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The Jews of Gravesend before 1915

Malcolm Brown

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 MALCOLM BROWN At first sight, Gravesend is an improbable choice as a topic for a paper. The place, generally now known only as the headquarters pilot station of the Port of London Authority, appears neither in the index to the Encyclopaedia Judaica nor in that to our own Transactions. A point of arrival for many immigrants and a centre for crimping during the Napoleonic wars, Gravesend had much in common with the Medway towns, the principal productions of which (or so it seemed to Mr Pickwick) were 'soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers and dockyard men'. 'The humbler sort of Jews', wrote a Chatham authority recalling conditions in the first half of the nineteenth century, 'dealt in civil habiliments shed by recruits when they assumed the military or naval uniforms; and the richer . . . purchase the furniture of officers leaving the garrison, to sell to officers joining; as well as . . . lending money to the impecunious. Some were outfitters, some jewellers.'1 Those resident at Gravesend evidently formed a continuous proportion of the majority that worshipped at Chatham, and if few of them can be said to have distinguished themselves, the descendant of at least one early family occupies a curious niche in Australian Jewish history.2 Edward Davis, born at Gravesend in or about 1814, spent a misguided youth until being sentenced in 1832 to seven years' transportation. It is a matter of regrettable report that having escaped four times from detention in the neighbourhood of Sydney, he emerged as the only known Jewish bushranger on the mainland there. Leaving Davis to one side, what was it that put his native place on the map? The answer may be given by the following lines, published in 1843: Gravesend - rough, unpolished, little known Till modern times, but as a fishing town . . . Of little worth, in its primeval state Was Gravesend thought, till enterprise of late Hath proved its value, shewn on every side Health's harbingers, that on the Zephyrs ride . . . Facilities for pleasure, health and ease In every shape and form, for all degrees Are now profuse, for buildings neat abound And comforts seem to court in smiles around. * Presidential Address delivered to the Society on 17 October 1996. 119</page><page sequence="2">Malcolm Brown By two puissant elements combined, Economy with travelled ease is joined. And thus Gravesend hath gained an envied fame, Through the propelling properties of steam.3 The first steamboat to ply between Gravesend and London ran in 1815. By 1824 the town was said to be 'rising as a popular summer resort'.4 Gravesend tourism was founded on the fact that Thames paddle steamers were far more capacious and much cheaper than any other form of medium-distance transport. In the same year that the verses quoted above appeared, Gravesend accounted for 60 per cent of all steamer passenger traffic out of London.5 Such popularity, of course, had certain consequences. The Tuggs's steamboat trip, readers of Sketches by Boz may remember, was to Margate - Gravesend, even towards the end of the 1830s, was considered 'low' by some. The population multiplied to such an extent that by 1851 the town was the fifth-largest seaside resort in the kingdom. Guidebooks of the period actually described Gravesend as half watering-place, half seaport. Although there never was a spa as such, the springs on Windmill Hill provided an excellent supply of fresh water, and visitors anxious to bathe would have taken a dip in the less polluted reaches of the Thames downstream. This however did not suit the more genteel. When the fictional Mr Caudle suggested (from economic motives) a maritime holiday at Gravesend, his wife replied that he might as well empty a salt-cellar into the New River, and call its banks the seaside.6 While polite society moved uphill from the shipping, the Kentish countryside that formed the hinterland con? tinued to provision London with fruits from England's orchard, not to mention the celebrated Gravesend grass - asparagus. Northfleet, one of Gravesend's outlying areas of settlement, benefited particu? larly from its neighbour's suburban gentrification, and here, just a mile or so from the river, would have been found in the later 1830s what was perhaps the first Jewish boarding school for girls as well as for boys at a significant distance from London. May House Academy in May Place, part of a terrace facing the old Dover road (see plate 1), then overlooked wheat fields on one side and a smock mill on another. Situated on the outskirts of the village and at a safe remove from the bright lights of Gravesend, its suitability for peaceful child rearing was obvious. A nature ramble for the older children might have led them past the wild flowers they would be encouraged to gather for their albums, towards the chalk-pits and fossils that would arouse their interest in natural history. In 1841, so the census shows, May Place, headed by Mrs Fanny Craw cour (see plate 2), had twenty-four pupils all under the age of thirteen. To categorize this as a dame school, with all that word implies, would be neither fair nor accurate. So far as child-minding was concerned, fee-paying Jewish parents would have been well content to let their younger children enjoy the benefits of mixing with others of their own age, and of learning acceptable forms 120</page><page sequence="3">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 Plate 1 May Place, Dover Road East, Northfleet. of group behaviour. What attracted Jewish parents to May Place was a number of factors, not least the medically attested soundness of the water, the curative properties of fresh air, the absence of any record of epidemics in the immediate neighbourhood (this perhaps of prime concern in an age before antibiotics), but also, surely, the personality of the principal. Fanny Crawcour, it should be remembered, was the widow of the celebrated dentist responsible for rebuilding the Norwich synagogue.7 Poor Fanny had shared her husband's mortification when their invitation to the Norwich mayoral banquet turned out to be a hoax, and had nursed him back to health when he lost a leg in a traffic accident a few weeks later. She had, moreover, brought up a large family, none of them mar? ried, against a background of means diminished due to Barnett Crawcour's expensive habit of advertising in competition with the London dentists. Soon after her husband's death in 1834 she returned to her own family, the Alexan? ders, in Chatham, and there, it may be assumed, decided to embark on a teaching career. Such a decision was not quite unprecedented. A boarding school at Camden Place, Peckham, had been started in 1815 by Abraham Garcia, previously a City book-keeper, and the reason for its existence is best told in the words of an alumnus, Joseph Barrow Montefiore.8 It seems that Montefiore had first been sent to the only private Jewish suburban school then available, Hyman Hurwitz's 121</page><page sequence="4">Malcolm Brown Plate 2 Fanny Crawcour, c. 1865. 