Foreword I have long been aware that my mother’s family had come to New York from London at the turn of the century. For people of my generation that phrase always means ‘The turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’, and what I knew was that my maternal grandmother, Liliane – not Lillian – was born in London, as were her mother and her father, and that they emigrated to the US sometime during the changeover of the centuries. So now, it is time to make their story my story, and tell you why I care. As a child I was aware that my family was a bit different from those around me. I grew up first on the Upper West Side of Manhattan surrounded by Eastern European Jewish families and recent Puerto Rican immigrants, and then in the suburban community of New Rochelle, NY surrounded by American Jewish families, Irish and Italian Catholic families and then an influx of middle-class black families. But none of my friends had ever had Bovril as a pick-me-up tea in the afternoons, nor did they eat Marmite (either on toast, or as a drink). If I woke up in the middle of the night as a child and had a hard time falling back to sleep, I would be taken to the kitchen for a ‘nice hot cuppa tea’ instead of warm milk and cookies.
I am now, and I think I always have been, in love with London and with my English heritage, and I was determined to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my family’s roots went back to the time of William the Conqueror (they don’t). Emma mentioned to me that she had a very good friend, Andy Lewis, who is by training and profession an historian, who might be able to help me discover the truth about my ancestry. The investigations, the searches, and the plans for this book began in that moment, and we are now ready to say something about what we found. And it has truly been a wonderful journey, through dusty records of births and deaths, through census lists and old housing maps, through streets once teeming with Jewish immigrants but now populated by immigrants from India and Bangladesh, and to old markets now trendy and modern.
My mother’s mother Lili died before I was born, but her sisters – my mother’s aunts Jimmy (Jeannette) and Henrietta – didn’t talk like anyone else I knew, and they certainly didn’t cook like my friends’ relatives did. My mother’s uncles were called Cyril and Algernon – names completely unfamiliar to my friends except from books. We had never experienced post-war rationing when I was in elementary school, but my mother went to visit her cousins in London and smuggled eggs and cheese in her luggage as such things were in short supply. To her surprise, all of the London relatives had pooled their ration stamps, so that they could make her egg sandwiches and cake for tea. In 1978, at the age of 31, I went myself to London for the first time. I arrived after flying all night and fell asleep immediately in my hotel room. The hotel (The Old Clifton Ford) was located near Oxford Street. I woke in the evening, and by the time I had showered and changed it was close to 10 p.m. I asked the young woman at the front desk about food, but none was available in the hotel save a ‘Porter’s Sandwich’, and having not eaten for going on 24 hours I was hungry for something more substantial. I asked where I could go, and was told Piccadilly Circus: everyone had heard of Piccadilly Circus, where there were places to eat which were open all night. I asked if I could walk from the hotel and was
told: of course, it was only 30 minutes’ walk away. Having done my homework I knew that the underground and buses stopped running at 11 p.m. This was odd; as a New Yorker I would have expected them to be up and running all night, but of course this wasn’t New York. As it would be well past midnight by the time I returned, I enquired of my new friend behind the desk, ‘Will it be safe to walk back at that hour?’
and who became illustrious in the second half of the twentieth century and contributed significantly to the cultural life of England. This book is written for my family, for my wife Margaret, our son Jimmy and his wife Tami, and their two sons, my adored grandsons, William and Bennett.
She drew herself up and looked me in the eye – ‘Safe? Safe? Really sir, this is London!’
Without their support and love none of this would have happened, and they have indulged me in this passion for quite some time now.
I took myself off happily, and wandered and ate in comfort.
And now, for the dedication and inscription –
At that moment some of the pieces of the ‘who am I?’ jigsaw puzzle began to fall into place. I have been back to London many times since then, and each time a new piece of the puzzle joins the rest on the table top, and the picture continues to emerge. A love-affair with London had begun: I had arrived home.
William and Bennet – this book is for you.
It was in that spirit that I asked that this book be written. It is about a family that stayed connected over an ocean 5,000 miles wide, and despite the odd long war or two. It is about a place, a history, and belonging. It is about a personal journey, but one that is in some ways perhaps universal. This book is first and foremost a story of time – its passage and the eras that are marked by it – told through the eyes of, and about, a Jewish family whose members immigrated to London before the great Jewish immigration wave of the late 1800s. We don’t know why they came a few years early – it is a bit of a mystery, but it is part of the story of their life here in England, their journeys and marriages and unions. It is the story of a part of that family which left – surprisingly – having been in London less than a century, and who continued their journey to the US and New York. It is also the story of a branch of the family who stayed in London,
So, you two: listen up. I hope this book manages to capture something very elusive and precious to me which I hope to share with you. This story is at the heart of so much that I have brought you and tried to show you over the years. Think about this: it is the sweetness of Lumpy Bumpy Fudge; it is the story behind the sound of ‘bump, bump, bump’ and of Winnie the Pooh in London Zoo; and it is part of the history that has helped to shape who you are. When you are old enough, come to London on your own and spend time and explore – please come many times – as many as you can manage. Go to my local, the Royal Oak on Tabard Street in Old Southwark. Ask for a pint of Thatcher’s Gold Cider, and as you enjoy it, think of me sitting at my table in the corner of the lounge bar doing the same. With Love, Grandpa
Bill Prensky London January 2014
Preface This short book will hopefully fulfil a number of roles, but from the author’s perspective it is primarily an attempt to explore some of the reasons which lie behind one man’s personal feelings about a city that most of us agree can – in a multitude of ways – be difficult. I myself have been here since 1983, and it sometimes feels as if the years have definitely taken the shine off the place; weary cynicism can seem unavoidable in a city so vast, impersonal and beset by so many problems. So when I was introduced to Bill Prensky I was, I confess, taken aback by the way he talked about London with such unabashed warmth. I am not used to people talking in such a manner, but I found it genuinely moving and even a little humbling that someone from overseas would express such generous sentiments about my home.
family discussions – the usual array of fragments from a family’s history and the questions that arise therefrom. My job was to find what facts about the family I could from the historic record, so that Bill could say, in effect, ‘I was right! My lot have been here for ages: I too am a Londoner!’ In that sense at least, I believe that I have succeeded as a wealth of detail has come to light that proves beyond any doubt that Bill Prensky’s family were long-standing Londoners who lived and experienced the great city – its good and its bad. This book makes no claims to be a complete family history: that was not the point, and anyway a complete family history is impossible – as with all genealogical research there is always scope to do more, be it another complete line to look at or another individual family member to try and follow through the records. Anyone who reads this and feels inspired to do so is welcome to take it forward: they will learn a lot about how lives that appear ordinary and unremarkable can actually be far more important and meaningful than might be imagined.
