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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4297
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1863-1939
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 0.16 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 in 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 untilk a new site was found on the Camden Road. In 1958 the school reopened as JFS Comprehensive.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records relating to the Jews' Free School and former teachers at the school. This deposit contains letters, school magazines, newspaper cuttings and an attendance register. Some material relates to Anglo-Jewish historian Myer David Davis (also spelt Davies), who started his career as a teacher at the Jews' Free School as Talmud Torah master.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

These records have been arranged into the following subseries: LMA/4297/01/001-012: The Jews' Free School. These records have a direct relationship with the school itself, that is, they were produced by the school for the school. LMA/4297/01/013: Dr. Douglas Woolf. He is the likely former owner of these records and some material remains as a result of his own concerns and activities, such as the arrival of Russian Jewish immigrants to London. LMA/4297/10/014-105: Myer David Davis. As an ex-pupil and teacher at the School there was a lot of sadness on the death of this pioneer of Jewish clerical history at 81 years old. The newscuttings and copy of a magazine he edited reflect just how active he was in the promotion of Jewish culture and its past to others.

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:

The material seems to have belonged originally to Dr. Douglas Woolf, before being passed on to Dr. G. Black and later London Metropolitan Archives in April 2001.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by Dr G. Black in April 2001, together with material relating to the London Jewish Hospital (LMA/4296).

Allied Materials

Related material:

Related material on the Jews' Free School held at LMA includes LMA/4046 and LMA/4290.

Publication note:

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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