122</page><page sequence="5">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 academy at Highgate. The parents of the richer pupils objected to Hurwitz, who used to wear a tall Polish hat and stride about the schoolroom with a cane ferociously stuck in his Wellington boots. This reappearance of what might well have been regarded as some of the harsher features of the cheder system led to Garcia being persuaded to act as head of a more select academy at Peckham, where Montefiore and the younger Rothschilds were sent. To what extend efforts were then made to put into practice any more enlightened educational ideals is unknown, but Garcia, at all events, survived the experience until 1826, being succeeded for some ten years by his sister. Also at Peckham was an acad? emy managed by Hannah Gomes. The young ladies there are last heard of during Chanukah 1841, when they were distributing bread and meat to seven poor families thanks to a charity fund established by the headmistress.9 At May Place, as well as at Peckham, much use would surely have been made of that most reprinted of all educational textbooks, Miss Mangnall's Questions, the main? stay of the pre-Victorian and early Victorian schoolroom.10 What else the curric? ulum contained can only be guessed, but in 1842 Fanny Crawcour announced that she had engaged native metropolitan masters, whose pupils would hence? forth receive the advantage, so essential in acquiring a foreign tongue, and at the same time available to so few, of constant converse in the French and German languages.11 Some religious instruction must have been given, although at this stage it probably included only elementary Hebrew reading, translation and grammar, as well as Bible studies. For most of the 1840s, it seems, Jewish activity at Gravesend and its neigh? bourhood centred around the schoolroom at Northfleet and the business pursuits of such downtown offices as that of Noah Davis, the Navy agent.12 Certainly an increasing number of Jewish visitors continued to arrive, for an early advertise? ment in the Voice of Jacob has L. Lipman from London informing his friends and the public in general of his newly opened tea, coffee and dining rooms at 1 Windmill Street, adding that sleeping apartments were to be had by the night or the week.13 Gravesend had become the largest Thames-side town east of London, and its chief magnet at this period would have been the Rosherville Gardens, opened in 1837. After two hours spent on the steamboat, visitors could enjoy miles of tree-lined walks, an esplanade and a variety of diversions. Origin? ally named the 'Kent Zoological and Botanical Institution', it is possible that some of Mrs Crawcour's students may have been escorted thither in furtherance of their education, but perhaps more likely that their parents would have accom? panied them as part of a treat. That school parties, even from London, could have been encountered here is known from a rare booklet, although it is disap? pointing to discover that the anonymous author, 'Isaac, a son of Abraham', had no connection with Jewish education. Perhaps the gardens were included in the programme organized for the children of the West Metropolitan Jewish School in Red Lion Square, who unanimously chose Gravesend for their annual excur 123</page><page sequence="6">Malcolm Brown sion in 1858.14 Undoubtedly many of the theatre-going Jewish holiday-makers at the Gardens would have regarded Baron, or more properly Barnett, Nathan, as a favourite source of entertainment. This remarkable man, brother of the better-known Isaac Nathan, who had set Byron's Hebrew Melodies to music, acted as Rosherville's master of ceremonies.15 On his benefit nights several dozen eggs were placed at different points on the floor of the stage. Nathan would then don a blindfold and proceed to dance a hornpipe between the eggs, a feat guaran? teed to win the astonished applause of any audience. Second to Rosherville, Gravesend's principal object of attraction was its high? est geographical point, Windmill Hill, on one of the lower slopes of which stood a tavern and coffee house known as the Tivoli, opened in 1836. This hostelry flourished also as a family hotel. A couplet of local verse alluded to the excellent reputation of the Tivoli table, while other commentators admired the spacious grounds. Near the main property stood a detached saloon in which an orchestra played reels, country dances, waltzes and the latest musical novelties.16 Beyond the top of Windmill Hill lay a stretch of suburbia that included a modest and well-secluded pair of terrace houses, 3 and 4 Oak Villas (now 36 and 37 South Hill Road). Here in 1851 a young professor of Hebrew and German, Henry Berkowitz, would have been found with five boarders, all London-born, and a Jewish maid-of-all-work, Emily Barrow. Five years after arriving in London from his native Poland, Berkowitz had been taken into the household of the newly appointed Chief Rabbi, N. M. Adler, and entrusted with the education of Adler's younger children.17 Anybody whose personal qualities inspired such confidence can be said to have made a remarkable start. Berko witz's career as a teacher seems to have been determined upon while he was still engaged by the Adlers. His statement in later advertisements that references might be made to the highest Hebrew authorities obviously indicates that the Chief Rabbi would be happy to speak on his behalf, should parents be in any doubt over choosing someone with a name that would have been comparatively unfamiliar. Why he decided to move to Gravesend is not known but he appears to have done so in 1849, and the first notice of him dates from the High Holy days of 1850, when a Gravesend resident wrote of Berkowitz officiating at a temporary synagogue fitted up at Oak Villas, where other members of the minyan would have been either other residents, or visitors for whom Chatham may have been too distant.18 Such a display of independence from Chatham carried its own risks, but Berkowitz's Orthodoxy was clearly unassailable. He had no cause to regret his coming to Gravesend. Private schools proliferated at the seaside - Margate, for instance, had over 1000 children in private schools in 185119 - and even if the rest of the world considered Gravesend as at best only semi-maritime, Berkowitz soon received sufficient pupils to warrant a move into more sizeable accommodation nearby, at 1 Constitution Terrace (now Constitution Crescent). From Constitution Ter 124</page><page sequence="7">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 