But Bill also set me a challenge: he longed to somehow ‘prove’ that these feelings – which he has harboured for as long as he can remember – came from a deeper connection with the place than the average tourist who ‘loves London’ could claim. His instinctive view was that the explanation for his particular love of the city lay in his family’s history, and of course he’s right. He knew the outlines in brief: a journey from Eastern Europe to London sometime in the nineteenth century; the Jewish East End in its heyday; the family becoming numerically ever bigger and more complicated; the inevitable fracturing as some members headed off to the US, some stayed put and some vanished into obscurity; then there were the barely recalled names and events, blurred photographs, the ‘what ever happened to…’
Andy Lewis London January 2014
Gustav Doré, “Ludgate Hill: a block in the street”, from London: A Pilgrimage, 1872
Timeline 1851: Great Exhibition; London’s population rises to 2.7 million, from 1.1 million in 1801 1852: last duel fought in England at Priest Hill, Surrey 1854: start of Crimean War between Britain and Russia (ends 1856) 1855: the first pillar boxes installed in London; Sir David Salomon installed as first Jewish Lord Mayor of London 1856: the National Portrait Gallery established
circa 1851–1861: Lyon Cooper and Julia Mund, Bill Prensky’s great great-grandparents arrive in London (probably independently) from Central Europe
1857: Indian Mutiny; the London General Omnibus Company begins operating 1858: the infamous “Great Stink” leads to the construction of London’s sewers; the law changes to allow Lionel de Rothschild to take his seat as the first Jewish member of Parliament; India comes under direct British government control after the remaining authority of the East India Company is dissolved 1859: publication of On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin; Big Ben, the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, is built. 1861: Thomas Cook runs the first package holiday from London to Paris
1861: marriage of Lyon Cooper and Julia Mund
1863: first tube opens in London running from Paddington to Farringdon 1864: birth of Nathaniel Cooper, first child of Lyon and Julia Cooper, the eldest of Bill Prensky’s great great-uncles 1867: Second Reform Act extends the vote to workingclass urban electors on the basis of household suffrage 1868: abolition of public executions; last shipment of convicts from Britain to Australia
1868: birth of Flora Cooper, Bill Prensky’s greatgrandmother, probably in Whitechapel circa 1868: birth of Morris Shanholt (Bill Prensky’s great-grandfather) somewhere in Russia
1870: death of Charles Dickens; Liverpool Street railway terminus opens 1871: Royal Albert Hall opened 1872: voting by secret ballot introduced
1878: sinking of the Princess Alice in the Thames with the loss of some 700 lives 1880: education is made compulsory for children under 10 1881: Sir William Armstrong installs electric lights in his home
1881: Cooper family living in Spitalfields
1884: male suffrage now largely completed by the Third Reform Act
circa 1881–89: Morris Shanholt arrives in London
1887: Sherlock Holmes first appears before the reading public in A Study in Scarlet 1888: Jack the Ripper at large in East London; Major strike in London in the docks; London County Council established 1889: Charles Booth discovers that 45 per cent of population in Bethnal Green live below the poverty line; London Tailors’ Strike circa 1889–1891: the Cooper family move to Brighton 1890: marriage in Whitechapel of Morris Shanholt and Flora Cooper 1894: Tower Bridge opens
1894: birth in Bethnal Green of Lilaine Shanholt, Bill Prensky’s maternal grandmother
1895: trial of Oscar Wilde 1897: Bram Stoker publishes Dracula 1899–1902: Boer War in South Africa 1901: death of Queen Victoria after having reigned since 1837; Edward VII ascends the throne; London’s population reaches 6.6 million 1905: suffragette campaign begins 1908: first Olympic Games held at White City in London; Introduction of old age pensions 1909: old age pensions introduced by David Lloyd George
1909: death of Lyon Cooper in Brighton
1910: George V ascends the throne 1911: ‘Siege of Sidney Street’; National Insurance Act provides coverage against sickness and unemployment
1911: Shanholt family emigrate to the US aboard the SS Majestic
1914–18: the Great War
1917: death of Julia Cooper in London, probably the last surviving great great-grandparent of Bill Prensky
Arrival Lyon Cooper, son of Nathan Cooper, was born in the mid-1830s in what would become Poland, and died of influenza and pneumonia aged about 66 in Brighton on the south coast of England on 22 November 1909, succumbing after a final illness of some 13 days. What facts can be gleaned about Lyon’s life show that although it encapsulates the experiences of many Ashkenazi Jews who came to London in the nineteenth century, in other respects his was an atypical life, full of incident. The earliest mention of Lyon Cooper we find in the (British) documentary record is 7 April 1861 – the night the census was taken. Despite extensive searching, Lyon has not been identified on the previous census taken in 1851, and so we may conclude with a degree of certainty that he probably disembarked at Tilbury Docks (in common with other immigrants of the time) sometime between April 1851 and April 1861, having travelled to Britain via either Bremen or Hamburg. It is likely that he arrived in the late 1850s, but whatever the precise date, his arrival pre-dated by some 20 years or more the great wave of East European Jewish immigration to Britain that occurred in the 1880s and 1890s. The earlier emigration trigger for Lyon is likely to have been economic, although the understandable desire to avoid conscription (service in the Russian Imperial Army for Jews being particularly harsh) should not be discounted. Something that may also have been of importance in drawing him to London
is the fact that Lyon had a brother – Lewis Cooper – who had already arrived and settled. Whatever the nature of the forces that pushed Lyon out of his homeland and pulled him in towards London, he arrived at a time when the city was changing radically; and in his own small way, Lyon formed part of that general trend of historical change and development. After all, the very English-sounding surname Cooper was not his original name – it probably stems from the Yiddish ‘Kupper’ or ‘Kupfer’, although other derivations are possible – and although we will never know for sure, the decision to anglicise suggests his conscious determination to forge ahead in his new circumstances. As mentioned above, Lyon was well established in Britain by the time the high period of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe was under way, and he may have avoided some of the many problems that beset the later arrivals who sought refuge in Britain in the 1880s and 1890s. Lyon probably lived continuously in Britain for over half a century (there is no record of him leaving the country in the period between 1890, when emigration recordkeeping begins, and his death in 1909), but neither he nor his wife Julia ever became British citizens.
Marriage and Early Life A mere three days after the 1861 census was taken, Lyon Cooper and Julia Mund were married at the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place in London on 10 April 1861 by the Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler. Julia Mund, daughter of Woolf Mund, was born somewhere in what would eventually become Germany in the late 1830s; she outlived her husband and died on 2 April 1917, having moved back to north London from Brighton to live with her son Marcus. ‘… a large square yard, with the iron gates of a synagogue in one corner, a dead wall forming one entire side of the court, and a gas lamp on a circular pavement in the centre. The place looks as if it were devoted to money-making for it is quiet and dirty. Not a gilt letter is to be seen over a doorway; there is no display of gaudy colour, or sheets of plate glass … Almost every shop has a scripture name over it, and even the public houses are of the Hebrew faith with a specialised clientele.’ Their marriage certificate notes that Lyon Cooper and Julia Mund were living together at 8 Sussex Place, Aldgate; however, as shown by the 1861 census they were not, in fact, cohabiting before their marriage, and the fiction – a common enough occurrence at that time – was probably employed for registration purposes. Sussex Place was a small enclosed courtyard, situated north of Leadenhall Street in the ecclesiastical parish of St Katherine Cree
Julia Mund Lyon and Julia Cooper, nd.
