Falmouth include :?(a) "Rabbi Saavill" (Samuel ben Samuel ha-Levi), died 22nd March 1814; (b) Moses (the Precentor) ben Hayim, died 24th October 1832; (c) Joseph Benedict Rintel (born 1810) son of Benedict Jacob Rintel, at Falmouth, c. 1832-1849; (d) Rev. N. Lipman, subsequently Chief Shochet in London. Between 1821 and 1829, Barnet Asher Simmons, Minister at Penzance from 1811 to 1853, circumcised seven children of members of the Falmouth Community. Simmons married Flora Jacob (1790-1874) grand-daughter of Zender Falmouth. Their daughter Fanny married J. B. Rintel. Lay Presidents of the Congregation were :?(i) Alexander Moses (Zender Falmouth) died 1791. (ii) Moses Jacob, son-in-law of last, 1733?25th April 1807. (iii) Lyon Joseph, retired to Bath c. 1815, died 1825. (iv) Jacob Jacob, son of (ii) 10th March 1774?-3rd Feb. 1853. (v) Moses Moss Jacob Jacob, son of last, 10th Nov. 1812.?14th March 1860 8 J. B. Rintel. 4 Zender's younger son was Moses Moses. His eldest daughter, Sarah (1748?15th January 1831) married Moses Jacob (note 2 (ii) Their eldest child was born in 1767. (See also note 11). 5 Henry Joseph married Judith daughter of Zender Moses. She married secondly, Eliezer Lawrence. Isaac Joseph married Judith daughter of Moses and Sarah Jacob (see p. 68, n. 6) Abraham, Lyon and Rachel Joseph married, respectively, Hannah, Judith and Joseph, children of Barnet Levy and his wife, Esther (nee Elias). ? "Records of My Family," p. 7 and "The Josephs of Cornwall."</page><page sequence="5">THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH 67 wide waist-coat, velvet knee breeches buckled at the side, worsted stockings and shoes adorned with white metal buckles. Around his throat and covering half his chin was a broad white neck-tie, whilst his hair, which was slightly powdered and secured by a large black ribbon below the neck, was covered by a high-crowned hat which took the place of the three-cornered head-gear which was then the normal wear. Thus attired, he would inveigh against Lord Castlereagh whom he accused of framing the "Cato Street Conspiracy" of 1820 in order to discredit his opponents. As the number of married men increased, so the community changed its character. It had started as a centre for peddlers, but, with marriage, they naturally wished for a more settled life and for homes for their farnilies. Several opened shops in Falmouth; others settled in neighbouring towns and villages and about this period Jewish families were to be found at Redruth, Truro, Penryn, Camborne and St. Austell. In these towns they lived over their shops carrying on business during the week?and in many cases the womenfolk seem to have contributed to the family income by millinery or dress? making 1; for Sabbath and the Festivals they would return to Falmouth. Thus by the year of Zender's death?1791?some ten or twelve families had settled in the district, including those of his four daughters, all of whom had married local Jews, and his son.2 Some ten years before Zender's death, the need for a cemetery had arisen and Lord de Dunstanville, a local landowner, had presented a plot of ground on the Falmouth Penryn road jointly to the Jewish and Congregational communities. A hedge separates the two grounds and the Jewish section continued to be used until 1913, stones marking the graves of forty-five members of the Congregation.3 On Zender's death it might have been expected that he would have been succeeded as President of the Congregation by his son, Philip, who carried on his father's business until his own death forty years later.4 That he did not assume the Presidency was probably due to the forceful personality of his sister, Sarah, whose husband, Moses Jacob, a dealer in clocks and watches at Redruth some ten miles from Falmouth, now became warden. Sarah, who became the mother of twelve children, all but two of whom married, was noted for her strict orthodoxy5 ? indeed she carried out more duties than were strictly demanded of her, since she is said to have laid tephillin and to have presided at services as warden if her husband chanced to be absent. On Mondays and Thursdays, as well as twice yearly to commemorate the ascent and descent of Mount Sinai by Moses 1 Kitty (nee Jacob) wife of Simon Solomon was described as a milliner in the Guide to Falmouth of 1825. Israel Solomon states that his aunts, the daughters of Barnet Levy, were similarly trained. 