race, he announced that his Hebraical, Classical and Commercial Academy taught Hebrew, English, Greek, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, mathematics, book-keeping, arithmetic, geography, grammar, elocution, composition, natural history and philosophy.20 Hebrew and English were irreducible needs for any Anglo-Jewish school, but, as Berkowitz himself admitted years later, his own command of English at this time was far from complete, and another master probably taught it. Greek and Latin, the staple fare of the public schools, would also have been the province of perhaps another member of staff, but to what an extent the Classics or indeed any of the advertised subjects were actually taught at the school at this time is uncertain. No doubt some parents had a preference for modern languages, which were an option seldom available at most schools. It seems, in any event, that wide choice for children of mixed abilities was a prescription that served Berkowitz well, for in 1857 his next and last move was to the old Tivoli hotel, which had fallen out of fashion.21 Although steam excursion boats continued to ply to and from the town, the heyday of Gravesend tourism was by now over. The railway arrived in 1849, bringing with it customary industrial development. Berkowitz kept the Tivoli name, reasoning perhaps that the enjoyable associations it had for previous Jewish visitors, the actual or future parents of his new charges, can have done no harm. The estate covered three acres, and the building included, on the ground floor, what was converted into the boys' dining room, library, classroom and study, and the girls' schoolroom and classroom (see plate 3). On the first floor were the family's own apartments and ten dormitories, and on the second floor a further seven dormitories. Behind the building lay nearly two acres of kitchen garden and ample space for a playground.22 The freehold, certainly, was beyond Berkowitz's means, since the premises were far bigger than his two previous houses. But he insisted on having something that made him evidently unique among his generation of Jewish headmasters, a synagogue for the school with sufficient room to hold at least a number of his adult Jewish neighbours. A Gravesend newspaper, reporting its inauguration, spoke of the Tivoli undergoing a not unworthy transformation.23 The garden saloon, which had formerly echoed with the sounds of dancing, proved large enough for part of it to be fitted up as a synagogue, the want of which, as the Gravesend press con? ventionally put it, had long been deplored by Hebrew residents and those visitors of the Hebrew persuasion who frequented the town during the summer months. The Revd A. L. Green came down from Great Portland Street to help conduct the dedication, in which S. H. Andrade of Gravesend participated and to which the Tivoli boys sang responses. To the non-Jewish mind there may have been less of the exceptional about the occasion than seems apparent to us. Tivoli was then the largest private school in the town, eager to establish itself in the public-school image, and one of the indispensable landmarks of the Victorian public school system was the chapel around which so much revolved, with morn 125</page><page sequence="8">Malcolm Brown Plate 3 Tivoli House, showing the former synagogue at top left. ing and evening prayers, some of them recited by the senior pupils. Tivoli's synagogue of 1857 was admittedly on a modest scale. It had a small gallery for ladies and girls above the entrance door, and a niche in the wall served as the ark, which had tapestry-covered folding doors and was approached by a flight of steps each side of which stood a triple-branched candelabrum. But it was Berkowitz's own effort that had brought it about, and the poem he wrote for the dedication consisted of triplets in the Hebrew metre, the lines in each triplet running through the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Of almost equal significance, so far as Gravesend was concerned, is a report of the year following, when fifty pupils - probably the entire school - underwent a public examination.24 Most staff considered this nineteenth-century educa? tional ritual as essential for maintaining the prestige of any school. It obviously involved much preparation by repetition, with a stress on performances from memory, and a rehearsal on the morning of the day at which some of the less able children were taught the answers to questions they would be asked. On this occasion, strangely enough, no report can be found in the local press, but the programme probably included opportunities to demonstrate fluency in every subject taught. The Jewish Chronicle stated that all the prize winners were Lon? doners, with the exception of Henry Solomons from Sydney and Maimon Levi from Corfu, whom the examiners placed at the top of the first class and who 126</page><page sequence="9">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 recited poetry for forty-five minutes. Despite the strain on the audience, the overall impression was excellent. What, meanwhile, had become of May Place? Success had enlarged this beyond its original bounds, and the house next door had become a boys' prepar? atory school for four- to ten-year-olds. There had been an important event in 1856, when Eliza Crawcour, Fanny's third daughter, married at May Place the Polish-born Samuel Barczinsky, formerly a draper's assistant, of Bishopwear mouth near Sunderland. Eliza would not have had far to look for her bridesmaids for the ceremony, at which the Chatham minister, Lazarus Polack, officiated.25 The Barczinskys, after a year or two spent settling their affairs in the North, returned to take over the running of the school from Fanny Crawcour in 1859.26 The curriculum they then announced sounds rather more challenging than any previously known at May Place, which Fanny advertised as a finishing school during her last years there. The girls were now to be taught Hebrew religion and language, with the choice of Sephardi or Ashkenazi pronunciation. English studies comprised elocution, history and composition, and beyond these came map designing and use of the globes and arithmetic. French, German, music and singing (presumably on the recently introduced tonic sol-fa system), dancing, callisthenics, drawing in chalk and pencil, and plain and ornamental needlework sound like a mix of indispensable subjects, together with what have always been regarded as chargeable extras. The course of instruction for boys, superintended by Samuel Barczinsky, included, besides Hebrew and English, Bible comment? ary, mental and practical arithmetic and book-keeping. The Barczinskys relied on the assistance of at least one other resident teacher, the Mulhouse-born Henrietta Dreyfus. When Fanny Crawcour began the school, none of the ten girls