It is probable that Lyon and Julia met each other in London; restrictions on the free movement of Jews in and between the Kingdom of Poland and Prussia means that is highly unlikely that they would have met prior to their arrival. The scene of the couple’s marriage was historic: Oliver Cromwell had allowed Jews to settle in Duke’s Place in the 1650s (they had been expelled from the kingdom by Edward I in 1290), and German and Polish Jews built the Great Synagogue there in 1692. Lyon and Julia were married in the third synagogue to stand on the site; this was finished 1790, and stood until damaged beyond repair by German bombing in 1941. The social researcher Henry Mayhew visited Duke’s Place in the 1840s, when gathering material for articles that appeared in the Morning Chronicle, and he described:
Julia Mund’s marriage certificate indicates that she was living at 8 Sussex Place in Aldgate on 10 April 1861, but she does not appear there, or indeed anywhere else, on the 1861 census returns. Her absence from the census presents something of a minor mystery, although one that is fairly common when it comes to mid-nineteenth-century genealogy: an inattentive census enumerator, insuperable language difficulties, a mangled spelling of her name, or perhaps a slip by the modern transcriber – these are all possible explanations for the missing name, but whatever the reasons it seems fairly certain that Julia Mund was in London somewhere on the night of the census: a mere three days later she married Lyon Cooper at the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place.
(the church of which still stands). Sussex Place was situated very close to a number of important mid-nineteenth-century Jewish landmarks in the city, including Sussex Hall, the Jewish literary and scientific institution which had been established in 1845. Despite proving generally popular Sussex Hall struggled to remain viable and eventually closed in 1859; whether Lyon Cooper had arrived in Britain before that point is unknown, but had he done so he may well have attended some of the free ‘improving’ talks that were staged on a Friday night in the Hall’s imposing lecture theatre. The eight buildings which enclosed the Sussex Place courtyard itself housed an eclectic mix of people in 1861; among the Coopers’ neighbours were many fellow tailors and a significant number of men and women from Ireland. The following random sample may give a sense of the cosmopolitan nature of the place:
• No. 4: James Oatway, carpenter, b. Exeter circa 1800 • No. 7: Emma Buster, widow, seamstress, b. Whitechapel circa 1797 • No. 7: George Buster, printer, b. London circa 1842 • No. 10: Bridget Hanley, widow, laundress, b. Ireland circa 1804 Although still standing as late as the mid-1890s, Sussex Place has been lost since then and so we cannot visit and see the physical place where our story begins: however, it is clear that Lyon and Julia Cooper began their life in London at the centre of the Jewish community in the very heart of the city.
• No. 2: Thomas Burns, carpenter, b. Ireland circa 1818 • No. 2: Samuel Button, tailor, b. Suffolk circa 1793 • No. 2: Peter McKeen, tailor, b. Bombay circa 1814 • N o. 4: Catherine Gibson, widow, charwoman, b. Ireland circa 1809
Rabbi Nathan Adler (1803–1890) Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler presided at the marriage ceremony of Lyon Cooper and Julia Mund at the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place on 10 April 1861. As the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of the British Empire from 1845 until his death Adler was a man of considerable importance and scholastic achievement. He was born in Hanover in present-day Germany, and important events in the history of British Jewry occurred during his period as Chief Rabbi: Lionel de Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the House of Commons in 1847 (although because of legal wrangles he did not take his seat until 1858); Sir David Salomons became the first Jewish lord mayor of London in 1855; and Nathan Meyer Rothschild took his seat in the House of Lords in 1885. Adler Street continues to preserve the name in Whitechapel. Kempf’s potrait of Cheif Rabbi Nathan Adler, before 1849. Jewish Museum London
An alley in Whitechapel, c. 1888
Spitalfields Life Despite, or maybe because of, the adverse conditions imposed by the trade they followed, the Coopers were a mobile family, having been identified at the following addresses in the East End: • January 1870: 1 Pelham Street, Spitalfields • April 1871: 2 George Street, Bethnal Green • June 1874–August 1877: 1 Pelham Street, Spitalfields • April 1881–April 1884: 8 Pelham Street, Spitalfields
but the commercial activities which are listed for Pelham Street give a sense of the street’s inherent life at this time (the other dwellings would have been considered as residential, despite many doubling as tailoring workshops): North Side • [No. 1] Herbert John Meredith, flour factor • [No. 5] The Marlboro’ Head, Isidor Seltzer [publican] • [No. 9] Abraham Rosenthal, grocer • [No. 3] Paxman & Son, carmen • [No. 5] Adam Fels, baker • [No. 47] Jones & Burnidge, designers • [No. 53] Henry George Groh, chandler’s shop • [No. 59] Henry Perry, chair maker • [No. 71] John Schwartz, sugar refiner • [No. 50] Daniel Sterland, grocer
8 Pelham (now Woodseer) Street, the Coopers’ home from 1881-84 (black door). (1 Pelham Street, the home of Julia and Lyon in January 1870, and later from June 1874 to August 1877, has been demolished).
• [No. 58] The George, Dyson Abner [publican]
Of the two London streets where the family are known to have lived, only Pelham Street – now named Woodseer Street – remains; it is unknown when, or indeed why, George Street was demolished. Fortunately, the row of buildings which included number 8 Pelham Street – constructed in the mid-nineteenth century – still stands. Lyon Cooper is not mentioned in the 1881 London Street Directory,
The famous poverty maps compiled by Charles Booth some twenty years later in 1898–9 indicate that Pelham Street was at that time a mixed street with some poor families and some better off, and another map (drawn up after the Cooper family had moved to Brighton) also indicates just how pervasive was the Jewish character of the East End.
• [No. 64] Henry Foster, cowkeeper
The Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter The Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter was established in Leman Street (later moving to 43 Mansell Street, where the building still stands) in Aldgate in the mid1880s, at the height of the great wave of Jewish immigration to the UK. The driving force behind the Shelter was Hermann Landau, himself an immigrant who eventually rose to success and prominence in the banking profession. The ethos behind the PJTS was simple: it sought to provide basic assistance (in the form of two meals a day), protection and temporary shelter (for 14 days) for Jewish migrants intending to settle in London and transmigrants passing through the city on their way elsewhere. The PJTS survived early controversy (not least among the London Jewish community itself) and financial instability, removed the word ‘Poor’ from its title in 1914, and remained an important institution throughout much of the twentieth century; indeed, in a modified form (as a body that awards grants to individuals with emergency housing requirements) the JTS still exists today. We do not know for sure whether any of the people who figure in our story made use of the JTS, but it would seem at least possible that Morris Shanholt may have passed through the Shelter’s doors. Morris almost certainly arrived in the UK, alone and without any immediate family connections, sometime between April 1881 and January 1890, and if his arrival date fell after 1885 then the JTS may well have been his first port of call.
New arrivals at the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter, from the Illustrated London News, 1891.
