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

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London


Jews' Free School , Bell Lane, London E1 - a family album

Jews' Free School Channukah Celebrations at the Great Synagogue, Dukes Place - an evocative description of a vanished era in the East End of London - from The Jews' Free School magazine of December 1936Some historical the right is an extract from The Jews Free School Magazine of December 1936 describing their Channukah celebrations in The Great Synagogue, Dukes Place, City of London.  The Great Synagogue was destroyed by bombing in WW2.  Prior to that it had been the 'Cathedral' Synagogue of Ashkenazi Jewry.  Click the picture to enlarge and read.

Below is an extract from Israel Zangwill’s stunning book ‘Children of The Ghetto’ written in 1892.  Israel Zangwill was a student and then a teacher at Jews Free School.  He has been described as the Jewish Dickens and his works are long overdue for rediscovery.  My personal favourites of his are ‘King of the Schnorrers’ and of course ‘Children of The Ghetto’.  Read below his impressions of Bell Lane as the school morning at Jews Free School begins:-

"Moses …went past Mordechai’s shop without going in, and was only awakened from his daydream by the brazen clanging of the bell.  It was the bell of the great Ghetto school, summoning its pupils from the reeking courts and alleys, from the garrets and the cellars, calling them to come and be Anglicized.  And they came in a great straggling procession recruited from every lane and by-way, big children and little children, boys in blackening corduroy, and girls in washed-out cotton; tidy children and ragged children; children in great shapeless boots gaping at the toes; sickly children, and sturdy children, and diseased children; bright eyed children and hollow eyed children; quaint sallow foreign looking children, and fresh coloured English looking children; with great pumpkin heads, with oval heads’ with pear shaped heads; with old men’s faces, with cherubs’ faces, with monkeys’ faces; cold and famished children, and warm and well fed children; children conning their lessons and children romping carelessly; the demure and the anaemic; the boisterous and the blackguardly, the insolent, the idiotic, the vicious, the intelligent, the exemplary, the dull – spawn of all countries – all hastening at the inexorable clang of the big school bell to be ground in the same great, blind, inexorable Governmental machine.  Here, too, was a miniature fair, the path being lined by itinerant temptations.  There was a brisk traffic in toffy, and gray peas and monkey-nuts, and the crowd was swollen by anxious parents seeing tiny or truant offspring safe within the school gates.  The women were bare headed or be-shawled, with infants at their breasts and little ones toddling at their sides, the men were greasy and musty, and squalid.  Here a bright earnest little girl held her vagrant big brother by the hand, not to let go till she had seen him in the bosom of his class mates.  There a sullen wild eyed mite in petticoats was being dragged along, screaming towards distasteful durance.  It was a drab picture-the bleak, leaden sky above, the sloppy, miry stones below, the frowsy mothers and fathers, the motley children. “Monkey Nuts! Monkey Nuts!” croaked a wizened old woman"…The extract above is from Israel Zangwill's masterpiece: 'Children of The Ghetto'.

JFS Room 18 - Pupils 1933-1935On the left is a photo of JFS Room 18 pupils for the years 1933-1935.  The following photos depicting life at Jews Free School, Bell Lane, London E1 were also taken during the 1930's by Julius Rich - a teacher at Jews Free School.  They show school outings, 1935 Jubilee celebrations, gymnastic displays, 1937 Coronation celebrations, staff photos, class photos etc.  Jews Free school was founded in 1732 and moved to Bell Lane in 1822.  By the end of the 19th century it had 4000 students on its roll and was one of the largest elementary schools in the World.  The school was evacuated to Cambridgeshire in 1939 and the Bell Lane premises were bombed in 1941.  A modern office now occupies the original site.  Jews Free School is today located in Kenton, North London.  

Jews Free School, Bell Lane, Staff photo mid 1930s

JFS outing to Crystal Palace 13 June 1935

JFS Jubilee tea in the big playground 8 July 1935

Gymnastic display in the Big Playground 16 July 1935

Demolition of the Netherlands Club Summer 1935 + view of JFS from Brune Street

JFS Coronation outing to Whipsinade Zoo & Boxmoor 24 June 1937

Julius Rich and colleague Eli Cohen (on the left of picture) in the Pottery dept of JFS - mid 1930's

JFS form 2b mid 1930's

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