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The Rise of Jewish Suburbia

Vivian D. Lipman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Rise of Jewish Suburbia VIVIAN D. LIPMAN, M.A., D.Phil. 'Saul Myers begs to inform the gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion that his spacious Dining Rooms are now open for their reception; and he trusts by strict attention to business to ensure their patronage. The Rooms will be open on the Sabbath only to those members of the faith who have ordered dinners on or before the preceding Friday. 17 Cornhill, opposite the Royal Exchange.' This notice appeared in the Voice of Jacob on 7 July 1843.1 It is of significance as testifying to the development in London of a commuter class of Jewish businessmen who had settled in the suburbs but travelled daily into the City to work and insisted on observance of the dietary laws. It is clear that Mr. Myers looked to this class for his main clientele, although he did offer to cater for visitors on Sabbaths and Holy Days (something our contemporaries have so far failed to achieve), and he subsequently offered tinned mock turtle soup for those travelling abroad.2 The establishment of such an eating-house had been advocated in a letter to the Voice of Jacob on 17 March 1843 by a gentleman signing himself (in Hebrew) 'Kashruth'. He stated that he resided in one of the suburbs of London and arrived in the City between 9 and 10 in the morning. His business kept him in the neigh? bourhood of the Bank always until 5 and some? times until 7 p.m., during which time 'I am compelled to stay the cravings of my hunger with some poor substitute for the substantial food which my constitution requires'. He added that while a Jewish eating-house in the City had not succeeded in 1830, the prospects of success in 1843 were much surer because a greater number of Jewish families now lived out of the City and a greater number of the wealthier Jews were disposed to abstain from forbidden food.3 We cannot date a significant development in Anglo-Jewish social history solely on the evidence of an eating-house; but this story does suggest that we should look in the period of the 1830s or early 1840s for other evidence on the movement of middle-class Jewish families out of the City of London and its adjacent streets to the more spacious areas of the suburbs. To find the beginnings of this movement is not merely of antiquarian interest. For the sub? urban Jewish community has been of great sociological importance in determining the character of Anglo-Jewry; and some of the features which distinguish Anglo-Jewry can be traced to these suburban communities. In an age when the Jews of the Hampstead Garden Suburb, or of Edgware, or of Ilford, and no longer the Jews of the East End, tend to set the pattern for the Anglo-Jewish community as a whole, it is strange that the origins and early development of suburban Jewish communities have been so neglected. Jewish social history has been so dominated by study of the 'ghetto', the area which the American Jewish socio? logists have termed the area of first settlement, that the length of history of Jewish suburbia tends to be underestimated.4 THE NATURE OF THE SUBURB But before embarking on an inquiry into the history of Jewish suburbia, I wish to make four definitions or reservations. First, I have defined the Jewish suburban community in terms of the commuter, the man who lives in the suburb and travels daily to work, usually in the centre of the conurbation or an area adjacent thereto. To take a concrete example, I have not in? cluded as a suburban community for the pur? pose of this study the congregations of the Western Synagogue or of Maiden Lane in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, since their members settled in what was then the western side of London in order to earn their living in the vicinity; nor, to take a later example, do I regard as suburban the Jewish community of Soho, described by Mr. Ghaim Lewis in his recent volume of autobiography, A Soho Address, even though it was historically 78</page><page sequence="2">The Rise of Jewish Suburbia 79 largely an overspill from East London. Second, I use the term 'suburb' in the English rather than the contemporary American sense. 'In essence a suburb is a decentralized part of a city with which it is inseparably linked by certain economic and social ties.'5 The suburb is therefore part of the city, within the built-up area of the conurbation, whereas 'in the United States the word "suburban" connotes something different from the common European meaning. It refers directly to areas outside a city; it tends, therefore, to describe development of the recent past?since 1945: development based on the universal possession of the private automobile; development at a density which is extraordinarily low even by generous European standards'.6 Third, my illustrations of the growth of suburbia are drawn exclusively from London. The development began much earlier there, the geographical spread is far greater, but the process was basically the same in the provincial cities as in London. Jewish