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

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

Levy Bros, Matzo Bakers, Widegate Street, London E1 - a curious fact!
Looking down Sandy's Row towards Artillery Lane and the turning into Widegate StreetArtillery Lane, London E1At the North end of Middlesex Street is a picturesque little quarter of cobbled streets, 18th century shop fronts and narrow alleyways with names like Sandy's Row (home to the 2nd oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the UK founded 1854, photo left), Gun Street, Artillery Lane (photo right), Brushfield Street and Widegate Street.  In Widegate Street is a curious reminder of what was once the oldest shop in London: Levy Brothers, Matzo bakers of number 31.  An article in the Jewish Chronicle of 31st August 1928 joined a controversy to name London's oldest shop.  A shop called Ellis the booksellers of Bond Street, established in 1728, had laid claim to this worthy title.  Not so, said the Jewish Chronicle, because Levy Bros, Matzo bakers of 31 Widegate Street, on the corner of White Rose Court, could beat this by 18 years, having been established in 1710!  The article went on to say that: ...Antiquarians who love old pieces of architecture will find pleasure in studying the curious old carvings in the front of the quaint pointed roofs of the premises of this well known matsot baker. 
And what were these figures?  Well, I don't know for sure, but in 1926 on a building newly erected on the site are relief representations of bakers making bread from the beginning of the process to the end.  Levy Bros may be long gone, but look above the modern shop front of 12 Widegate Street (formerly 31 Widegate Street) and, metaphorically speaking, you will see that these sturdy fellows have been toiling away for nearly 300 years!
....and now for some photos.....double click to enlarge

White Rose Court, on the corner of 12 Widegate Street - now La Forchetta sandwich bar, formerly 31 Widegate Street and site of Levy Bros

12 (formerly 31) Widegate Street - look at the bakers toiling away over the shop

12 (formerly 31) Widegate Street, a better view the bakers, photographed in daylight in 1994

Modern times: The King's Stores pub, White Rose Court, and 12 Widegate Street - site of Levy Bros Matz bakers, once the oldest shop in London

post script:
At one time the state of health of the matzo baking trade was considered of such importance that it was subject to announcement in the Jewish Chronicle.  In the edition of 25th January 1901 the following was solemnly reported:

Matzos for the Cape Although we are still separated from Passover by an interval of ten weeks, its approach is being heralded by great activity in the Matzo baking trade, especially in respect to the execution of orders for the colonies. This week Messrs Levy Brothers, Widegate Street, Bishopsgate, consigned twelve large cases, containing in aggregate 5,500lbs of matzos and 600lbs of meal to the Reverend A P Bender in Cape Town. It is understood that the whole consignment will not be required there but that a portion will be sent to other parts of Cape Colony.

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