enrolled was older than thirteen, and of the fourteen boys, none was older than nine.27 No doubt Fanny's elder daughters would have shared the teaching with their mother. Ten years later, the two oldest continued to teach, while Anna, the youngest daughter, aged seventeen, is marked as a monitor. The school then contained twenty-four girls aged between four and fifteen, and seventeen boys aged between four and eight. Fanny obviously had her hands full. The census taken two years after she retired unfortunately gives few details; but in 1871, when the Barczinskys were on the point of moving to Brighton, the school numbered twenty-nine boys aged six to fifteen, with two assistant masters, one of them Jewish, and Henrietta Dreyfus herself had an assistant governess for the ten girls aged from seven to fifteen. The 1871 census also allows us a glimpse of the national and indeed international character of the school, with the names of children born in Exeter, Bristol, Paris, Montreal and Melbourne. During these thirty years at Northfleet, Amelia Maas served on the domestic staff, eventually becoming housekeeper, providing an element of continuity that must have acted as a further recommendation to a second genera? tion of parents. 127</page><page sequence="10">Malcolm Brown How does this information compare with what is known of Tivoli? It seems that there, as well as at May Place, one child in three had brothers or sisters, not to mention cousins, who were boarding together at the same time. Allowing for imbalances due to the fact that the 1861 and 1871 censuses were taken during the Passover period, when those who could have joined their families would have done so, it seems always to have been the case that half the children were natives of London, some of the other half having been born as close as Chatham, or as far afield as Australia. In both schools boys and girls are included on practically every census return. The obvious inference is that parents wished to keep their offspring together (so far as non-coeducational conditions then allowed) as a matter of convenience, thus creating an incentive for the younger Berkowitzs to take as much part in the teaching process as did the younger Crawcours and Barczinskys, a state of affairs which must have been economically beneficial to all concerned. The differences between the two schools are less easy to characterize. One obvious contrast is their relationship with the Chatham synagogue. The Craw? cours and Barczinskys loyally maintained their subscriptions to Chatham every year, whereas the only time that Berkowitz's name appears in the Chatham accounts occurs in 1864, when he was billed for a quantity of meat.28 Both Barczinsky and Berkowitz were among the guests invited to the foundation-stone laying of the Magnus Memorial Synagogue the following year, but that surely indicates only their equal standing. The reason why no public examination at May Place was ever reported may be that the school believed, rightly as it turned out, that it could prosper without one, at least in Fanny Crawcour's day, when the emphasis seems to have fallen on accomplishments rather than academic prowess. Can it have been pure coincidence that Berkowitz's wife, Rosetta Poland, whom he married before moving to Constitution Terrace, had herself been one of the first of Fanny Crawcour's pupils?29 There would seem to have been few other obvious points of contact. Probably the schools kept their inde? pendence at a respectful distance from each other, and saw little need to do more. Another difference between Tivoli and May Place was the role Berkowitz played in local public life. How far Gravesend had fallen in general esteem can be illustrated by Trollope's choice of it as the location where an Irish Cockney barmaid in his novel, The Three Clerks (1858), spends her two-day honeymoon. For thirty years after the corporation borrowed extravagantly to finance the town pier, the unrepaid capital meant that the civic regalia and moveable possessions had to be rented from creditors.30 Although guidebook writers still dwelt on its merits - as for instance did Elizabeth Jane Brabazon, author of A Month at Gravesend (1863), probably the only book to which both Dickens and Berkowitz subscribed - the town in the early 1860s was suffering from what one historian has termed 'a contagion of numbers', lower-class colonization near the centre 128</page><page sequence="11">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 and an unenviable reputation for having established the fashion of sleeping on the beach.31 In the face of widespread poverty, compounded by public debt, the council could ill afford to ignore the leadership qualities offered by a man with a proven record of professional achievement, a name for liberal principles and a willingness to look beyond his own sphere of activity. In the bitter winter of 1861 Berkowitz and his wife provided soup from the school canteen to a hundred paupers who came to the house every week. He extended the initiative by ensuring that the town set up three more soup kitchens. In the same year he proposed the establishment of a penny provident relief fund, of which he was appointed honorary secretary. He also served on the Mendicity Society established by Colonel (later General) Gordon at Gravesend in 1869. Elected town councillor in 1871, his popularity eventually carried him to the top of the polls in both wards. He became much in demand as a public speaker, in particular if the occasion had a Jewish connection.32 All this while the school was expanding. One way of attracting public attention was to present school theatrical performances. The first indication of these occurs in 1870, when the local press filled several columns with a detailed and appreciative review. Timed to coincide with the festival of Purim, it was the start of a regular feature in the school year, with scenery sometimes borrowed from London theatres, giving the school the opportunity to invite not only local enthusiasts deprived of such entertainment, but also the deserving, such as the elderly in almshouses and disadvantaged children, some of them orphans, from the nearest non-Jewish schools.33 The demand for more such events and the evident increase in Tivoli numbers occurred just as the long-term future of the school seemed most under threat with the appointment of a Jewish house master at Clifton, and Dr Butler's relaxation of the rules at Harrow to permit boys to spend Sabbaths and festivals at home.34 Berkowitz's next move may have been undertaken partly as a response to these challenges. What had hitherto served as a synagogue, the room that had been part of the old Tivoli garden saloon, had by now become inadequate for the school's needs. In June 1879 Hermann Adler and a large contingent of Berkowitz's London friends travelled down to be present