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

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

A world of philanthropists, synagogues and cemeteries

A gentle stroll around Stepney Green and Mile End.

Many will have walked around Spitalfields and Whitechapel and be familiar with the remaining Jewish sites. But how many of us have made the same voyage around Stepney and Mile End, where there is a wealth of relatively unknown riches?

35 & 37 Stepney Green-18th century houses once a Jewish old peoples' homeStepney Green Court - erected by Rothschild's 4% Industrial Dwellings CompanyNext time you are in the area turn off Mile End Road for a stroll down beautiful Stepney Green. At 35 and 37 Stepney Green you will see the former Jewish old people’s home, now two beautiful private houses. Almost next door is the former Stepney Orthodox Synagogue, Rosalind Green Hall - now a boxing club, and next door to that is the former Stepney Jewish school, which closed in the 1970s.  Among famous old boys is the late Lord Delfont (Bernard Delfont), who was expelled at the age of 12 for running a farthing sweepstake.  Just past the school is Stepney Green Court – erected by the Rothschild’s Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company to provide decent housing for the poor, many of whom were Jewish. This magnificent building is a monument to Jewish philanthropy.

When you are almost at the bottom of Stepney Green cut through an alleyway to enter Rectory Square and enjoy a view of Temple Court, formerly the East London Synagogue, the United Synagogue’s cathedral synagogue of the East End.  Its most famous incumbent was probably the Reverend J F Stern, known affectionately as the Jewish Bishop of Stepney. He was minister until 1928.

The ark of the former East London Synagogue, Rectory Square in 2008Interior of East London Synagogue, Rectory Square, 1948Closed in the early 1990s and derelict for many years, it is now converted into smart flats. If you are lucky, a resident may take pity on you as you press your nose against a window to peer through and you will be invited in. What a view! The synagogue may have gone but Hebrew plaques, stained glass windows, the Ten Commandments inscribed above the ark and more remain.  Make sure you have a camera with you.

Leonard Montefiore drinking fountain, Stepney GreenOn your way back up Stepney Green to Mile End Road take a look at the Montefiore memorial drinking fountain on your left.  The Montefiores were a fabulously wealthy banking family with connections to the Rothschilds, Goldsmids, Salomons, Montagus, Mocattas Sterns and more – names that crop up time and time again in the story of the Jewish East End of London and known collectively as ‘The Cousinhood’.  If you can beg, borrow or steal a copy of Chaim Bermant’s 1971 book of the same name you can learn more. The Montefiore on the water fountain is Leonard Montefiore, brother of Claude Goldsmid Montefiore.  He died from some sort of rheumatic attack in New York in 1879 at the age of 26.  


Phyllis Gerson House, Beaumont Grove1938 Foundation plaque of the Stepney Jewish Girls' (B'Nai Brit) Club and SettlementJust before reaching the top of Stepney Green turn right into Hayfield Passage and follow this quaint alleyway to reach the Mile End Road.  Turn right, then take the first right into Beaumont Grove, home of Jewish Care’s Stepney Day Centre.  From the street you can see various buildings carrying the names of half forgotten Jewish heroines together with several faded plaques with Hebrew inscriptions. The first building of interest is Phyllis Gerson House. Phyllis Gerson MBE devoted much of her life to Stepney Jewish B’nai Brith Girls Club and Settlement, of which she was warden for 45 years until her retirement in 1974.  Miss Gerson was responsible for turning the club – long since absorbed into Jewish Care’s Day Centre – into a welfare complex serving all ages.  During the Second World War she joined the committee for Jewish Relief Abroad, and in 1944 was sent to Egypt to organise relief work. She carried out further missions in Austria, Albania and Italy and ended her service in 1946.  A year later she was awarded the MBE for her war work for Jewish relief. She died aged 87 in 1990. 

Alice Model NurseryJust along from Phyllis Gerson House is the Alice Model Nursery, which carries the name of an East End social reformer.  Miss Model inspired the development of this nursery, named in honour of her 80th birthday in 1936.  The nursery augmented the Jewish day nursery she founded in 1901 in New Road.  It was for children of all religions, an ethos that continues to this day.  She was a pioneer campaigner for mother and infant welfare and in 1895 founded the Sick Room Help Society, which evolved into the Jewish Maternity Hospital in Underwood Street.  According to the Jewish Chronicle, 11th April 1947, page 6, Alice Model was herself a member of the cousinhood (see The Sterns - next paragraph)  by virtue of being a descendant of the 18th century German banker Benedict Goldschmidt.  Alice Model MBE died in 1943. Building the Alice Model nursery

Baron Hermann de Stern innscription on clock tower outside Queen Mary's College Mile EndBaron Hermann de Stern Clock Tower, Queen Mary's College, Mile EndMake your way back up Beaumont Grove to Mile End Road, cross to the north side and turn east to meet another scion of the ‘Cousinhood’, Baron Hermann De Stern whose name and that of his son Herbert are inscribed on the clock tower outside Queen Mary’s College, University of London.  Baron Hermann De Stern was born in Frankfurt on Main in 1815 and died in London in 1887.  With his brother David he founded the banking house of Stern Brothers.  For providing financial services to the Portuguese government he was given the Portuguese title of Baron.  His wife was Julia Goldsmid of the Goldsmid banking family, and his daughter married into the Salomons family, who were themselves related to the Montefiores, Rothschilds and so on – it gets complicated.  When Hermann De Stern died in 1887 he left £3,500,000, equivalent to billions of pounds today.

Albert Stern House, Mile EndThe Stern family appear again a little further down Mile End Road at Albert Stern House, formerly an old people’s home and now a hall of residence for the university. Sir Albert Stern was the grandson of Julius Stern, brother of Baron Hermann.  He was secretary of the British Government’s Landship Committee, the body responsible for developing the tank for combat in the First World War.  Albert Stern went on to become head of the family banking business. He converted to Christianity, and died in 1966.  He was the brother of Frederick Stern of Highdown Estate near Goring-by-Sea, Sussex, which was used by the Oxford and St George’s club for its summer camps.

Hermann De Stern’s nephew Sydney Stern, later to become Lord Wandsworth, gave his house ‘Ferndale’ to the Jewish community in 1904, and it became the famous Nightingale Home for Aged Jews in Clapham, south London.

Sir Henry Cooper unveils plaque celebrating the life of Daniel Mendoza - father of scientific boxingDaniel Mendoza plaque, now located on the outside wall of Queen Mary's CollegeA left turn into Westfield Way brings you to the grounds of the Queen Mary’s college for a look at the remaining fragment of the Nuovo Sephardi cemetery.  Those who were buried here include the great boxer Daniel Mendoza – a plaque to whose memory was recently unveiled in Queen Mary’s college.


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