The Jews in Hull, between 1766 and 1880

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The increasing number of Jews who entered Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century was reflected in the expansion of the London Jewish com- munity and in the creation or expansion of provincial centres. Immigration was intensified under the impact of threats of expulsion from Prague in the mid- 17405; the discriminatory taxation of Jews in Prussia in the 17505; outbreaks of violence against Jews in the Ukraine in 1763; and the Russian incorporation of the major part of Poland on the partitions of that country from 1772.

Among growing numbers of Jews who branched out along the roads of Eng- land, Hull, as a thriving port and market town, was an attraction for the itinerant tradesmen, and in due course a likely place in which to settle. It might not at first have seemed an easy point of call or a satisfactory base, in View of its geographical location in the eastern corner of Yorkshire and cut off from the south by the Humber. Yet, as the principal port in the northeast, the largest town in the county and a place of acclaimed rising prosperity, visits could not sensibly be avoided, nor could the commercial travels around the wide country- side which it served.

Hull was not only (next to London) the major point of arrival into England from the Continent, but was also rapidly developing as an important outlet to the Baltic and elsewhere for the manufacturing produce of the Midlands and the North. It progressively grew in population. This was estimated by William Turner, in his Guide to Hull (1805), to be 29,500. By 1851 that figure had more than doubled. The canals enhanced the value of the Humber to foreign trade both ways. In particular, the completion in 1816 of the trans-Pennine canal system widened the area for which Hull was the most convenient port.

In 1815 there arrived in Hull the first steam packet to sail up the Humber, a herald of cheaper and quicker access to and from the Continent, which expanded both local business life and the pace of immigration into and through Hull. The building of three great docks in the city (1778, 1809 and 1829) demonstrated and facilitated her continuous rise in manufacture and trade, both coastal and export.

In some respects, Hull Jewry classically illustrates the history of provincial Anglo-Jewry. In certain ways there were also some analogies in structure and inner tensions with the far larger and more complex community of London. Yet throughout, the Hull Jewish community had and has its own distinctive histor- ical, geographical and social contexts.

On I September 1882 the jewish Chronicle commented that after 1771 the number of Jews in Hull would seem to have diminished. For this problematic conclusion the editor, basing himself on State papers, referred to the Govern- ment’s request to the Great Synagogue in London to use its influence ‘to prevent the too frequent importation of vagrant and vagabond Jews who cannot be con- sidered either as useful or as beneficial to

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