at the dedication of a new synagogue built almost entirely at the headmaster's own expense. It had two entrance doors, one from inside the school, one from the town side, and was described as a small square brick structure at the northeastern extremity of the estate. Its interior had space for 180 at ground level, with a gallery for fifty ladies and girls. The roof was panelled in stained wood, and high up on the eastern wall the architect had inserted a rose window. Mombach brought a choir of girls down with him for this special occasion, to which many local people had been invited; the mayor had a new flag hoisted on the Town Hall, and two hundred attended the banquet following the dedication. Adler paid public tribute to Berkowitz's unswerving fidelity to tradition, repeating Lionel de 129</page><page sequence="12">Malcolm Brown Rothschild's much-quoted lines as to the cost of political emancipation being too great if that involved any dereliction of religious duties, and found just the right words for the non-Jewish guests, among whom was a clergyman who had been a contemporary of his at UCL. Berkowitz revealed that no service would have been held, indeed no new synagogue could have come to completion, had it not been for the goodwill and generosity of townspeople (here he mentioned Messrs Morris, Einstein and Myers and their gift of a clock, a Ner Tamid and a Torah Scroll) and of those past and present Tivoli parents who between them contributed material for the Ark, a reading desk, seating, carpeting and a large globe for the new school room, which, together with a new dormitory and the synagogue, represented the latest building developments.35 Local liberal opinion approved of Adler's dedication sermon, on the theme of brotherly love, although interfaith relations suffered a temporary setback when Canon Scarth of Holy Trinity, Gravesend, rebuked those of his congregation who had so far forgotten themselves as to attend the Tivoli festivities. A letter signed simply 'Broad Churchman', deploring the Canon's departure from enlightenment, was not the only response to such unfriendliness.36 Adler had also observed that Tivoli was a case of a synagogue without a congregation, which he hoped would soon be formed. One wonders how this might have come into being. A few years previously a similar suggestion had been made, prompted mostly by the desirability of having a local shochet, but nothing came of it.37 Berkowitz had been used to conducting services single handed, and the consecration ceremony of the new building marks a defining point in his career. In fact his age was beginning to tell, for D. M. Franklin, a Chatham stalwart, helped out during the 1879 High Holyday services, and was himself assisted by Emanuel Drielsma, a former master at May Place, who had remained in the neighbourhood after the school had moved to Brighton. But Berkowitz had no intention of retiring. Competition from other public schools only increased his desire to improve standards at Tivoli. Seen through the eyes of educationalists, the 1880s appear to be among the best years there, judging from press reports of the Oxford and Cambridge Local Board Examinations, and those of the College of Preceptors, which indeed made a special award to Tivoli in 1888. Berkowitz must have been particularly proud at the academic success of his daughter Amelia, whose piano-playing substituted for the want of an orchestra at the school theatre productions, and whose piano compositions received a hearing at several charity fund-raising concerts in the town.38 The Corporation of Gravesend had gradually been shaking off its past embar? rassments, having recovered a measure of financial autonomy. Berkowitz put forward a suggestion that the regalia be enriched by a mayoral chain and badge of office, and the proposal was accepted. Next, he became chairman of the borough Building Society.39 Then in November 1887 he was himself elected mayor (see 130</page><page sequence="13">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 plate 4), the first Anglo-Jewish schoolmaster ever to be so honoured. Columns of newsprint celebrated the event.40 The joy bells were set ringing, the shipping was gaily decorated, the streets were made bright with bunting, from Venetian masts were suspended ropes and baskets of artificial flowers, the principal buildings were adorned with flags, [and] the most noticeable banner, in front of the Literary Institute, read 'God bless our Jewish mayor, whose noble acts and good deeds all Christians might well strive to imitate'. Ceremoniously installed in the presence of a larger gathering than ever assembled on any similar occasion, the reverend gentleman then proceeded in semi-state to Tivoli House. Addressing his scholars, he impressed upon them [the necessity] of upholding in its entirety their grand old Religion. [He returned to] the Town Hall seated in his state carriage drawn by four cream-coloured horses and wearing his robes, chain of office and tricorne with coloured plumes, the yeomanry forming a guard of honour and the procession being headed by the Chief Constable, the mace bearer and an artillery detachment. At the banquet, Messrs Silver catered for the Jewish table, where Sidney Poland, one of Berkowitz's first pupils and also one of his brothers-in-law, sat on the Mayor's right hand. The outgoing mayor spoke of the church, the chapel, the Sunday school and the Waterside Mission which had all benefited from Berkow? itz's efforts, reminding the audience that the three soup-kitchens were entirely his own creation, and stating that it was owing to Berkowitz's business capacity that never until then had the affairs of the corporation been in so flourishing a condition. Berkowitz replied that proud as he was of the honour conferred on him, he was prouder still of the compliment that through him they had paid to Judaism. On his return home, the horses were unyoked and the carriage drawn by the people. Thousands assembled outside Tivoli House, demanding a speech. From the drawing room window, Berkowitz assured them that his efforts would be continued for the dear old town he loved so well, for the assistance of the sick and unemployed, and for ameliorating the condition of the poor. Berkowitz carried out the duties of his year of office with the unfailing dignity that might have been expected. He presided at the inauguration of the Jubilee Clock Tower, still a much-admired feature of present-day Gravesend. An exchange of telegrams with Balmoral formed part of the opening ceremony.41 On a personal note, he was delighted to exchange congratulations with another mayor, a former Tivoli pupil named Charles Louisseau who, having worked his way up as station hand and miner at Ballarat, established a brewing concern in New Zealand and became the first Jewish mayor of Christchurch.42 At home, one highlight in the Gravesend programme was a luncheon at Tivoli to repres? entatives of a diocesan conference sitting in the town. As the principal guest, the Bishop of Rochester, observed, it was probably the first time such a confer? ence had been received by a Jew in the annals of Church history, and he found his host so congenial that in later days he never missed an opportunity to inquire 131</page><page sequence="14">Malcolm Brown Plate 4 Henry Berkowitz in his mayoral robes, 1888. 