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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