London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

Bancroft Road burial ground and a serious assault in 1826

Those of you who read the previous edition of the Cable were treated to the fascinating history of Maiden Lane synagogue’s Bancroft Road burial ground in Mile End and its sad decline to the present neglected condition.  Subsequent to this, one of my website correspondents wrote to ask if I could throw any light on a serious assault at the burial ground in 1826 that his great great great great grandfather Isaac Alexander was involved in. 

Signpost in Bancroft Road pointing the way to the Jewish cemetery - scene of dastardly deeds in 1829!


Modern Signpost in Bancroft Road pointing the way to The Jewish burial ground - scene of dastardly deeds in 1826!


The story is this:  a violent dispute at Globe Fields burial ground (Now Bancroft Road) was reported in the Times newspaper of the day.  The fight involved Isaac Alexander, Alexander senior, Henry Moss, Mr Woolf, Hyam Hyams, Simon Solomon, Asher Sampson and their victim Isaac Lazarus.  Arrests were made and the court reported that following the fight, Isaac Lazarus was in a very serious condition and too ill to attend the court.   It seems Isaac Lazarus was some sort of guard/watchman for the cemetery.  Woolf and Alexander were brought before Lambeth Street court and, due to the seriousness of Lazarus’s condition, were refused bail.  Isaac Lazarus made the following statement from his infirmary bed:

“I saw Alexander first and he said he would have admittance, which I refused, as I said I was put there by my employers and I would not open for no one.  Alexander said if I would not open by fair means I should by foul, after which Moss got up on the wall and called out ‘Come along my boys, it is alright, there is only one boy here.’ and he would do for him.  He then threw a piece of glass bottle at me.  The next who got on the wall was Woolf.  Moss and Woolf came down together.  Moss made an attempt to go up stairs, and I tried to prevent him, but he passed me.  Woolf came up next, and then he struck me on my mouth and head.  Woolf then called out for assistance, which brought down Moss.  While endeavouring to defend myself, Mr Moss opened the door and let in seven or eight men.  After they all came in, I received a violent blow on my head.  I was seized by my shoulders and thrown out of the gate into the road.  I was taken over into a neighbour’s house, which man will state how he found me.  The persons there to the best of my recollection were Woolf, Moss, Alexander, Hyams, Solomon, Alexander the father and Sampson.  Hyams assisted Woolf – both on me at once.  The blow I received felt as if from an iron bar”

Following submission of the above evidence, arrest warrants were issued for Asher Sampson, Isaac Alexander, Hyam Hyams, Simon Solomons and Henry Moss.  An Abraham Collis was reported as giving evidence against Mr Woolf and Alexander senior.  Alexander’s son Isaac Alexander was described in the court report as a synagogue leader and was in fact the reader of Queen Street synagogue, the synagogue which had founded the Globe Fields burial ground.  Queen Street became insolvent in the same year as the assault and its assets were auctioned to pay its debts.  Three years later this community reappeared at 21 Maiden Lane and it inherited responsibility for the burial ground.  Arthur Barnett’s book ‘The Western Synagogue Through Two Centuries’ reports that Abraham Collis was secretary of Maiden Lane synagogue from 1837 to 1844.  He died aged 83 in1860 and is buried in Bancroft Road.  Arthur Barnet goes on to say that Hyam Hyams lived in Dean Street and was on the 1820 founding committee of Westminster Jews Free School.

Facade of Westminster Jews Free School in Hanway Place - Hyam Hyams was one of the founders


Facade of Westminster Jews Free School, Hanway Place, London.  Hyam Hyams was one of the founders...and a criminal!


Who knows what rivalries may have played out between the 1826 insolvency of Queen Street and the community’s reappearance at Maiden Lane in 1829, and did rivalry drive seemingly respectable men to violently break into the burial ground that their community had originally founded?  I guess we will never know the answer.

website copyright of Philip Walker