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SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS' CONGREGATION

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4521
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/Pages/ ›
Full title: SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS' CONGREGATION
Date(s): 1598-1997
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 57.66 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

In 1290 anti-Jewish feeling in England led to the expulsion of all Jews from the country. In the seventeenth century a small number of Jews arrived in London, fleeing persecution by the Inquisition in Spain. They outwardly behaved as Christians while holding secret prayer meetings; and began to petition Protector Oliver Cromwell for the official re-admittance of Jews to England. Eventually their petition was successful and the first official Jewish place of worship was opened in Creechurch Lane, London, in 1656. This building soon became too small and in 1695 work began on a new synagogue, to be situated on Bevis Marks Street, around the corner from Creechurch Lane. The building was opened in September 1701.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries immigrants joined the Congregation, coming from Portugal (known as Marranos) or from Jewish communities elsewhere including Spain, Holland, France, Italy and North Africa, the Middle East, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. The congregation began to leave the City of London and the East End to settle in the west of London, leading to the establishment of a branch synagogue: situated on Wigmore Street in 1853; moved to Bryanston Street, Marble Arch in 1861; and finally Lauderdale Road, Maida Vale, in 1896. Another synagogue was constructed at Mildmay Park in North London in 1883 and in Wembley in 1962. The Beth Holim hospital and old people's home was moved to Wembley in 1977.

In 1657 the Congregation opened a cemetery, known as the Velho (Old), in Mile End Road, East London. The Velho Cemetery closed in 1735 and the Novo (New) Cemetery was opened further along Mile End Road, and was used until 1918. After this a third cemetery was opened in Golders Green in north west London. The Novo cemetery was partly cleared in the 1970s in face of a compulsory purchase order. Re-interments were carried out at Brentwood, Essex, where all the names are recorded on plaques.

The Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation was led by a small group (Mahamad) consisting of two Wardens (Parnassim) and a Treasurer (Gabay), chosen annually front among the Elders. In the mid 19th century this body became an elected Executive. The Mahamad compiled the first Laws of the Congregation (Ascamot) which were intended to maintain a pious, united and ordered community. The Mahamad levied taxes on members, selected and paid the Haham (Chief Rabbi) and other officials, received offerings and legacies, authorised the solemnisation of marriages and distributed charity (both money and goods such as matzot, coal and blankets).

The synagogue also established various charities to help its members. These included an orphanage; the Shaare Tikvah (Gates of Hope) School for boys, founded in the seventeenth century; the Villareal School for girls; Dower Societies which provided assistance for brides to set up their homes; the Welfare Board offering assistance to people in need; and medical provision in the Beth Holim, now an old people's home but formerly a hospital founded in 1747.

Famous members of the Synagogue include Sir Moses Haim Montefiore, (1784-1885), financier and Jewish community leader, who devoted much of his wealth to charitable causes and travelled widely campaigning on behalf of Jewish interests; and boxer and prize-fighter Daniel Mendoza (1763-1836) who created a new style of boxing which led to the development of the modern sport. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) was circumcised at the synagogue, although a later quarrel between his father and the synagogue Elders led to the family leaving the congregation and the children being baptised as Christians in 1817 (thus allowing Disraeli to enter Parliament).

The Synagogue is still used for regular worship as well as for special services organized by British Jews in general.

Source of information: Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation website at http://www.sandp.org/history.htm (accessed March 2010).

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation. The records can only be accessed at LMA with prior written permission from the Congregation. Written consent should therefore be obtained from the Honorary Archivist and Chief Executive of Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, 2 Ashworth Road, London W9 1JY. Permission to copy items from the collection should also be sought from the Honorary Archivist. Please contact staff for more information.

Records relating to the administration of the Congregation including: laws and regulations (Ascamot); orders and resolutions; minutes, agenda, indexes of minutes and attendance lists for meetings of the Mahamad, Elders and Yehidim of the Congregation and other committees; membership lists; various reports, including annual reports of the Mahamad to the Elders; correspondence of the Mahamad, Synagogue and associated organisations; records of the Portuguese Marranos Committee; records of denization relating to members of the Congregation (denization was a legal process allowing foreigners to gain the certain privileges equivalent to British subjects, including the right to hold land, through letters patent); contract books with signed agreements to supply coal, matzot and other commodities; records relating to shehita (ritual slaughter of animals in accordance with Jewish dietary laws); and 'livros dos pleitos', case books which record the Mahamad's arbitration of various disputes amongst the Congregation.