experience, which in London was spread over many areas?Whitechapel, Hack? ney, Stamford Hill, Hampstead, Golders Green, and Edgware?was in Manchester and Salford compressed geographically into a stretch of about four miles along the road to Bury?from Cheetham Hill to Whitefield; or in Leeds along just over four miles of the road leading to Harrogate, from the Leylands to Alwoodley. Fourth, some explanation, however general, is needed of the sense in which I shall be using the terms middle class and upper or upper middle class. I have taken the keeping of at least one servant as the criterion of middle-class status, following the test adopted by Charles Booth in his great survey of London Life and Labour at the end of the nineteenth century. Again following Booth, I have used the term upper or upper middle class to cover those keeping three or more servants per family. In the Booth Survey study of social and religious influences all the streets of London are classified according to class. My ordinary middle class corresponds roughly to the areas marked in red on Booth's map, 'well-to-do'; the upper or upper middle class to the areas marked yellow, 'wealthy'. Levels of income, of course, fluctu ated greatly during the period covered but, at a very rough estimate, the minimum income for middle-class status would be about ?100 per year, with an upper or upper middle class income beginning at about ?1,000 a year. To some extent, there would have been over? lapping of the lower ranges of the middle class by the higher grades of working class or artisans, who towards the end of the nineteenth century might earn up to 45s. or 50s. a week; these would occupy houses in areas coloured pink on the Booth maps, 'working-class com? fort'.7 Mrs. Beeton in 1861 suggests that a widow or spinster with ?100 per annum would have one servant; a family with ?150 to ?300 per annum one whole-time cook-general; a family with ?500 per annum a cook and a maid; with ?750 a cook, a maid, and a boy; and with ?1,000 a year a cook, two maids, and a man.8 THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY While the development of London Jewish suburbia dates from the 1830s or 1840s, there had, of course, been London Jews with resi? dences in the suburbs of the Metropolis, or outlying villages, in the eighteenth century. Yet examination of the circumstances of these earlier settlers confirms the thesis that they were not middle-class commuters as in the nineteenth century. This settlement took three forms. First, Jews had country houses in the area round London; second, they would buy or rent houses in residential villages, such as Richmond; third, they would occupy houses in villages which were already virtually part of the London conurbation, such as Hackney or Canonbury. In so far as the wealthiest Jews acquired country houses within easy reach of London, they were only doing what their Christian contemporaries were doing from the beginning of the eighteenth century onwards. As Defoe wrote in 1724: T find two thousand houses which in other places would pass for palaces, and most, if not all, the possessors whereof keep coaches, in the little towns or villages of Middlesex, west of London only.' These were the wealthier London merchants and bankers, who cut up the area round London</page><page sequence="3">80 Vivian D. Lipman in residential properties. 'An age began of good, solid mansions of London brick, square, com? fortable, without much ornament; they may still be seen in many parts of Middlesex especially along the river. Many of them are now in reduced circumstances, though it is still possible to detect the air of amiable, unexciting spaciousness they once possessed.'9 In so far as one can find any tendency to cluster in Jewish settlement, it seems to be in the popular south-western sector?Richmond, Isle worth, Teddington, Mortlake, Twickenham.10 Jews had settled in Richmond from the end of the seventeenth century; Moses Hart moved from Richmond to a country house at Isle worth, and the Franks family also had country homes in this area on the Middlesex side.11 The Goldsmids preferred the south?Benjamin at Roehampton, Abraham at Morden. It was of this area that Cobbett wrote ill-naturedly some years later that from Sutton to London 'there is, in fact, little besides houses, gardens, grass plots and other matters to accommodate the Jews and jobbers and the mistresses and bastards that are put out a-keeping'.12 There were also a number of Jews in the area north? west of London: Aaron Gapadose and Jacob Pereira at Stanmore, Joseph da Costa at Totteridge, Joseph d'Almeida at Watford, the Mendes da Costas at Highgate. Indeed, Defoe wrote that 'Jews have particularly fix't on Highgate and Hampstead for their country houses'. In the north-east, Jacob Fernandez Nunes had a house at Stoke Newington and Benjamin Goldsmid had his first country residence at Stamford Hill, while keeping his London home in Spital Square. The Assur Key sers, with a house in Finsbury Square, had also a country home at Chestnut Walk, Leyton.13 When these wealthy Jewish businessmen took a country house or, on a less grand scale, a