Former Prince’s (aka Princelet) Street Synagogue
The particular building which housed the Princes Street Synagogue was built in the early eighteenth century and it still stands today; its history is itself indicative of some aspects of the history of the Jewish East End. The Synagogue’s origins lie in the foundation in 1862 of the Loyal United Friends Friendly Society by Polish immigrants. One of the Society’s aims was to provide a place of worship for its members, and after renting various rooms for that purpose number 18 Princes Street was leased in 1870; it was consecrated as a synagogue on 4 September of that year. Princes Street Synagogue was the first purpose-built ‘minor synagogue’ in London; it was a founder member of the Federation of Minor Synagogues in 1887, and is the third oldest purposebuilt synagogue building surviving in London. The Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler preached here in March 1893, and – somewhat controversially given that many of his contemporaries took the opposite view – argued that Britain should continue to provide safe haven for Jewish refugees fleeing the Russian pogroms, and urged his working-class audience to treat newcomers to the East End with humanity. Marriages at Princes Street Synagogue seem to have been authorised by the Executive of the United Synagogue in 1877, following a report that recommended ceremonies be conducted at a cost of 10/6 – considerably lower than the standard rate of three guineas. This provision was clearly made with the Jewish poor in mind, and the Princes Street congregation is known to have been largely working class in nature. Most marriages at Princes Street took place on Wednesdays, and as many as eight or nine ceremonies were sometimes conducted in a single day. Problems arose with overcrowding in the building and in the street outside, and excess fees were charged by certain ministers. One particularly memorable ceremony concluded with a mass brawl when the bridegroom refused to pay the presiding minister the excess fee of half a crown; the ensuing fracas was serious enough to warrant a mention in the local press and the minister was officially reprimanded.
The 1901 census records that the Shanholt family had moved north from Spitalfields to central Hackney, in the process becoming part of the general pattern of Jewish migration within the capital. Other members of the extended family were making the same move: Navarino Road was home to Flora Shanholt’s brother Nathaniel Cooper and sister Annie Shapiro. A district regarded as distinctly wealthy in the early nineteenth century, Hackney had changed by the time Charles Booth collated data in the 1880s: he identified Navarino Road as solidly middle-class, although the Jewish Chronicle noted in the early 1890s asserted that Hackney was ‘a district thickly populated by the better class of Jewish working men’. Leaving aside the complexities of class definitions, we may at least safely conclude that the Shanholt family were now beginning to climb the socio-economic ladder, and indeed, the census data confirms this, recording as it does that they had a general servant living with them, one Mrs Emily Wood, a 66-year-old widow, born in Wales.
As is well known, living conditions in the East End of London in the late nineteenth century were often characterised by extreme poverty. Some of the signs of those desperate conditions remain to this Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor day, albeit in very changed circumstances. The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor – now a development of luxury flats – was not far from where Morris Shanholt and Flora Cooper were living at 122 Hanbury Street at the time of their marriage in 1890. A report on this very street in The Lancet from just a few years previously graphically conveys how bad things could be in cramped buildings where people both lived and worked: In Hanbury Street we found eighteen workers crowded in a small room measuring eight yards by four yards and a half, and not quite eight feet high. The first two floors of this house were let out to lodgers who were also Jews. Their rooms were clean but damp as water was coming through the rotting wall … The sink was not trapped, the kitchen range was falling to pieces, while the closet was a permanent source of trouble. A flushing apparatus had been provided, but this discharged the water outside the pan; the water consequently came out under the seat and flowed across the yard to the wall opposite, which was eaten away at its base … the top room … had at times to hold eighteen persons, working in the heat of the gas and the stove, warming the pressing irons, surrounded by mounds of dust and chips from the cut cloth, breathing an atmosphere full of woollen particles containing more or less injurious dyes, it is not surprising that so large a proportion of working tailors break down from diseases of the respiratory organs. This appalling squalor might be enough to secure the infamous reputation of the place, but Hanbury Street also looms large within the mythology of the East End as the site where the body of Annie Chapman – commonly supposed to be one of Jack the Ripper’s victims – was discovered on the morning of 8 September 1888.
“’Hookey Alf’ of Whitechapel”, A scene outside a tavern from Thomson and Smith’s Street Life in London, 1877
Within a matter of months of marrying, and perhaps not surprisingly if 122 Hanbury Street was anything like the dwelling visited by The Lancet’s reporters, Morris and Flora had moved to 33 Crescent Place, a road now lost to development but which was situated near Columbia Road in Bethnal Green.
The Cooper Family Tree Nathaniel COOPER b London 1864
Joesph Cohen Shapiro later COHEN b Poland btw 1865 and 1866
Jeanatta Henrietta (also Janella and Jenny) Shapiro later COHEN b London 1888
Henry COOPER b London btw 1890 and 1891
Solomon Shapiro later COHEN b London 1890
Lyon COOPER b Poland 1835
Anne COOPER b London 1866
Rose Shapiro later COHEN b London 1892
Morris SHANHOLT b Russia 1868
Henry Shapiro later COHEN b London 1903
Cooper family line
May Shapiro later COHEN b London 1905
Bernard Harcourt SHANHOLT
Pete Maitland SHANHOLT
Jane Meredith SHANHOLT
Married into Cooper family
John Harcourt SHANHOLT
What’s in a name? It will come as no surprise to anyone who has made a study of genealogy that the original source materials consulted by the author give no fewer than five different spellings of the name Shanholt, including “Shanholdtz”, “Shanholdt”, Shanholz” and even “Steiholz” (the last on Morris’ marriage certificate). The author has settled on the modern spelling, “Shanholt”, for ease of reference.
1835 - 2013
Julia MUND b: Germany btw1838 and 1839
Flora COOPER b London 1868
Amelia COOPER b London 1870
(Henry) Harris SHANHOLT b London1892
Marcus COOPER b London 1872
Norma Joyce SHANHOLT
Elizabeth Ailene KENDRICK b Oklahoma 1974
Joel Daniel MASON b New York 1970
Hayden Grace MASON b Davenport 2004
Harrison Davis MASON b Davenport 2006
Herman S KAMEN
Jess L CLARK
Lilaine Ruth SHANHOLT b London 1894
Henry David PRENSKY b New York 1917
Sarah COOPER b London 1874
Henrietta SHANHOLT b London1897
June Mildred KAMEN b New York 1918
Woolf COOPER b London 1877
Cyril SHANHOLT b London 1899
Don COOPER b London 1879
Jeanette SHANHOLT b London 1902
Bernard COOPER b London 1884
Algernon Charles SHANHOLT b London 1903
Harry GITLIN b New York 1918
Joshua MASON b New York 1972
Henry James MASON b Fond du Lac 2013
William PRENSKY b Miami, FL 1947
Margaret REGAN b New York 1940
Jonathan Samuel GITLIN b New York 1956
James REGAN b New York 1973
Tamara LING b New Jersey 1976
William Oliver LING-REGAN b New York 2006
Bennett Foster LING-REGAN b New York 2009
Samuel David GITLIN b New Rochelle 1958
Florence MONAGHAN b Baltimore 1963,
Mary Charlotte Kennedy GITLIN b Baltimore 1998,
Rachel Sarah Jenkins GITLIN b Baltimore 2000
Morris and Flora Shanholt Flora Cooper was the third child of Lyon and Julia Cooper. She was born on 1 January 1868, but there is some confusion over her place of birth; the 1871 census return gives her place of birth as Prussia, whereas all other census returns indicate that she was born in Whitechapel. No record of Flora’s birth has been identified in the English and Welsh indexes to civil registration, but it would seem unlikely that the Cooper family would have returned to Europe a decade or so after they had risked much to leave; an error on the part of the 1871 census enumerator seems the most likely explanation for the inconsistency. Flora was educated at the Jews’ Free School; she was admitted in June 1874 (as pupil number 8672) and left in July 1880. At some point in the 1880s she met Morris Shanholt, and the couple were married at the Princes Street Synagogue in Spitalfields on 1 January 1890 (Flora’s birthday).