Records relating to the Synagogue's services including: registers of births; register of circumcisions; marriage registers (books of ketubot) and marriage licenses; registers of burials in the Old and New Beth Ahaim, Mile End, and lists of graves, certificates of registry of deaths and coroners orders for burial; seats lists; sermons, dictionaries and prayer books; apprentice books and records of religious classes.

Records relating to property and legal matters including: petitions to the royal family; various legal and probate documents relating to legacies left to the Synagogue and trusts administered by the Synagogue; property deeds for the land of the Synagogue and its institutions; funded property books recording the investment holdings of the Synagogue and its Trusts; rent books; and plans.

Financial records of the Congregation: account books, ledgers, journals and cash books; records of finta and offerings from the members; salary and wage books; balance sheets and annual statements; records of the London Sephardi Trust; account books for Congregational trusts and charities; subscription lists; sedaca account books (charitable funds administered by the Synagogue and money used for the upkeep of the Synagogue); and receipts.

Records of branch synagogues including: offerings books, account books and seating lists for the Lauderdale Road Synagogue (also referred to as New West End Synagogue) and minutes and byelaws and account books for the Mildmay Park Synagogue. Please note that records relating to the Lauderdale Road and Mildmay Park Synagogues may be included in the main series of Congregational records.

Related documentation including: records on the history of the Synagogue and the wider Jewish Community, papers relating to Dr Moses Gaster's history of the Synagogue, indexes and books of poetry.

Records of related organisations including:
- Barrows' Buildings Almshouses, Bethnal Green, and Cocks Court Almshouses;
- Beth Holim Hospital, Mile End (later the Home for the Aged);
- Shahare Tikvah or Shaare Tikva (translates as Gates of Hope) School;
- Villareal National Jews' School, Thrawl Street, Whitechapel (formerly the Girls' Charity School);
- Spanish and Portuguese National and Infants' School;
- Shaare Orah ve-Abi Yetomim (translates as Doors of Light and Father of Orphans) Orphan Society for poor orphaned girls (later Orphan Aid Society, alternatively Shahare Orah vaabi Yetomim);
- Medrash (Midras/Medras) Heshaim Religious College;
- Society of Honen Dalim, Menahem Abelim, Hebrat Yetomot and Hebrat Moelim (Moalim) (translates as 'Succouring the needy; comforting the mourners; society for assisting orphan girls; society for circumcisions');
- Society Mehil Sedaca (translates as cloak of righteousness) for dowering orphans;
- Mahasim Tobim (translates as good and gracious deeds) Loans Society;
- Board of Guardians;
- Hebra Guemiluth Hasadim Society for tending the sick and burying the dead;
- Spanish and Portuguese Jews Burial Society;
- Spanish and Portuguese Provident Burial Society;
- Mikveh Israel (Hope of Israel) Society for lavadores (washers of corpses);
- City of London Benevolent Society for assisting widows of the Jewish Faith (Hebra Yetom ve Almanah Ye'oded);
- Spanish and Portuguese Abel Society (until 1903 known as Tsedaka Tatzil Memavet (translates as 'Charity Delivers from Death') and from 1954 as the Provident Abel Society);
- The Montefiore Endowment, including material relating to Judith Lady Montefiore College, Ramsgate Synagogue and Ramsgate Jewish Burial Ground Society;
- Sephardi Charities Aid Society;
- Sephardic Congregational Association;
- Spanish and Portuguese Lodge no 36, Order Achei Ameth, a Jewish Friendly Society;
- London Zionist League;
- Sephardi Literary Society;
- Loan Society/Ernest Brandon Charitable Endowment;
- Gift of Moses Lara Trust;
- Holy Land Relief Fund;
- Santa Irmandade de Orah Haim;
- Associated Sephardi Congregations; and
- Congregation Shearith Israel, New York.