2 Sarah, wife of Moses Jacob of Redruth; Rose, wife of Samuel Simons of Truro; Hannah, wife of Israel Levi of Truro ; Judith, wife of Henry Joseph of St. Austell; Philip (? married Betsy Jacobs). Moses, the younger son, is said to have married a non-Jewess and to have settled in Le Havre. 3 Though the earliest decipherable stone is dated 1790, the first burial was probably that of Esther, wife of Barnet Levy, who died c. 1780. 4 Philip Moses died 19th November 1831. 5 This account of Moses and Sarah Jacob was given by their great-grand-son, Samuel Jacob (1837-1912) in letters to The Jewish Chronicle and The Jewish World of 15th May, 1903. The twelve children of Moses and Sarah Jacob were :?(i) Betsy, died unmarried; (ii) Judith married Isaac Joseph (see page 66); (iii) Rose, married ? Alexander ; (iv) Kitty married Simon Solomon; (v) Jacob married his first cousin, Sarah Kate, daughter of Samuel Simons and his wife Rose, daughter of Zender Falmouth; (vi) Hannah married S. Ezekiel (of Exeter); (vii) Samuel married his first cousin, Sarah, daughter of Israel Levi and his wife Hannah daughter of Zender Falmouth; (viii) Rebecca married Lemon Woolf of Penzance; (ix) Esther married Henry Harris of Truro; (x) Amelia died unmarried; (xi) Levy married S. Mordecai; (xii) Flora married Barnet Asher Simmons, Minister at Penzance (see p. 66, n. 2).</page><page sequence="6">68 THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH she regularly fasted for half a day. Physically at least, her husband was of smaller stature, since he is said to have been a very short man who travelled extensively through the country-side on a very tall horse, no doubt visiting the larger country houses to attend to their clocks. As orthodox as his wife, he never omitted mid-day prayers and to that end, he trained his horse to stand still whilst he recited the Amidah and to take the appropriate three steps backwards at its conclusion?at which point the over zealous mount is said on one occasion to have thrown its rider into a ditch ! Shortly after Moses Jacob's death, the Congregation built a new and larger synagogue on a site leased from the Lord of the Manor, which was opened in time for the High Holydays of 1808?possibly in emulation of the Penzance Community whose new place of worship had been completed in the previous year.1 This building, which still stands on Parham Hill overlooking the town, was later described by a Directory to Falmouth as "an excellent and convenient building for the performance of their ancient worship, as detailed in the Old Testament."2 In the Congregation's possession were five scrolls with two sets of silver bells and pointers; a curtain for the Ark; and Notice Boards recording donations of ten guineas and more, together with two wooden panels, one displaying the Commandments and the other the Prayer for the Royal Family.3 Prom? inent amongst the building's decorations were four or five elaborate and massive candelabra.4 Social historians have frequently pointed out that, by comparison with more recent conflicts, the impact of the Napoleonic wars on English life was but slight. The case of a town such as Falmouth, with its sea-going activities, was, however, rather different; and its Jewish Community had before it a constant reminder in the career of Lyon Joseph who presided over it from 1807 until 1815. Joseph was the son (by his second marriage) of Joseph Joseph0 who came to London from M?hlhausen (Alsace) about the middle of the eighteenth century. The father seems to have died whilst his family was still youthful and his two eldest sons took to the road as peddlers, at one time making their centre in Canterbury. After some time, however, they moved further afield and at Falmouth received the patronage of Zender. They now persuaded their step-brother, Lyon, with his brother and sister, to join them in Cornwall where Lyon began his career as a peddler in the established pattern. His ambitions, however, seem to have been higher than those of his fellows, for, not content with having saved enough to open a shop, he later bought a ship which at first brought considerable profits from his early recognition of the benefits to be gained from the Allies' control of the Spanish and Portuguese ports.6 After the evacuation of the Peninsula, however, he was unwise enough to continue these operations, which resulted in the seizure of a cargo as contra? band involving him in a loss said to have amounted to ?20,000. Despite this experience 1 C. Roth "Penzance : The Decline and Fall of an Anglo-Jewish Community." Jewish Chronicle Supplement, May 1933. 2 "Falmouth and Penryn Directory and Guide, 1864." 