This paper is based on research undertaken by the late Paul de Castro and myself, while collecting material for a history of Twickenham in the eighteenth century, as yet unpublished.
Twickenham, on the Middlesex bank of the Thames, was renowned from the earliest days of the century for its fine riverside residences, as we learn from the pages of John Macky and Defoe. Many famous people were attracted by its " laughing scene ", in the words of Gray, the poet, and it is not surprising that by the middle of the century we find among its wealthy and fashionable inhabitants members of several well-known Jewish families living there in comfort and repute. The chief names that occur are Franks, Franco, Salvador, Prado, and Nunez. Members of some of these families resided also in the adjacent villages of Teddington and Isle worth, and in Twickenham's more important neighbour across the river, Richmond in Surrey.
Much of the information about these Jewish residents comes to us from the correspondence of Horace Walpole, to whose entertaining gossip we are deeply indebted. Extracts from his letters show the degree of intimacy which existed between the well-born and somewhat supercilious Walpole and his Jewish neighbours. The memoirs of William Hickey, also a Twickenham resident, provide us with another contemporary, though less reliable, source.
It was not till May, 1747, that Walpole purchased the building which eventually became his " Gothic Castle " of Strawberry Hill. Alexander Pope, whose house was but a short distance away, had then been dead three years. But Walpole's first mention of a member of the house of Franks is in 1742, five years before he went to live at Twickenham when, in a letter to Sir Horace Mann, he tells how the Princess of Wales, at a masquerade at Norfolk House, " was vastly bejewelled ; Franks had lent her forty thousand pounds' worth, and refused to be paid for the hire, only desiring that she would tell whose they were." Walpole was probably referring to Aaron Franks of Billiter Square, near Fenchurch Street, for another Twickenham resident, Miss Laetitia Hawkins, also relates in her Memoirs an anecdote of Aaron Franks, diamond merchant, told to her father, Sir John Hawkins, by Franks himself. It is likely that Franks had a private house at Isleworth, for in November, 1774, more than thirty years later than his letter to Mann, Walpole wrote from Strawberry Hill to the Earl of Strafford, who also had a Twickenham residence, but was then at his Yorkshire seat : " This morning I was at a very fine concert at old Franks' at Isle worth, and heard Leoni, who pleased me more than anything I have heard these hundred years."
Aaron Franks had married a daughter of Moses Hart (1676?-! 756), the banker, brother of Rabbi Aaron Hart (1670-1756), and benefactor of the Great Synagogue. Moses Hart owned a handsome mansion on the river bank near Railshead ferry, Isleworth, which was said by Macky to be " inferior to few