Again, please note that records relating to the Congregation's charities may be included in the main series of Congregational records.

Personal and family records deposited with the Synagogue, including correspondence and diaries, sermons and treaties and essays and poetry of the Meldola and de Sola family.

Records of Sephardic Jewish Congregations in Barbados, Bordeaux, Amsterdam, Venice and Germany, including: minutes, petitions, byelaws, correspondence, accounts and service records for the Barbados Congregation (Nidhe Israel); photocopy of the minute book of the Bordeaux Congregation; and account books and papers relating to a loan for the Venice Congregation.

Records relating to Public Appeals, correspondence with other organisations namely the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and papers relating to associated congregations in Manchester and Ramsgate.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mixture of English, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, occasionally Italian and German. Portuguese was the language of record until 1819; the majority of records are in English from the latter half of the 19th century.

System of arrangement:

Records arranged into 4 sub-fonds:
LMA/4521/A: Congregation and Synagogues;
LMA/4521/B: Congregational and Related Organisations;
LMA/4521/C: Deposited Personal and Family Records;
LMA/4521/D: International Congregations;
LMA/4521/E: Public Appeals;
LMA/4521/F: Other organisations;
LMA/4521/G: United Kingdom Congregations.

Conditions governing access:

Access by written permission only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at: http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by the Honorary Archivist of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation in October 2007 with additional deposits in 2013 and 2015.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Board of Deputies was initially established by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation and early minutes are in Portuguese. See reference ACC/3121.

For further information please consult the LMA Information Leaflet: "Records of the Anglo-Jewish Community at London Metropolitan Archives"; available to download here: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/london-metropolitan-archives/Documents/visitor-information/20%20Records%20of%20the%20Anglo-Jewish%20Community%20at%20London%20Metropolitan%20Archives.pdf (URL correct January 2013).

See also Mendes da Costa and Skillman Families (LMA/4553).


The library of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation has been deposited at the Leopold Muller Memoral Library at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Publication note:

For further information see Hyamson, Albert M: The Sephardim of England: A history of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community 1492-1951. 1951, reprinted 1991 [LMA library reference: 55.1 HYA] and Laski, Neville: The Laws and Charities of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation of London. 1952 [LMA library reference: 55.1 LAS].

LMA holds the Bevis Marks Records series of transcripts in LMA's Library. These cover a number of these records and do not require permission or prior appointment to view. Library Reference: 60.58 SPA. The transcripts are as follows:

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION. Abstracts of the Ketubot or marriage- contracts of the Congregation from earliest times until 1837, with index, edited by Lionel D. Barnett. The Board of Elders of the Congregation, 1949. Bevis Marks Records part II.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION and JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND. Abstracts of the Ketubot or marriage - contracts and of the civil marriage registers of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation for the period 1837-1901, with an introduction and an index by G.H. Whitehill. The Congregation and the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1973. Bevis Marks Records part III.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION and JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF ENGLAND. The circumcision register of Isaac and Abraham de Paiba 1715-1775 ... transcribed, translated and edited ... by the late R.D. Barnett ... together with a supplement including a record of circumcisions 1679-1699, marriages 1679-1689 and some female births 1679-1699, compiled by Miriam Rodrigues Pereira. The Congregation and the Jewish Historical Society of England,1991. Bevis Marks Records part IV.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION. The birth register (1767-1881) of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, London, together with the circumcision registers of Elias Lindo (1767-1785), David Abarbanel Lindo (1803-1820), Solomon Almosnino (1815-1827), David Buenode Mesquita (1855-1869) ... and including the Jewish births (1701-1763) in the 18th century register books of the College of Arms transcribed and edited ... by Miriam Rodrigues Pereira and Chloe Loewe. The Congregation, 1993. Bevis Marks Records part V.

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS CONGREGATION. The burial register (1733-1918) of the Novo (New) Cemetery of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation London (with some later entries) transcribed and edited ... by Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira, Chloe Loewe with assistance from Raphael Loewe and David Nunes Vaz. The Congregation, 1997. Bevis Marks Records part VI.

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, updated in January 2013 and September 2018.

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