132</page><page sequence="15">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 after him. The Bishop of Minnesota was equally impressed, telling a fellow clergyman that life had been worth living 'if only to meet and sit at the table of that dear old son of Abraham'.43 Meantime Berkowitz's prestige among the scat? tered local community continued to grow. In 1887 Jewish soldiers stationed in the town attended the Shavuot services at Tivoli; during the 1888 High Holy days, synagogue visitors included many from Dartford and surrounding areas, some of whom walked a distance of ten miles to be present, mindful perhaps of the fact that seats were free and no monetary offerings were allowed.44 His personal generosity continued unimpaired, but poor health decided him to decline a second year as mayor. Early in 1891, Tivoli parents received notice of the cancellation of the forthcoming school play. In April that year Berkowitz died. Gravesend paid such attention to the formal aspects of the funeral as to give it a public character. A military guard of honour surrounded the hearse, which was driven by the senior Jewish townsman, Morris Bebarfeld, to the station down the hill from Tivoli, and was followed by large numbers on foot representing the Kent County Council and a great many other organizations with which Berkowitz had been associated. The funeral took place at West Ham. When the tombstone was set, the floral tributes included one from Lord Darnley of Cobham Hall, the chief landowner in the vicinity of Gravesend, and another, nearly three feet in diameter, from Lord Rothschild. On the stone are inscribed the words: 'In recognition of his noble acts, charitable deeds and wisdom in the government and advancement of his town, his grateful Christian brethren conferred upon him the distinction of mayor, alderman, J.P. and first county councillor of Kent . . . but he was best known and will be remembered as philanthropist and scholar, by his fifty years untiring, sympath? etic efforts for the poor and by his continuous, ever powerful, advocacy of Juda? ism.'45 This is not quite the end of the story. Berkowitz's eldest son, Isidore, had been trained for the headship to which he now succeeded, and institutions such as Tivoli acquire a self-sustaining life of their own. Examination results con? tinued to be prominent, with reporters paying particular attention to children from overseas and the occasional entrant to Harrow, while by 1904 it seems that for Hebrew the school had become first in all England for a number of years.46 Whenever Isidore Berkowitz commented on academic achievements he laid much stress on the fact that the children concerned were thoroughly good sportsmen. Something of an all-rounder himself, he served as chairman of the town Cricket Club and president of the Rowing Club, besides being for many years chairman of the Education and Library Committees. If nobody attended Corporation meetings more regularly, there was also a lighter side to his activit? ies - he revived what had formerly been a popular summer feature, the concerts on Windmill Hill, and the gardens at Tivoli flourished as they had not done for half a century.47 But he was never destined to become mayor. The second Jewish 133</page><page sequence="16">Malcolm Brown mayor of Gravesend was a far more politically minded man, Isidore Berkowitz's near contemporary, Captain Henry Davis. Elected as an independent candidate to Gravesend Corporation in 1897, Davis's public career began in the 1870s when he organized the volunteer fire brigades in South East Kent. Such was his passion for fire-fighting that on Captain Shaw's retirement from the London fire brigade he put himself forward as candidate for the post, from which he was disqualified only by age.48 At Gravesend, which suffered a great many fires in the district nearest to the town centre due to the densely packed numbers of old wooden houses there,49 he was generally regarded as the chief honorary fire expert. As befitted such a colourful personality, his chief occupation was that of theatrical impresario. Marie Lloyd and her sisters owed their first public appearance to the captain. Davis eventually became a co-director with Stoll of the several Stoll companies and managing director of the London Grand Theatre of Varieties. He also owned the Empire Theatre at Chatham, which enabled him to entertain the deserving frequently and at his own cost.50 Expansive, affable and jovial, his manner commended him sufficiently to colleagues on the corporation for them to elect him mayor of Gravesend (see plate 5) no fewer than six times. His well-justified reputation for hospitality led to his being called the poor man's mayor, inaugurating the custom whereby the chief magistrate of the town provided a high tea for six- or seven-hundred of the needy before he himself sat down to the mayoral banquet. It was Davis who persuaded foreign men-of-war to come up river to Gravesend on the understanding that he would see to their reception; he who revived and spent his own money on arranging regattas, and who sent the entire company from his Chatham theatre to entertain Gravesend orphans at annual treats. He raised thousands of pounds for a host of funds, becoming president of the local League of Mercy.51 In 1911 he established a record by accepting the mayoralty for the fourth year in succession, a record, incidentally, that is still unbeaten.52 No other Gravesend colleague had his network of London contacts, his energy and above all his appetite for the larger stage.53 Isidore Berkowitz, who shared few of Davis's ambitions, resigned from the Council in 1910. Tivoli by now needed all the attention he could give it. Several other private Jewish boarding schools had recently been established, offering equal if not better academic and sports facilities. Berkowitz took a brother-in-law into partnership as joint principal and together they did what they could to maintain former standards. But their efforts were savagely interrupted in the early hours of a June morning in 1915. A Zeppelin dropped a string of explosives all the way down from Windmill Hill to the Thames, causing widespread damage to many buildings, Tivoli in particular. Within a month, Berkowitz relocated the children and staff at North wood Hall near Harrow. There they remained until 1919, when he made an unsuccessful attempt to renew the Tivoli lease at Gravesend and the school disbanded.54 134</page><page sequence="17">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 8B?;&gt; THE MAYOR OF, GRAVESEND. S-: Plate 5 Henry Davis in his mayoral robes, c. 1910. 