3 An account of the Synagogue was given in a letter dated 3rd June, 1914 (of which the present writer possesses a copy) written by Lawrence Jacob (1843-1923) to Charles H. L. Emanuel as Secretary to the Board of Deputies. 4 These candelabra are mentioned in the 64th Annual Report (1913-1916 session) of the Board of Deputies. 5 See note 1. The career of Lyon Joseph is described in "The Josephs of Cornwall" (see page 65, note 2). ? Joseph's brother-in-law, Solomon Solomon, whose wife was a sister of Joseph's wife, also had interests in Portugal where he died whilst visiting Lisbon in 1819 ("Records of My Family," p. 10) Solomon's name appears in the list of Navy Agents for 1816 (Transactions, J.H.S.E., Vol. XIII, p. 186.)</page><page sequence="7">THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH 69 he continued shipping?in the main to Gibraltar and Malta, one of his vessels being aptly named "Perseverance"; but misfortune?or, more probably, lack of judgement ?dogged him and there were tales of absconding ship's captains and dishonest agents, ship-wrecks and salvaged goods later found to have been damaged by salt water . . . Another of Lyon Joseph's activities consisted in the collection of gold on behalf of the Government for the commissariat and payment of troops. It was whilst acting as an agent for this branch of Joseph's activities that a Polish Jew, Isaiah Falk Vallentine, was murdered at Fowey by an innkeeper of the name of Wyatt, who, after suffocating his victim, stripped him of ?260 and threw the body into the sea?a crime for which he was sentenced to death at the Launceston Assizes in 1812.1 At an early age Joseph retired to Bath, worn out by the strain of his adventures ; he died at the age of 51 and was buried at Plymouth where one of his sons had settled. There were other links with the wars. In the nearby town of Penzance lived Lemon Hart, purveyor of rum to the Royal Navy, who was connected by marriage with a number of the Falmouth Jews.2 There too lived Barnet Asher Simmons, who, after spending his early life at sea, losing a finger in action?it is said at Trafalgar?acted as Chazan and Mohel at Penzance from 1811 until 1857. By his marriage to Flora Jacob, a grand-daughter of Zender, he became well-known in Falmouth where he officiated during a ministerial vacancy.3 His brother-in-law, Simon Solomon, a painter, married to Flora Jacob's sister, Kitty, was much in demand on occasions of national rejoicing, when he contributed to Falmouth's celebrations illuminated transparencies on patriotic themes, whilst his other works included a series of panels depicting fish and a painting of Joseph and his brethren.4 There was now growing up a generation that had been born in Falmouth and this led to a closer association with the life of the port. As in most sea-towns, Jews are to to be found acting as ship's chandlers, sailors' outfitters and navy agents; whilst for the benefit of ships' crews returning from abroad they made arrangements to exchange foreign coins. In many cases these crews would arrive at Falmouth as their first port of call after long periods at sea or in foreign parts and would have many months' accumu? lated wages unspent in their pockets; to exchange their foreign currency and to tempt the sailors with trinkets, the local Jews owned small boats known as "Tailors' Cutters" in which they would meet incoming shipping; the craft owned by the Jacob family was given the appropriate name of "The Synagogue." 5 This association with the sea led to the local legend that to carry a piece of the Afikoman in the pocket of the Arbang Konfas was a protection against drowning; it also caused visitors to the town to suggest that the synagogue's position had been chosen so as to enable worshippers there to observe the entry of any ships into the harbour. In another respect, Falmouth's position as a sea-port had its effects on the local Community which received visits from travellers setting off on foreign journeys, those whose names appeared on the list of the Synagogue's benefactors including Sir Moses Montefiore?who may well have embarked there on 1 J. Picciotto : Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History," (London 1875) p. 287 : "Records of My Family," p. 11. 2 Lemon Hart's maternal aunt was Bella, wife of Israel Solomon. A first cousin, Lemon Woolf married Rebecca Jacob, grand-daughter of Zender and another first cousin married a son of Samuel and Rose Simons, grandson of Zender. The sister of Lemon Hart's wife married Joseph Joseph, son of Isaac and Judith Jacob and great-grandson of Zender. 