The 1891 and 1901 census returns record that Morris Shanholt was a Russian subject, and thus he could have come from anywhere within the Pale of Settlement, i.e. what is today Belarus, Lithuania, Poland or Ukraine. However, one document that has been uncovered may enable us to narrow this down, as it suggests that he may have come from Staiptz or Stoiptz RP (RP probably means Russian Poland). One place which may be relevant is Steibts/Steibtz/Stoibts/Stoibtz which is the Yiddish name for the Polish Stolpce (now in Belarus). Despite extensive research, no reference to Morris’s father Harris has been identified in the British documentary record, and it would therefore seem highly likely that Morris left Russia as a single emigrant and arrived in Britain in the mid-1880s. His life in Britain came to a close with his emigration in 1911; he does not appear to have returned to the UK. Apart from his father’s name, and the names of a couple of brothers (Shimon and Avraham), the only fragment of information about Morris’s wider family comes from the 1901 census returns which note that on the night of the census one Betty Solomons – described as Morris’s aunt – was staying with the family. She was a widow and a German subject; no other details are
We know from his marriage certificate that Morris Shanholt’s father was Harris Shanholt; both men were cabinet makers by trade, and Morris’s marriage certificate does not indicate that Harris was deceased. Morris Shanholt was illiterate, or unable to write in English, at the time of his marriage to Flora Cooper; rather than sign his name on the marriage certificate he merely ‘made his mark’. In this he was not alone, as many of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants who arrived in London in the 1880s did so without any knowledge of the English language.
Flora and Lilaine Shanholt
at present forthcoming and given the vagaries of the census returns she may not even have actually been Morris’s aunt. And beyond these scraps we have nothing at all with which to tell of his early life: discrimination of every kind – petty, official, violent – in the homeland, colossal population movements and upheaval, the destruction of records and archives wrought by subsequent twentieth-century war and conflict have all seen to that. In comparison to this, it could be argued that at least London opened its arms to this man and others like him, and in effect said ‘here you will be treated with a measure of respect, and you can make something of your life’. As of course is well known, the Shanholts had the following children: • H arris Shanholt (later Henry Harris Shanholt): born Shoreditch 1892; died 1949
The Hebrew Dramatic Club Princes Street in Spitalfields was an important centre of Jewish working-class culture in the East End; a few doors down from the Synagogue where Flora Cooper and Morris Shanholt married in 1891 stood the famous ‘Hebrew Dramatic Club’, the first purpose-built Yiddish theatre in Britain. The theatre, which opened on 9 March 1886 with a performance of Goldfaden’s Shulamith, was the scene of a crowd stampede in January 1887 that resulted in considerable loss of life and which was the subject of national comment. It would seem highly likely that members of the Cooper family would have visited the theatre, and they may even have been in attendance on that fateful night in 1887.
• L ilian (as she is on the birth certificate; she was always known as Lilaine) Shanholt: born 6 Chilton Street, Bethnal Green, 18 August 1894 • Henrietta Shanholt: born Paddington 1897 • Cyril Shanholt: born Hackney 1899 • Jeanette Shanholt: born Hackney 1902 • Algernon Charles Shanholt: born Hackney 1903
Lilaine Shanholt, Bill Prensky’s grandmother
The aftermath of the stampede, from the Illustrated London News, January 1887
Salt beef with a side of bacon The title of this book was inspired by a story told to me by my mother, June Kamen, about Flora and Morris Shanholt, her grandparents. Flora was religious, and kept a kosher house. Her husband Morris was, by all accounts, a secular Jew and a member of the Free Thinkers movement. Flora had no tolerance for his ways, and insisted - perhaps largely for propriety’s sake – that all the formalities of keeping a kosher household be observed. In the face of her stern disapproval, Morris devised a strategy for indulging in one of his favourite treats: bacon. Bacon was, of course, forbidden in a kosher household, but was also very much a part of the London world in which he lived.
This branch of the family removed to the United States in March 1911, emigrating aboard the SS Majestic. Their departure from London brings this part of the family story to a close, although it is interesting to see that Flora travelled with the children but seemingly without her husband, whose name does not appear on the ship’s passenger manifest; presumably he made the journey to the US at some earlier – or possibly later – date. We might speculate on what lay behind this second emigration for Morris Shanholt (assuming of course that he was the driving force – we don’t know for sure), some 20 years or so after the first great upheaval in his life: perhaps life in London was not enough to satisfy a man with keen aspirations; perhaps he had always intended to follow so many of the trans-migrants for whom Britain was only ever a staging post on their way elsewhere. A final footnote concerns the oldest Shanholt child, Harris Shanholt. The claim was made in a 1949 newspaper obituary that he studied at King’s College London and graduated prior to the family’s emigration, but this appears to have no basis in fact as he cannot be traced in any of the College’s archives. But we should perhaps resist the temptation to be too hard on Harris for having seemingly embellished his youthful life in London: after all, the difficulties for a new immigrant in the US should not be underestimated and perhaps he was just seeking to maximise his life’s chances.
According to my mother, whenever the women of the household would leave the house to go shopping, Morris would take the opportunity to nip down to the market and buy bacon and who knows what other forbidden foods. He would hurry back to the house, cook the bacon and consume it, then wash up the pans and air out the kitchen. However, on one occasion, they returned home early to find the unmistakeable smell of cooking bacon filling the house. Rushing in, Flora yelled, “Morris, I smell bacon!” to which he replied, “Yes, it’s a great shanda (a shame in front of the community) - it’s coming from the neighbors!” Despite a thorough search of the kitchen, Flora found no hard evidence to counter his claims, and so he got away with it, even though she knew quite well what was going on. Where was the bacon? It transpired that Morris had climbed up upon the counter next to the sink when he heard his wife and daughters returning and pushed the pan of freshly cooked bacon out onto the window ledge. How he retrieved it and devoured it was never revealed, but the routine became a familiar one in the Shanholt household, and Morris’ plea “It’s coming from the neighbours!” became a running gag between Flora and her husband.
Tailoring: the family trade Lyon and Julia Cooper both worked as tailors in the East End of London, before moving to Brighton at some time between August 1889 (when their twelve-year-old son Woolf was discharged from the Jews’ Free School in Bell Lane in Spitalfields) and 5 April 1891 – the night that the census was taken, and the first proof we have that the family had moved to the south coast. Tailoring – the classic immigrant trade – was one of the notorious ‘sweated’ trades that excited much debate at the time: the term’s scarcely altered connotations are with us still, and call to mind a grim scene of cramped and filthy workshops beyond the reach of meliorating legislation and crowded with numberless drudges toiling for hours without end. Lyon Cooper was a ‘master tailor’ by 1891 (although his death certificate describes him as a journeyman), but given that the trade paid badly (for both masters and men), was highly seasonal, insecure and carried on in appalling conditions, his ascent may not have meant a great deal in material terms. It also seems inconceivable that he would have managed to avoid the travails that were attendant upon tailoring in the East End in the 1870s and 1880s, and it is telling that in 1881 the 15- and 13-year-old daughters Hannah and Flora were already hard at it working as tailoresses.