house in Richmond or Hampstead or Highgate, they would normally use them as weekend or summer residences only, while keeping a house in town. It was rather like a modern business man having a country cottage or a flat in a seaside town to retire to at weekends. Moses Hart, of Isleworth, kept his house in St. Mary Axe; Aaron Franks, of Isleworth, had a house in Billiter Square; Moses Isaac Levy (President of the Board of Deputies in 1789) had a house in London, as well as a country home in Wimbledon. Benjamin Goldsmid had his London home in Spital Square, Assur Keyser in Finsbury Square. If a Jew settled in a village near London but did not keep a London home, it was likely that he had retired from business. The 'first Jew in Hampstead', Eliezer Isaac Keyser, who settled there in about 1812, did so because he was retired from business.14 Others in the mid-eighteenth century (e.g., Abraham de Paiba, who spent nearly the last ten years of his life in Richmond) were retired from daily attendance at business in the City. Neither the wealthy, who kept houses for weekend or summer residence, nor the retired could be regarded as ordinary commuters. On the other hand, those Jews who from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century lived in areas as close to the Metropolis as Islington or Hackney were probably within such close reach of the City?about a mile and a half? that they were in fact commuters and seem to have had no other residence. Islington had several Jewish residents in the late eighteenth century.15 Solomon Cohen, a son of Levi Barent Cohen (and brother-in-law of Moses Montefiore), took a house in Canonbury about 1820 (Grove House, near Canonbury Tower); there is no evidence that he kept another house in the City.16 Islington in 1815 was, according to a contemporary, ?a colony of bankers and mer? chants' clerks', because it was within a mile and a half of the centre of the City.17 Similarly, Hackney had a considerable number of Jewish residents even before 1800.18 This was only to be expected since, as Maitland put it in 1753, it was the nearest place in which a man could live and work in London. THE SPREAD OF LONDON JEWRY 1830-1840 Yet while we can find in the Islington and Hackney settlements rudimentary groups of Jewish suburban commuters, they were very small indeed compared with the movement which began around 1830. It is remarkable indeed that the very wealthiest Jews did not</page><page sequence="4">The Rise of Jewish Suburbia 81 move out before about 1830. While the streets and squares of Marylebone, Mayfair, and St. James's had been the fashionable areas of residence for the wealthy from the beginning of the eighteenth century, hardly any of the Jewish magnates, even those with their own country houses, acquired town houses in the West End but kept their London homes in the City or the streets to the east. It was not till 1825 that Nathan Mayer Rothschild moved from New Court to 107 Piccadilly and Moses Montefiore to Green Street, Park Lane.19 Isaac Lyon Goldsmid left Spital Square at about the same time for Regent's Park.20 On the other hand, Joseph Cohen, a brother in-law of N. M. Rothschild and a brother of the Solomon Cohen of Canonbury, lived till his death in 1838 in Prescott Street. The tendency to move from the City spread to the rest of the upper middle class and to some of the ordinary middle class in the 1830s and early 1840s. These, however, usually moved a smaller distance than the Rothschilds or Montefiores had done. They went to the Finsbury Square area, to Bloomsbury or Marylebone, rather than to Mayfair. We can date this move fairly closely by examining the addresses in a series of contemporary lists. For instance, a list of 1827, giving the addresses of subscribers to the Jewish Blind Society, shows practically no addresses at all outside the City or East London; in 1836 a list of 104 subscribers to a book of Jewish interest shows over a third outside the City and streets adjacent; and analysis of 100 Jewish names in the 1848 Post Office Court Directory suggests that only about 12% of those named in the list still lived in the City or the eastern streets, although this list represents a rather higher social stratum than the 1827 and 1836 lists. Bearing in mind that probably at least two-thirds of London's Jewish population of around 18,000 at this period still lived in the City and the streets to the east, there appears nevertheless a remarkable tendency on the part of the Jewish middle class to move. What were the reasons for this migration? One can attribute it to the desire of the largely English-born Jewish middle class to assimilate to their environment?a tendency which was also reflected in this period in the struggle for political emancipation. On the other hand, if we accept that this was an assimilatory ten? dency, we must look also for the reasons which led to migration in the wider community. The movement of middle-class Jews into the suburbs was only part of a great movement that not only transformed London in the nineteenth century but introduced into the social structure a new class?the suburbans. The population