OUR subject is a fascinating and almost unexplored tributary to the main stream of the English goldsmiths' craft. It springs from the settlement in England of Sephardi Jews in the seventeenth century. Entirely unnoticed by Sir Charles Jackson in his monumental survey of English plate of 1911, although numerous examples had been shown in the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition at the Albert Hall in 1887, the subject was first investigated some twenty years ago by the late Philip A. S. Phillips who made invaluable lists of the pieces traced by him and of Anglo-Jewish goldsmiths to which I would like to pay tribute here.
My own first contacts with Jewish art, if I may be allowed a moment's personal reminiscence, was when I acted over tw7enty years ago as amanuensis to Dr. Cecil Roth when he made the catalogue of the Arthur Howitt Collection for its dispersal at Christies in 1932. But this extremely fine corpus of Jewish culture, from the nature of things, contained little or no suggestion of Anglo-Jewish art, and it was not until I was asked to make the catalogue of the remarkable accumulation of plate at Bevis Marks a year or two ago, that I became aware of the unique quality of the liturgical objects made for English synagogues and for private use which provide such an interesting and absorbing subject for the student of our native silversmiths' work.
Although we have no survivals to prove our claim, we can be reasonably sure that the Jewish communities of mediaeval England must of necessity have adorned their synagogues with costly examples of gold and silver plate. Both Christian ecclesiastical and domestic plate of the highest quality have survived to sufficient extent in this country to prove that the English goldsmith was in every respect the rival of his Continental contemporaries. Perhaps even yet, who knows, some happy chance may bring to light some precious relic of mediaeval Anglo-Jewish art, some survival for instance, as fortui? tous as the preservation in the cathedral treasury of Palma, Majorca, of the fifteenth century pair of silver rimonim noted by Dr. Roth. Stranger things have happened, but until such an event delights us we must begin our story with the settlement of Sephardi Israel under Cromwell.
There can be no doubt, of course, that the first congregation to come together then must have brought its liturgical objects with it and we can be fairly certain that these were mainly Dutch in origin. But before very long there is evidence which points to pieces of English origin being procured for the Creechurch Lane Synagogue. The invaluable ?CLibro de los Acuerdos" still cherished by Bevis Marks contains a number of references which point this way. The first dates from the year 5426-1665-6, when it appears that Creechurch Lane Synagogue was burgled, and reads "For the Remonim which they stole in the Synagogue and I paid to Abraham Cohen Gonsales £14''.
The fact that the replacement was purchased from a member of the Congregation does indeed suggest