The 1889 Tailors’ Strike Whether the Cooper family were caught up in the great Jewish tailors’ strike that lasted from late August to early October 1889 is unknown – and probably unknowable even though some records concerning the strike are stored at the Modern Records Centre in Warwick – but assuming they were still in the East End at that time, it would seem distinctly possible. The strike was called by the Amalgamated Society of Tailors and two smaller unions representing pressers and machinists, and pitted Jewish workers against Jewish employers. A list of the workers’ demands is indicative of the hardships they were seeking to mitigate: a 12 hour day; an hour for dinner; half an hour for tea; and no homeworking after working hours. The headquarters of the strike was at the White Hart public house in Greenfield Street and the chairman and secretary of the strike committee were Lewis Lyons and William Wess; the former was an energetic radical and member of the Social Democratic Federation and the latter a member of the Socialist League. Notable left-wing figures such as John Burns, Tom Mann and Ben Tillett spoke at strike meetings, and £100 from the residue of the famous 1889 Dockers’ Strike fund was donated. It is said that at its height some 10,000 workers were on strike, and after five weeks and mediation by Lord Rothschild and Samuel Montagu MP a 10½ hour day and a limit on overtime were conceded by the employers. Lyons later claimed that within weeks the employers were ignoring the agreement.
Tailors’ Union banner c. 1882 Tailors’ workroom, Spitalfields, c. 1890. Jewish Museum.
The Jews’ Free School All but one of the Cooper children attended the famous Jews’ Free School in Whitechapel. Originally a charity for orphaned boys, the School had its origins as far back as the 1730s. In the late 1790s it was based at Gun Square, but at some point in the early nineteenth century a site was secured for the School in Bell Lane in Whitechapel; it was to remain there until forced out by enemy bombardment in the Second World War. At the time that the Cooper children attended, the School was under the control of the celebrated Moses Angel (1819–1898). Angel, who became headmaster of the JFS in 1842 and remained in post until less than a year before his death, was probably the most influential figure in Jewish education in the nineteenth century; he worked tirelessly to ensure that his pupils – often the children of recent immigrants – adopted English culture while retaining their Jewish heritage. Angel ran the School according to Joseph Lancaster’s system of peer tutoring and rigorous discipline; his methods proved so successful that between 1880 and 1900 it is thought that one third of all London’s Jewish children were educated at the School.
Israel Zangwill The prominent writer and political activist Israel Zangwill (1864–1921) was born in London and attended and later taught at the Jews’ Free School. He is most famous today for coining the phrase ‘the melting pot’ to describe the immigrant nature of the United States of America. It is unknown whether he mixed with Nathaniel Cooper whilst the two were working at the JFS, but they were of a similar age, both men are mentioned several times in the notebooks of the headmaster Moses Angel, and so it would be reasonable to assume that they did.
Israel Zangwill in 1905 (J.E. Purdy, Boston)
Entrance to the Jews’ Free School
“Boys in Shakespearean tableau, Jews’ Free School, Spitalfields”, c. 1908. London Metropolitan Archives
The Coopers of Whitechapel Nathanial Cooper
Nathaniel (also Nathan) Cooper was the eldest child of Lyon and Julia Cooper. He was born in Whitechapel on 29 April 1864, and was admitted to the Jews’ Free School in January 1870; he left the School in May 1877. It is clear that he was intellectually adept from an early age; he is described on the 1881 census aged 17 as a ‘pupil teacher’, and had returned to the JFS to assist in this role. We know that Nathaniel worked at the JFS until 1898 at least; he is mentioned in the headmaster’s journals, and was a colleague of the celebrated Jewish author Israel Zangwill who taught at the JFS at the same time. Nathaniel pursued a career path in education, and eventually prospered enough to become a schoolmaster. He married Deborah Hirsch at the Great Synagogue on 25 March 1890; the couple had at least one child:
Amelia (also known as Emily) was the fourth child of Lyon and Julia Cooper. She was born in Whitechapel on 29 January 1870, and was admitted to the Jews’ Free School on 24 April 1876 (pupil number 9401) and left in February 1882. Amelia was still single (aged 52) in January 1923, when we find a record of her emigrating to the USA aboard the SS Mauretania departing from Southampton; her last address in the UK was 31 Belgrade Road in Stoke Newington London, where she had been staying with her brother Donald, but her intended residence after arriving in the US on 27 January was in Newark, NJ. Her date of death is at present unknown.
• H enry (also known as Harry) Cooper: born Dalston, circa 1890–91; fl. February 1926 Although this branch of the Cooper family did live for a time in Hackney, eventually they bucked the trend of Jewish northward migration in London, and moved east to Ilford, settling at 44 Northbrook Road. Nathaniel Cooper died on 17 March 1917. Probate records show that his estate was worth £464 10s 9d; Nathaniel’s son Henry – also a schoolmaster – obtained a Grant of Letters of Administration to the estate on 28 April 1917.
Annie Cooper The second child of Lyon and Julia Cooper was Anne Cooper. She was born in Whitechapel on 8 June 1866. She was admitted to the Jews’ Free School in May 1872 and left in July 1875 to begin work as a tailoress. She married a cabinet maker, Joseph Cohen Shapiro (also Schapiro) at the Hambro Synagogue in Magpie Alley Fenchurch Street on 11 January 1888. We last definitely hear of her in 1901, living at 140 Graham Road, Hackney, although she may have been in the same area ten years later at 62 Navarino Road. Two children have been identified so far: • J anella Shapiro (possibly Jeanatta Henrietta): born Shoreditch 1888; fl 1901
Amelia (“Millie” Cooper), 1923
Woolf Cooper Woolf Cooper was the seventh child of Lyon and Julia Cooper; he was born on 1 May 1877. He too attended the Jews’ Free School, being admitted as pupil number 19383 on 7 May 1883 and leaving in August 1889. Also a tailor, we know that Woolf had returned to London from Brighton by 1911, when he seems to have been lodging with his sister Annie Shapiro (although she is listed as Annie Cohen) at 62 Navarino Road in Hackney. The next time we hear of him is on 8 January 1913 with his departure from Southampton aboard the SS Philadelphia for a new life in the United States. His life thereafter is currently obscure; he has not been identified on the US federal censuses for 1920 or 1930, perhaps suggesting a change of name or a death relatively soon after his arrival in the US.