135</page><page sequence="18">Malcolm Brown Historians of boarding schools, like the teachers many of them once were, are prone to pay rather more attention to the exceptional than to the average pupil, and it would be odd if they behaved otherwise. During most of the nineteenth century, communal opinion identified education as the key to a position beyond even that of political emancipation, namely full social equal? ity. On one of the rare occasions when there were no academic successes to report, an editorial entitled 'A Leader to our Boys' reproached them for not looking beyond the counting house for their careers.55 The counting house, however, or its equivalent, was just what many Tivoli parents had in mind for their eldest sons at least - the Van Praaghs, for example, or the Defries family, owners of one of the major lighting companies in the country. Apart from a practical preparation for early employment, such people surely wished their children to acquire some knowledge and learning that was neither directly nor indirectly marketable. Beyond this, they looked for the training and leadership inculcated in public schools generally. To what an extent this was mostly a matter of an older generation moulding the younger in the cause of perpetuation of the commercial middle classes, rather than an attempt at some form of upward social mobility on the part of Yiddish-speaking parents, is difficult to assess. Berkowitz's connections with the Rothschilds, the Montefiores and Sir Benjamin Phillips would have been known to many Tivoli parents, and Sir Benjamin was on record as an advocate of Jewish children speaking without, as he put it, a 'Jewish' accent.56 A native-born teacher at Tivoli, such as Martyn Karminski of Leicester, would have found few obstacles in this path of progress down the road of Anglicization.57 As to cultural and intellectual activities generally, just because we hear nothing of a Tivoli chess club or debating society or general discussion periods does not mean to say that they never existed, but when old pupils were speaking of the school they did tend to place the mercantile before the professional successes of their fellow alumni.58 That is not to deny the occasional exceptions, among whom should be mentioned the Poland family, several of them distinguished lawyers, and two Poland daughters, both Tivoli girls, one of them active in an early attempt at wild-life conserva? tion, the other an accomplished short-story writer.59 Tivoli would certainly never have been a target for communal concern about the moral danger posed by purely scholastic achievement if this was unaccompanied by sound and regular religious instruction. Professional people, whose numbers were increasing constantly, often found themselves either with less leisure for such instruction, or felt unable to provide it themselves, or neglected to appoint tutors to provide it, thus putting their gifted children at serious risk from want of a Jewish background of values when studying any part of the curriculum that demanded something more than the acquisition of purely technical skills. It seems that this was partly a problem of supply in that 136</page><page sequence="19">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 there were never enough qualified Jewish schoolteachers available. Tivoli parents, on the other hand, would have had little cause to doubt that their offspring would grow up into confident citizens whose attachment to the community had been formed as it were unconsciously, by the mere fact that regular synagogue attendance was as habitual a part of their upbringing as any other feature of it. The want of original documentation makes further comment hazardous: the log books and reports, the letters and personal details seem to have vanished. A single photographic portrait survives of Henry Berkowitz,60 show? ing him in his mayoral robes, perhaps not quite at ease in front of the camera, the hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth. The distinctive impression is one of gentle determination, which, together with the virtues we already know of, adds up to an image of guileless integrity. Modesty and merit, some say, are seldom found together. In Berkowitz's case, they may well have been part of what it was that helped decide parents to send their children to Tivoli. It was surely for other qualities that other teachers were known, Leopold Neumegen, for example, for his general ability or Louis Loewe for his exceptional scholarship in Oriental languages. Tivoli seems to have represented an alternative educational pattern, where Berkowitz's career set, for the more ambitious, an example of altruistic public service based on a practical foundation, while ensuring that the mostly quiet lives of his other pupils were sufficient introduction to the relatively stable conditions of the adult world that awaited them. Tivoli is still standing, a Grade II listed building, but the space once used as a synagogue is presently used for storage. The schoolhouse too has undergone a series of metamorphoses, being in turn a social club, an auction? eer's saleroom, a bingo hall, a dance hall and now an adult education centre. The local authorities seem at present aware more of Tivoli's architectural value than of its significance as a feature of Anglo-Jewish history. They have recently refused permission to extend the building either with a new wing for a gymnasium, or with a multi-purpose hall at the back. But even if opinion should change, and Tivoli eventually becomes a site for some future archaeologist to excavate, all may not be lost. Addressing the fourth annual meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Norwich in 1847, a famous antiquarian remarked of topography that its practitioners 'are not to be found in every parish, nor are they born in every prince's days, [people] whose particular delight it is to "remember the days of old, to consider the years of many generations . . .", and who have no greater pleasure than to perceive the beauty of truth as it arises out of combination and comparison of evidence previously unknown and testimony widely dispersed.'61 However distant, it could be added, these ideals may sometimes be, so long as they are kept in mind, Anglo-Jewish local studies will continue to flourish. 137</page><page sequence="20">Malcolm Brown NOTES 1 For Gravesend merely as a port of arrival, see entries in Misc. JHSE VI (1962) 187-94 and A. Newman (ed.) Migration and Settlement (JHSE 1971) 47-58; also B. Naggar, Jewish Pedlars and Hawkers ij40-ig40 (Camberly 1992) 22. Apart from two keepers of an ale-house (1808) the Jewish crimps of Gravesend named in G. L. Green, The Royal Navy and Anglo-Je wry ij40-1820 (Ealing 1989) seem not to have settled locally; R. G. Hobbes, Reminiscences of Seventy Years II (London 1895) 94 2 G. F. Bergman, 'Edward Davis: the life and death of an Australian bushranger', Australian JHS Journal IV (1956) 205-40. 