of London in the nineteenth century rose from just over a million to 6-5 millions.21 Because in England develop? ment tended to be in houses rather than flats? outwards not upwards?this produced a great lateral expansion of the conurbation. In 1820 a man standing at Temple Bar could have walked to the extreme limit of the built-up area if he walked two miles either way to west or east (to Hyde Park Corner or Whitechapel) or about one and a half miles to north or south (to the Angel or Elephant and Castle). Apart from some ribbon development along the main routes leading from London, London was still a relatively compact city.22 On the other hand, by 1914 'the built-up area was contained within a circle 18 miles across, extending from Edmonton on the north to Croydon in the south, and from Ealing in the west to Woolwich in the east'?with lines of settlement stretching out along the radial routes beyond.23 The population of the conurbation increased by 20% or more every decade between 1841 and 1881 and by just under 21% in the two decades between 1881 and 1901.24 These total figures mask the differences in population change in the inner and outer areas: the central area of London began actually to lose population from the middle of the century; what became the L.C.C. area as a whole achieved its highest rate of growth in the middle of the nineteenth century, and the increases in population became smaller and smaller until by 1911 its population was stationary; meanwhile Outer London's rates of increase reached a peak (50 % per decade) between 1861 and 1891. This immense growth of London was made possible from 1830 onwards by the develop? ment of public transport. Up to 1830 if a Jew</page><page sequence="5">82 Vivian D. Lipman lived outside the area of 'first settlement', he did so because he was so wealthy that he could keep a carriage; or because he was retired and did not need to come into town daily; or because, like the members of the Western and Borough congregations, he had settled in an outlying part of the town for business reasons and lived over or near his work. In the early nineteenth century short-stage coaches (the London counterpart of the better-known long? distance stage coaches) made it possible for some of the upper middle class to commute. But fares were high (Is. 6d. to 2s. for inside seats to the City from Paddington, 6d. less outside). Those who could not or would not pay the fares but lived outside the centre had to walk to work; as the young Moses Monte fiore had walked to the City from Kenning ton.25 Ordinary middle-class commuting be? came possible only in the 1830s, when there was a vast number of competing omnibuses, following Shillibeer's first omnibus in 1829; and fares went down to 6d. for short journeys or Is. to the outskirts.26 It is important to stress the role of the buses in the 1830-1860 period, not the railways, although there was intense railway development in the London area from the 1830s onwards. At this period, the railways coming into London were bringing in the long-distance passengers, not the commuters. In 1854, for example, about 250,000 com? muters came into the City every day to work: 200,000 on foot, 15,000 by boat, 20,000 by bus, 6,000 by railway.27 Already in 1837 'an immense number of individuals, whose incomes vary from ?150 to ?400 or ?600, and whose business does not require their presence till nine or ten in the mornings and who can leave it at five or six in the evenings'28 were travel? ling in by bus. The hours mentioned?nine to ten in the morning and five to six in the evening?are almost precisely the hours of his working day quoted by the Jewish suburban commuter who signed himself 'Kashruth' in the letter to the Voice of Jacob in 1843, quoted at the beginning of this lecture. BLOOMSBURY London had already by 1830 grown west wards along the south of the New Road (Marylebone Road) as far as Edgware Road. The transport developments of the 1830-1860 period made possible the north-western thrust up the Edgware Road, further development westward along the northern side of the Park into Bayswater, as well as development in London northwards through Islington into Highbury. Another area for suburban develop? ment was the fanning out of new suburbs south of the Thames; in this the railways did play an early part, but Jews were relatively little affected by this development. The first area to which middle-class Jews moved out around 1830 was Finsbury Square and Finsbury Circus and the streets (such as South Place) between them. This comparatively small area held 5 % of the Jewish upper- and middle-class families in the 1848 Post Office Directory. This area, however, was too near the City synagogues to produce a separate synagogal or communal life of its own. Since the main axis of transport communica? tions ran westwards from the City, it is not surprising that Jewish settlement first spread in this direction. Bloomsbury, while not a sub? urban community in the later sense, did give rise to synagogues serving a local residential population. In the 1830s and 1840s it was probably the Jewish residential district for the upper