• Solomon Shapiro: born Bethnal Green 1890; fl 1901
The Booth Survey in Whitechapel Charles Booth’s Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London, undertaken between 1886 and 1903, was one of several surveys of working-class life carried out in the nineteenth century. Surveyors (‘investigators’) accompanied School Board visitors and policemen on their beats, visiting people in their homes or at their places of work. They also spoke to trade unionists, ministers of religion, factory owners and workers. Clara Collett, who later became a prominent economist and educator, was one of these investigators. In the late 1880s she surveyed Whitechapel, home to several generations of the Cooper and Shanholt families, and made the following entry in her notebook: “The district is poor, but there is a remarkable air of cheerfulness and bustle which strikes one very forcibly after the monotony and dullness of Southwark and South London. The people seem to have more energy and more life. The men whistle as they go to and from work in the dinner hour, the women look healthier and have time to laugh. They don’t seem to grow old & ugly so quickly here as they do in Southwark, many of them are even handsome, and the children look better cared for & tended. The large foreign element gives life and colour to the busy streets, for in Whitechapel all sorts & conditions of men are to be met with & it is the great centre of foreign population.
The Jews of course form the greater part of the population of Whitechapel. In the Jewish quarters there is always much overcrowding and it is no unusual thing for a single room to be used as a workshop for tailoring as well as for a sleeping apartment at night. Lodgers are constantly taken in by families where there are grown up children & the conditions of life in the poorer quarters are very bad indeed. The chief industries of Whitechapel are tailoring and shoemaking. There are many small employers of labour, chiefly Jews, and amongst these are to be found the sweater who gives a very low wage in comparison with his profit. Both these trades are more or less seasonal trades, & there is at certain times a great deal of poverty in Whitechapel. The overcrowding is however generally admitted by the clergy and others to be more excessive than the poverty in Whitechapel. This is probably partly accounted for by the care taken by the Jews for their own poor. The Relieving officers find that as a rule the Jews are very good to their own people when in distress and frequently help them over a time of special stress as in illness or when out of work. The excessive crowding is largely attributed to the foreign Jews who pay little or no attention to sanitary matters and appear able to live under conditions which would be impossible for any other nationality.”
Bernard Cooper The ninth and last known child of Lyon and Julia Cooper was Bernard Cooper, born in Whitechapel in 1884. The only child who does not appear to have attended the Jews’ Free School, Bernard was also a tailor; he moved with his parents to Brighton and stayed in the town; he is known to have died – very probably unmarried – in Brighton on 5 January 1917.
Sarah Cooper Sarah Cooper was the sixth of the Cooper children. She was born in Whitechapel on 1 December 1874, entered the Jews’ Free School on 22 April 1884, and was discharged in February 1888. The last record we have of Sarah is from the 1891 census returns, when we find her living with her parents in Brighton and working as a tailoress.
Don Cooper Don (also Donald and Daniel in some sources) Cooper was born in Whitechapel on 29 July 1879 and was admitted to the Jews’ Free School on 28 April 1885 (pupil number 20638); he left the school in August 1889. Little has been found about him, although he is known to have followed the intriguing profession of Donald Cooper ‘vocalist’, and in 1923 he was living at 31 Belgrade Road, Stoke Newington (his sister Amelia was living with him before her emigration). An earlier address may have been 11 Clifton Grove in Hackney. Don Cooper died in the London Hospital in Stepney on 9 February 1926, although by the time of his death he had moved to west London and was living in Colville Gardens in Kensington. It is likely that he was unmarried.
probably one of the witnesses at the marriage in 1890 of his older sister Flora, and we know that he later boarded with Flora and her husband Morris at 33 Crescent Place in Bethnal Green. Rather than follow the family tradition of tailoring, Marcus became an assurance agent, although not before trying his hand as a stained glass artist. Marcus Cooper married Jessie L. Clark (born in Birmingham in the early 1870s) in Edmonton (North London) in 1912. Interestingly, Marcus falsified his return for the 1911 census by informing the authorities that he had been married for four years and had had four legitimate children with Jessie; the approximate date of their marriage a year after the 1911 census suggests otherwise, although it is significant to note that three of the children – and possibly the eldest George – were registered under the surname Cooper: • George Cooper: born King’s Cross early 1900s; fl. March 1911 • Esther Cooper: born Stoke Newington (Hackney) 1905; fl. March 1911 • Marcus Cooper: born Edmonton 1907; fl. March 1911 • David Cooper: born Edmonton 1909; fl. March 1911 Research has yet to determine what became of Marcus and his family, although we know that he was resident at 152 West Green Road in Tottenham in April 1917.
Marcus Cooper Marcus Cooper was the fifth of the Cooper children. He was born on 1 November 1872 and was admitted to the Jews’ Free School on 13 August 1877 (pupil number 17015: his name looks to be spelt as Marx in the register). He left the School in July 1886. Marcus was
Brighton Lyon and Julia Cooper moved to Brighton probably at some time between August 1889 (when their twelve-year-old son Woolf was discharged from the Jews’ Free School) and 5 April 1891 – the night that the census was taken, and the first proof we have that the family had moved to the south coast. Doubtless for people who had endured emigration from Central Europe to Britain in the mid-nineteenth century, moving from London to the south coast was a trifle, but the family’s motives are worth speculating upon. The Coopers were clearly aspirational and had
View of the Brighton Aquarium, c.1890. Library of Congress
obviously acquired the wherewithal to finance the move. And it seems certain that in some respects at least Brighton would have been a more amenable environment than the noisome East End. The streets in Brighton where the family lived – Blenheim Place and Oxford Street – still stand today, and now appear to be highly desirable places; however, it is unknown if the family lived in any kind of affluence in the town which was to be their home for over twenty years.