3 [Anon.] A new historical, topographical &amp; descriptive companion to Gravesend interspersed with . . . original poetical effusions, didactic, pathetic, and descriptive . . . (Gravesend 1843) ix. 4 W. Miller, Jottings of Kent (Gravesend and London 1864) 53. 5 J. K. Walton, The English Seaside Resort (Leicester 1983) 18 and 21. 6 D. W. Jerrold, Mrs Caudle's Curtain Lectures (London n.d.) 95. The lectures first appeared in Punch, 1845. 7 M. Brown, 'The Jews of Norfolk and Suffolk before 1840', Trans JHSE XXXII (1993)221. 8 L. Wolf, Essays in Jewish History (JHSE 1934) 3i 9 Directories and ratebooks, Southwark Local Studies Library. 10 Dame Veronica Wedgwood's essay, 'Miss Mangnall of the Questions\ reprinted in her Velvet Studies (London 1946) 83-6, remains the best introduction. 11 Voice of Jacob 16 Sept. 1842. 12 G. L. Green (see note 1) 206. 13 Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 21 June 1844. 14 Entitled A visit to the Rosherville Gardens. A dialogue as is supposed might have taken place between two scholars of the Hart Street School (London 1844), a copy may be found in the Local History section of Gravesend Public Library (hereafter GLH); Rabbi C. E. Cassell, 'The West Metropolitan Jewish school', Trans JHSE XIX (i960) 118. 15 O. S. Phillips, Isaac Nathan (London 1940) 96-103. The absence of a satisfactory history of the gardens makes it difficult to verify Mrs Phillips' statement that Barnett Nathan also served as their managing director, but certainly he supervised the musical programmes. 16 [Anon.] The adventures of Johnny Neverright or an excursion to Gravesend (London 1845) 16; [anon.] A new guide to Gravesend and Milton . . . (London n.d.) 12. 17 Gravesend and Dartford Reporter (hereafter GDR) 12 Nov. 1887; JC 10 April 1891 (obituary); Rabbi G. Lipman in Jewish Encyclopedia III (New York and London 1902) 69. 18 JC 4 Oct. 1850. 19 J. K. Walton (see note 5) 97. In 1851 Gravesend and Milton had 34 private schools, Northfleet 4. 20 JC 1 April 1853. 21 Local directories indicate that another school for boys briefly occupied the premises before this date. 22 These details are taken from Parrish's sale catalogue of the freehold, 19 June 1877, a copy of which is bound into GLH, 'Particulars of sales in and around Gravesend, 1829-1904'. The catalogue in question is marked 'Mr Solomon'. 23 GDR 14 March 1857. 24 JC 9 July 1858. 25 Many early records of the Chatham Synagogue have recently been transferred to the custody of Kent County Council and are now available at the Rochester upon Medway Studies Centre (hereafter KCCS). The marriage register is catalogued as DE. 202/ 38a. A Crawcour family tree (copy kindly sent to me by Mrs Ann Causton) shows that Fanny's seventh daughter Sarah married Bernhard Barczinsky, sometime principal of a school for English boys in Brussels: JC 7 Nov. 1879. 26 JC 30 Sept. 1859. Fanny Crawcour opened another academy that year at Hutchinson Place, Somerset Street (now 12 Darnley Road) Gravesend, which survived until 1862. For this and many other details I am most grateful to the former Hon. Secretary of the Gravesend Historical Society, Tony Larkin. Our exchange of information is recorded in his 'Jewish schools in Northfleet and Gravesend', Gravesend Hist. Soc. Trans. 43 (1997) 32. 27 The census returns, on which the information in this paragraph is based, exclude particulars of children who may have attended the schools as day pupils. 28 KCCS, DE. 202/23. 13?</page><page sequence="21">The Jews of Gravesend before 1915 29 The marriage took place at the Great Synagogue on 9 June 1852 (information from Mrs Diana Neville). 30 S. Harker, The book of Gravesham (Buckingham 1979) 61. 31 A. J. Philip, A history of Gravesend (Wraysbury [1954]) 180. 32 JC 11 Jan. 1861 and 19 April 1861; GDR 25 Jan. 1868 and 6 March 1869;^ 17 July 1874 and 12 Oct. 1875. 33 JC 1 April 1870 (review of 'La Son nambula' reprinted from the local press); GDR 6 March 1880 (review of'H.M.S. Pinafore'). 34 JC 23 March 1877 and 16 Nov. 1877. 35 T3 and 20 June T$79; GDR 14 June 1879 (the clergyman in question being the Revd A. Jackson, vicar of All Saints, Perry Street). 36 GDR 21 June 1879; JpC 18 July 1879. 37 JC 9 Oct. 1874 and 22 Oct. 1875. 38 JC 10 Oct. 1879, 10 March 1882, 22 June 1883, 20 March 1885, 3 April 1885, 29 Jan. 1886, 2 March 1888, and 25 Jan. 1889. 39 GDR 11 April 1891 and 28 May 1892. 40 JC 18 Nov. 1887. 41 JC 15 June 1888; from 1885 to 1890 Berkowitz's business interests included a half-share in a steam brewery company located in Church Street. R. H. Hiscock, Gravesend in old photographs (Gloucester 1988) 55. 42 JC 19 March 1888; L. M. Goldman, The history of the Jews in New Zealand (Wellington 1957) in. 43 GDR 11 April 1891 and May 1892. 44 JC 3 June 1887, 23 Sept. 1887 and 21 Sept. 1888. 45 JC 10 April 1891; GDR 11 April 1891; JC 31 July 1891. 46 JC29 Jan. 1898, 27 Jan. 1899 and 12 Feb. 1904. 47 JC 2 Sept. 1892, 26 Jan. 1900, 12 Feb. 1904; GDR 10 April 1920. 48 GDR 2 Jan. 1897, 6 Nov. 1897 and 12 Nov. 1910. 49 D. A. McKellan, Fire! Some notes on the fires of Gravesend (Kent County Library, Gravesham Division, Local History pamphlet no. 14, 1962). 50 GDR 10 Nov. 1923 and 9 Aug. 1930 (mentioning Davis's early days as 'a traveller for his father's firm, Messrs Moses Davis and Son, City wholesale silk merchants'). 51 GDR 14 Nov. 1908,15 Oct. 1910, 25 Oct. 1924, 21 Feb. 1925 and 19 Sept. 1925. 52 Davis served as mayor in 1902-3, 1908 12 and 1923-4. 53 The corporation sent a deputation to Davis's funeral in London, but were not represented at the memorial service held in the home of his nephew Cyril Jacobs (then vice-chairman of the LCC): GDR 8 and 15 July 1933. 54 JC 26 Oct. 1906; GDR 29 Oct. i9io;/C 28 July 1911; S. Harker (see note 30) 94, JC 9 July 1915; GDR 10 April 1920. 55 JC 21 Nov. 1851 and 2 Oct. 1874. 56 C. P. Hershon, To make them English (Bristol 1983) 32. 57 Karminski appears in the 1861 Tivoli census return as an assistant aged twenty. 58 JC 9 Sept. 1887. 59 JC 16 Feb. 1883, 21 Dec. 1888, 4 Dec. 1891 and 9 Dec. 1892 (Hannah Poland); 12 Nov. 1897 (Esther Poland). 60 Henry Stacey Marks used the photograph illustrated above as the basis for his posthumous mayoral portrait of Berkowitz. 61 J. Hunter, 'Hints on the nature, purpose and resources of topography', in Memoirs illustrative . . . of Norwich, (London 1851) 93. It may not be superfluous to add that the biblical reference (Deut. 25: 17) in the sentence quoted is the motto of our own Society. 139</page></plain_text>

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