and upper middle classes.29 Taking again the sample of 100 Jewish names in the 1848 Post Office Directory, 25% lived in the area bounded by Tottenham Court Road on the west, Euston Square on the north, Gray's Inn Road on the east, and Holborn on the south. There is reason to think that this area became less fashionable in general esteem after about 1850. Guide books of the 1850s say that while it no longer held ?the rank and fashion of the town', it contained many merchants and lawyers, who preferred the larger houses at rather lower rents to the more fashionable, if smaller, houses further west: 'worthy lawyers and citizens who look more to comfort than fashion'.30 In the 1850s the Jewish families in this area ranged from the very affluent to middle-class families with more modest means. For instance, the 1851 Census returns show</page><page sequence="6">The Rise of Jewish Suburbia 83 thirteen Jewish households in and around Gower Street. They include Aaron and Jacob Mocatta; Lewis Levy, the turnpike contractor; Walter Josephs, founder of the Jews' Infant Schools; James Lewis, solicitor (whose family included the future Sir George Lewis, then an articled clerk of 17); Lawrence Hyam, the out? fitter, and Hyam Hyam, 'holder of railway stock'. But they include also the widow Emma Henry (mother of Michael, the future editor of the Jewish Chronicle), who could afford only one servant for a family of six.31 The foundation of the Reform Congregation, whose synagogue was opened in 1842, apart from the questions of doctrine and ritual, was also due to some extent to the desire to provide a local synagogue for Jewish families in Bloomsbury. But it soon moved westwards in 1849 to Cavendish Square; and when in the next decade the City Ashkenazi and Sephardi congregations also founded synagogues for those who had left the City, they did so further west than Bloomsbury, in Great Portland Street and Wigmore Street respectively.32 The Post Office Directory list of 1848 has 11% of the Jewish names in the Marylebone quadrilateral (Regent Street, Oxford Street, Marylebone Road, Edgware Road) and this area evidently gained in Jewish resi? dents in the 1840s compared with Blooms? bury. Although the tide of migration moved on, the West Central district was far from deserted. In 1872 the Jewish Chronicle noted how many Jews still lived on the Bedford, Grafton, Port man, and Manchester estates. The Central Synagogue of 1,000 seats was almost thronged on Sabbaths by praying seat-holders and 'Russell Square, which stands on the site of the field of Forty Footsteps, now resounds on Sabbaths and festivals with many repeated forty footsteps of Jewish pilgrims on their way to Synagogue'.33 The Central Synagogue in Great Portland Street continued to be one of the larger and wealthier synagogues of the United Synagogues throughout this period, though as the century went on it was passed in the level of its wealth by the New West End, Bayswater, and Hampstead syna? gogues. BAYSWATER In 1860 the tide of fashionable London Jewry had spread westwards over the Edgware Road into the area then known as Tyburnia. Although the area north of Hyde Park had begun to be developed in the 1820s, when the gallows at Tyburn (Marble Arch) was removed and the elegant squares and crescents of Tyburnia were laid out in the angle between the Edgware and Bayswater roads, it was not completely built up until there was an intensi? fication of development in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Trollope, in a chapter of The Small House at Allington, published in November 1863, describes this development. 'A residence had been taken for the couple in a very fashionable row of buildings abutting on the Bayswater Road. . . . The house was quite new, and the street being -unfinished had about it a strong smell of mortar . . . but nevertheless it was acknowledged to be in a quite correct locality. From the end of the crescent a corner of Hyde Park could be seen, and the other abutted on a very handsome terrace indeed, in which lived an ambassador?from South America? a few bankers' senior clerks, and a peer of the realm.' And he adds, no doubt with a novelist's hyperbole, how fashion had moved from the Marylebone area north of Oxford Street: 'We know how vile is the sound of Baker Street and how absolutely foul to the polite ear is the name of Fitzroy Square [although] the houses in those purlieus are substantial, warm and of good size.' For the Jews who moved into this new fashionable area north of Bayswater Road, a new synagogue?the Bayswater Synagogue? was quickly founded in 1863: the same year as that in which Trollope wrote the passage quoted and the same year in which the first underground railway was opened, connecting the City with Bayswater. Here we have what, in the context of the time, was a suburban community?we must remember that the concept of the suburb remains the same, but the position of what is a suburb changes with the moving frontier of the built-up area. Bays water was a suburban community, with its own synagogue, its own social life, and its</page><page sequence="7">84 Vivian D. Lipman members comm