3 Probably after the death of "Rabbi Saavill" in 1814. 4 "Records of My Family," p. 13. 5 Cornish Echo, 26th September 1930 : Interview with K. Wills.</page><page sequence="8">70 THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH one of his voyages on behalf of foreign co-religionists?and David Abarbanel Lindo, the communal worker and father of a very numerous family prominent in the Jewish Community. The Jews of Falmouth played their part in local affairs. As in other parts of the country, one of the first institutions to welcome them on equal terms with non-Jews was Freemasonry?and, as Mr. Roth has pointed out1 at least two Falmouth Jews were active in that Society during the 1780's. Of these one was Wolf Benjamin2 whose daughter was married at Leatherseller's Hall, London, in 1783 to Lyon Levy, on which occasion The London Magazine noted that "the young couple's united age amounted to 35." 3 In 1809, Levy's suicide by throwing himself off the Monument was to gain such notoriety that reference to it was made in the "Ingoldsby Legends" which first appeared in print twenty-eight years later.4 Local Jews also seem to have joined debating and similar societies, whilst in a demonstration at the time of the agitation for the Reform Bill, the Mayor walked in procession between a Roman Catholic Priest and the then Jewish Minister, Joseph Rintel. But though they constituted a small minority, separated by large distances from any Community other than the equally small one at Penzance and though they played their part on equal terms with their neigh? bours, both economically and socially, the Jews of Falmouth remained loyal to their faith. In a period approaching a century and a half only two mixed marriages have been noted;5 and although two Missionary Societies had offices in the town,6 their only known success was the baptism of an eight-year-old lad in 1791.7 These insig flcant exceptions apart, observance of the precepts of traditional Judaism, and in particular of sabbaths and festivals, seems to have been rigorous and to have gained respect in a district where the "Nonconformist Conscience" is still an important force. It is recorded of Jacob Jacob, who presided over the Community for some thirty-five years during the first half of the nineteenth century,8 that in his young days when carrying on a tailoring business in the town of Camborne, his neighbours would refrain from approaching him on business matters on a Saturday night until three stars, marking tie conclusion of the Sabbath were clearly visible in the sky. In his old age, when he had retired to a house near the Main Street in Falmouth?which, ironically became the local headquarters of the Y.M.C.A. after his death?Jacob Jacob spent much of his time composing Biblical texts with a view to refuting conversionist claims; two 1 "The Rise of Provincial Jewry," p. 62. 2 Wolf Benjamin, died 12th January 1790 and his wife Gitle, died 25th August 1794, are both buried in Falmouth. 3 The London Magazine, 1783, p. 86. Quoted in "Anglo-Jewish Notabilities" (J.H.S.E. London 1949), p. 229. 4 Ingoldsby Legends?Misadventures at Margate, verse 6 "... it is my fixed intent to jump as Master Levy did, from off the Monument." The "Legends" first appeared in Blackwood's Magaznie in 1837. 5 Moses Moses, son of Zender Falmouth, is said to have married out of the faith. An aunt of Israel Solomon married a soldier and eloped to India, whence she eventually returned to Falmouth a childless widow ("Records of My Family," p. 9). 6 The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews and The British Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews are both mentioned as having offices at Falmouth in the Guide of the town of 1864. 7 Susan E. Gay and Mrs. Howard Fox : "The Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials of the Parish of Falmouth, 1663-1812. Part I. Marriages, Baptisms" (Devon and Cornwall Record Society. Exeter 1914), Op. 464?William Cohen, born June 1783, son of Moses and Betsy Cohen was baptised at Falmouth on 8th April 1791. In the baptismal records, he is described as "formerly a Jew." 8 See page 66, n 2. (iv).</page><page sequence="9">THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH 71 small note-books on these themes, in his hand-writing, survive. His son, Moses Jacob, who presided over the Congregation from 1853 until 1860, used to pay an annual visit to London, where he never failed to call on the Chief Rabbi?at whose election in 1844 Falmouth had been represented on the Committee of Delegates1?when Dr. Adler would welcome him as representing one of the few Congregations which never had disputes to bring before him. Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, Falmouth's importance began to dwindle. As early as 1836 the port had sent a delegation, headed by its Mayor, to London in consequence of a rumour that the Post Office was to withdraw its packet service, and in 1850 this withdrawal took place; in 1857 a telegraph service was installed so that it was no longer necessary for shipping to wait in the harbour for instructions (whose receipt might take a week or more) from London. Falmouth was rapidly becoming less isolated. Until 1863, the quickest route to London and other parts of the country had been by boat to Plymouth, whence the railway ran; in that year, however, a railway was built from Truro and the improved communications resulted in a fairly rapid exodus of the local Jews who moved to Bristol, Birmingham, Plymouth and London; whilst some went further afield as did Alexander Jacob,2 who went as a prospector, accompanied by three Cornish tin-miners, to British Columbia at the time of the gold rush in 1859, and the brothers Lionel and Josephus Joseph who inherited something of the venturesome spirit of their grand-father, Lyon Joseph; for, after trying their luck in California and Hawaii, they bought a number of building sites on Vancouver Island from the Hudson Bay Company which subsequently became known as the "Joseph Brothers' Estate."3 Departures such as these brought a swift decline to the always small community at Falmouth. When The Jewish Chronicle, in the first year of its existence, surveyed provincial Jewry, the Falmouth Community was still, in 1842, a flourishing one of some fourteen families?which, bearing in mind the size of the Victorian household, must have represented at least seventy or eighty individuals; within thirty-five years, this number had shrunk to three families,4 services were no longer regularly held, the Community had ceased to enjoy the presence of a minister and from 1864 onwards it was necessary to have recourse to Penzance?itself by now a dwindling Community?for supplies of Kosher meat.5 Apart from a burial in 1913,6 the end came in 1880 with the departure for London of Samuel Jacob, whose family had been the mainstay of the Congregation during four generations. The Synagogue was sold and in 1939 was in use as an auctioneer's store; even the Cemetery came into the market?an event that caused comment in the Jewish Press7?and was purchased by Alfred de Pass who had made his home in the town. Of the Synagogue's appurtenances, the Sepharim were distributed to Hampstead Synagogue and the Convict Synagogue at Parkhurst (Isle of Wight), whilst the Board bearing the Commandments, formerly fixed outside the Synagogue, is now 1 C. Roth?History of the Great Synagogue (London 1950), p. 266. 2 Alexander Jacob (born 8th November 1841 at Falmouth) returned to England c. 1861. After a short period in Birmingham, he settled in London, where he died 3rd May 1903. 3 "The Josephs of Cornwall." 4 The Jewish Chronicle, 18th March 1842, refers to 14 families ; on 23rd July 1847 to 9 heads of households and 50 individuals. The Jewish Directory for 1875 gives the membership as three families. 5 C. Roth : "Penzance : The Decline and Fall of an Anglo-Jewish Community." 6 Nathan Vos buried 9th November 1913. An account of the funeral appeared in The Jewish Chronicle, 14th November 1913. 7 The Jewish Chronicle, 5th November 1913. I</page><page sequence="10">72 THE JEWS OF FALMOUTH in the possession of the Jewish Museum, Woburn House,1 where also are exhibited, on loan from Hampstead Synagogue, a pair of silver bells from a Sepher. Of the existence of a Jewish Community in Falmouth the only traces that remain are an auctioneer's store, no longer recognisable as having once housed the Synagogue, and a plot of ground on the outskirts of the town marking the resting place of its members. Yet for over a century the Jews of Falmouth played their part in the progress of the town and the sentiments of their fellows were summarized by the Editor of a "Panorama of Falmouth" when he wrote in 1825 that "their numbers are considerable and respectable; and a great deal of commercial business has been conducted by them for a series of years in this town." Note.?In the preparation of this paper I am much indebted to Mr. Wilfred S. Samuel for information and suggestions, as well as for help in other ways. 1 The Jewish Chronicle, 19th July 1935.</page></plain_text>

bottom of page