The Cooper and Salter families “When I was growing up, and even now, as an adult, all of the members of the Cooper and Shanholt families of whom I knew – my aunts, uncles and cousins - lived in the USA. All of them were English by heritage, most by birth, but none still lived in the UK. The only people to whom I was apparently related who still lived in London were the Salters. Ginny Salter, I was told, was my great grandmother Flora’s cousin of some sort or other, although her exact relationship to Flora remains a mystery to me. I got to know Ginny when she visited us for a couple of weeks in the mid-1950’s, and it from her that I heard some of the stories about Flora, whom she had known since she was a child. It was on account of this familial connection that I connected with Ginny’s son, Lionel, when I first came to visit London in the 1970s, and I grew very fond of both Lionel and his mother after I got to know them. What matters to me in the context of this book, is that whatever their connection with the Coopers and Shanholts, the Salters remained in England, after my direct branch of the family emigrated to America. They were my first direct connection to London, and I want to honor that with this short epilogue to the journey of the Coopers and Shanholts that we have described.” (Bill Prensky)
Research suggests that the connection between the Cooper family and the Salter family stems from the blood relationship between Israel Cooper and Lyon Cooper: the author cautiously infers that these men were brothers. Lyon Cooper is a great (X2) grandfather of Bill Prensky, and thus Israel Cooper is a great (X2) uncle of his. Israel Cooper also happens to be a great (X2) grandfather of Graham, Adrian and Brian Salter. The link between the two branches of this family is very distant, and may never be proven for sure through the documentary record (documentary proofs are currently lacking, and it is unfortunate that if the necessary papers to prove once and for all the connection do exist, they will be located in Eastern Europe and thus inaccessible). However, the following has been established: Israel Cooper was born in Poland circa 1824–5, and may have been an older brother of Lyon Cooper (born Poland circa 1835). Israel Cooper married Esther (maiden name unknown) in Poland,
and probably arrived in London in the 1870s. The couple had at least two children, one of whom was Annie Elizabeth Cooper (circa 1861–1938) a great grandmother of the Salter brothers. If the author’s suppositions are correct then it would mean that Annie Elizabeth Cooper was a first cousin of Flora Cooper, Bill Prensky’s great grandmother. Annie Elizabeth Cooper married Graham (who was also known as Samuel) Solomon(s) on 2 December 1885, and they had at least three children, Isidore (who later removed to the US), Rosie and Jeanetta (born 3 May 1892). Jeanetta Solomon(s) married Maurice Seltzer (the name was later changed to Salter) at the Great Synagogue on 21 December 1913. Their son, Lionel Paul Sydney Salter, was subsiquently born on 8 September 1914 in West Ham, East London. Lionel became a very famous classical musician and composer, acting as the Classical Music Director of the BBC from just after the war until he retired in 1974. Jeanetta – who Bill Prensky believes may have been known as Jeanie or Ginny – maintained family links in the US, and visited the Prenskys once and possibly on further occasions. Jeanetta was a second cousin of Bill Prensky’s maternal grandmother Lilli, although Bill thinks that his mother June may have also have been close, visiting Jeanetta in London several times in the 1950s. Morris Seltzer was born in Whitechapel on 17 September 1890, son of Marcus Solomon Seltzer and Leah Frechoff; Marcus and Leah, who married on 11 August 1889 at the Sandy’s Row Synagogue (Middlesex Street), were both immigrants from Austria; Leah’s mother was called Pesel Freehof; she died aged 73 in Mile End in 1913. Another child – a daughter named Maria – was born to Marcus and Leah in Whitechapel in 1893. Solomon Seltzer was a furrier by trade. He lived at 19 Floriston Street in Mile End from at least 1913 until his death on 16 February 1940. Probate papers indicate that he died worth £1,187 18s. 11d. A Grant of Letters of Administration to his estate was granted to his son Morris Salter [sic] on 27 March 1940. Morris Seltzer was a school teacher who was working for the London County Council at the time of his marriage. There is a record of him returning to the UK from New York aboard the Mauretania in September 1960; his address is given as 20 Fitzwarren Gardens, London N19, and he is recorded as widowed.
Bibliography Bishopsgate Institute: Andy Ayliffe, ‘The Penny Pictorial News 1887’
— Jews’ Free School Girls’ Admission and Discharge Registers 1868–1900, LMA/4046/C/01/004
Gerry Black, Jewish London: An Illustrated History (Derby, 2003)
— Jews’ Free School Headmaster’s Book 1864–1900, LMA/4046/D/01/001
British Library of Political and Economic Science: Charles Booth Collections
The National Archives: census returns for 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911, HO 107, RG 9–14
Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England
— lists of passengers arriving in the UK by sea from ports outside Europe and the Mediterranean, 1878–1960, BT 26
Geoffrey Cantor, ‘Sussex Hall (1845–59) and the revival of learning among London Jewry’, Jewish Historical Studies 38 (2003), pp. 105–23. Lloyd P. Gartner, The Jewish Immigrant in England 1870– 1914 (London, 1973)
— lists of passengers leaving the UK by sea, 1898–1960, BT 27 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Survey of London Vol. XXVII Spitalfields and Mile End New Town (London, 1957)
F. H. Habben, London Street Names (London, 1896)
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives: lecture notes by Samuel Melnick 1988, TH8262/154.
Rachel Kolsky and Roslyn Rawson, Jewish London: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Visitors and Londoners (London, 2012)
Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, The London Encyclopaedia (London, 1992)
London Metropolitan Archives: Jews’ Free School Boys’ Admission and Discharge Registers 1869–93, LMA/4046/C/01/001
1881 London Post Office Directory
“Climbing into the Promised Land, Ellis Island”, Lewis Hine, c.1908. Brooklyn Museum
Acknowledgements I would like to thank some of the people who have made this book possible and who have inspired, helped and contributed along the way. First let me thank my wife, Margaret, who has put up with me ‘becoming a Londoner’ and has with patience and forbearance tolerated my disappearing into London for the long stretches needed to ‘get my feet upon the ground’. Her love of family joined with mine – each of us to our own heritage, and it is in the spirit of that bringing the past forward that the idea for this book was born. Then of course, there is my dear friend in London, Emma Taverner, without whom this book would never have been written. It is Emma who opened my eyes to London as it truly is and understood how much the city and its life appeal to me. She put up with my horrid attempts to sound and act like a Londoner and taught me the phrases and attitudes of my adopted home city. She introduced me to the book’s author and to its designer, to the Booth Maps and Archives, and to most of the things I love about London, the city and its people. Most of all, she and her boyfriend Alex taught me to enjoy pub life (which had been intimidating when I first encountered it) and how to properly order a pint, and to love humbugs. For me, it wouldn’t be London without them. Emma also spent hours and hours finding old photos, details, maps, and made the book and the story and the family her own. I owe her more thanks than I can say. I also want to thank Andy Lewis, who wrote this book and who spent hundreds of hours researching old records and finding out all the bits and pieces that make the story both accurate and interesting. Andy is the heart and soul of how this book happened, digging deeper and deeper into the life of London in the second half of the 19th century as he traced the family and its fortunes. It was he who laid to rest my cherished and false belief that my Coopers (there were lots of different Coopers) were present in Camelot, and who discovered when everyone really did arrive and what they did when they got there. His professionalism, patience with me, and dedication to making the
story true and honest made this project what it is – a glimpse of the real which is the most beautiful way to see history. And I want to thank Liz Mosley who designed the book and laid it out in an elegant folio format with such taste. She worked long hours to turn a lump of clay into a beautiful object and it shows in the richness of detail in the design. Of course I have to thank my mother, my sister, and all of my family who shared stories with me and have done so throughout my life. Most of the people in this book I never met except through the eyes of my mother and her recounting of their adventures. She first made them real for me, and this project has made them alive. I would like to thank Mandy King, a distant cousin from London whom we had never met and didn’t know, but who out of the blue got in touch with my sister and with me about five years ago and whose dedication to finding lost relations and connections started my feet upon this journey. And I would like to thank all my London relations and family, now long gone, whose spirit and character first fired this interest in me. I want to thank my son, Jimmy, who took it upon himself to live in London for a short time after college and to work there. He drew pints at Old Doctor Butler’s Head in the City, and Emma and I finally managed to visit the pub – and take pictures of it – for me to take back to him as a reminder. He categorically stated (some 20 years later) ‘It looks just the same’. Finally, let me thank my grandsons William and Bennett, who helped to fire my resolve to bring this book to life. When I started this book, I didn’t realise a sense of place was so important to me, and by the end of it, I discovered that of all the places I have lived, I connect most strongly with London. It has been an extraordinary journey for me, and what I want this book to transmit to them is a very important message: you, too, have hidden roots that may be deeper and stranger than the ones that are readily apparent, and it’s only by looking that you will find them.
Salt Beef and a Side of Bacon â€“ the story of a Jewish family in London Written by Dr Andrew Lewis and William Prensky Edited by Emma Taverner Designed by Elizabeth Mosley London, 2014