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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4046
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1791-1998
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 4 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Jews' Free School x JFS Comprehensive


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Jews' Free School (now JFS Comprehensive) is the largest Jewish school in Britain. It was founded by Moses Hart, who paid for the restoration of the Great Synagogue where the school opened as a Talmud Torah for 15 boys in 1732. It was originally a charity school for orphaned boys with priority given to those of German parentage. By 1788 the school had moved to Houndsditch and in the late 1790s moved again to Gun Square where the number of pupils increased to 21. In the nineteenth century Dr. Joshua Van Oven found a permanent site for the school in Bell Lane.

Between 1880 and 1900, one third of all London's Jewish children passed through its doors - by 1900 it had some 4,000 pupils and was the largest school in Europe. The School provided these children with a refuge from poverty, a religious and secular education and in the spirit of the times anglicised them. Famous pupils from this time include Barney Barnato, Bud Flanagan, Alfred Marks and the novelist Israel Zangwill. The school enjoyed the patronage of the Rothschilds and had for 51 years a headmaster called Moses Angel. Angel was probably the most influential figure in Jewish education in the nineteenth century and a great advocate of "anglicising" his pupils. They were, he said "ignorant even of the elements of sound; until they had been Anglicised."

The school remained there until 1939 when it was evacuated to Ely. The Bell Lane building was destroyed during enemy action and after the Second World War the school remained closed until a new site was found on the Camden Road. In 1958 the school reopened as JFS Comprehensive.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Jews' Free School, later renamed JFS Comprehensive, 1791-1998, including papers of the Governors' Committee, Ladies Committee, Education Committee, Executive Committee, Managers' Meetings and School Council; papers relating to scholarships and prizes; correspondence; financial accounts; pupil admission and discharge records; papers relating to pupil discipline; records of the Headmaster; magazines; programmes; publications; newspaper cuttings; and photographs of pupils, staff, important visitors, school facilities, charitiy activities, sports and buildings.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records have been arranged into the following series: LMA/4046/A Administration; LMA/4046/B Finance; LMA/4046/C Pupils' Records; LMA/4046/D Staff Records; LMA/4046/E Printed Material; LMA/4046/F Photographs.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in multiple accessions between May 1998 and June 2001.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Further records of the Jews Free School can be found at LMA/4290 and LMA/4297.

Publication note:

For further reading see: 'JFS Builds on a moving tradition', by Lorraine Kirk, Jewish Chronicle, 13 March, 1987 and 'The Origins of the Jew's Free School, by Salmond S. Levin from The Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, vol. XIX.

For further information please consult the LMA Information Leaflet: "Records of the Anglo-Jewish Community at London Metropolitan Archives"; available to download here: (URL correct Feb 2010).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Description prepared in March 2010.

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