In Memoriam: Alfred Rubens, FRICS, FSA, FRHistS (1903—1998)

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Alfred Rubens, FRICS, FSA, FRHistS (1903-1998) Alfred Rubens’ parents, Jacob and Hester, were born in Poland. His father was a native of Lomza northeast of Warsaw, where his grandfather had been a melamea’. His mother was born in Wyszogrod, west of Warsaw, in 1866. Her father owned a boat on the Vistula in which he traded with Torun (Thorn) in Prussia. He also owned an inn which sustained the family when the river was frozen over in the winter. Jacob arrived in England when he was sixteen, and Hester when she was eleven. Although he was described on his entry documents as a stick-maker, fol- lowing his marriage to Hester in London on 10 November 1883 he set up as an estate agent in the City of London and dealt in East End residential properties. They later moved to Highbury where their seven children were raised. Alfred (or Freddie, as he was usually known) was the youngest. He and his third brother, Charles, were educated at the City of London School, where they first came to know Cecil Roth (b. 1899), who was older than them. Then in 1918 their father died unexpectedly. Their older brother, Harry, was serving with the army in France and Charles was just about to be called up, so Freddie, then aged fourteen, had to leave school without matriculating and help his mother to run the family business. He managed to pass the matriculation exam by private study, taking Hebrew as one of his subjects, and followed this up by qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor. He never had the opportunity of going to university, which he regret- ted.l

Looking back through the volumes of this Society’s Transactions, I was curious to trace the origins of Freddie’s long-standing friendship both with Cecil Roth and with my father, Wilfred S. Samuel. Freddie’s oldest brother, Alexander, who was a solicitor, joined the Society before 191 8; and when Cecil Roth read his first paper to this Society in 1920, on ‘Perkin Warbeck and his Jewish Master’, Alfred Rubens was only seventeen. This was a fine piece of original research which the president, H. S. Q Henriques, proceeded to denigrate, supported by the secretary, the Revd Michael Adler, and Lucien Wolf. When it was published in 1922 an insultingly dismissive footnote was inserted in Transactions. Of course, these pundits were wrong, and Cecil Roth’s identification of Sir Edward Brampton, godson and Esquire of the Body to Edward IV and Knight of the Body to Richard III, with Edward Brandon, a converted Jew from the Domus Conversorum, was well and truly proved. In the same year, 1922, Wilfred Samuel read his first monograph to the Society on ‘The First London Synagogue of the Resettlement’, making it a condi- tion that someone other than Henriques take the chair.2 By then Freddie’s older brother Harry had become a member of this Society, and by 1924 Freddie, then aged twenty-one, had joined it too. In that summer, Wilfred Samuel spent an enjoyable fortnight with

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