The Jews of Essex before 1900

At 10.45 am. on 15 September 1897, a special train steamed out of F enchurch Street Station. On board were 500 East End men, women and children bound for South Benfleet, where Messrs Protheroe and Morris were to auction, for the fourth time that summer, small freehold plots that would fetch a few pounds. apiece, payable on the instalment system. ‘The Jews as Agriculturists’, ran a headline in the Essex Chronicle. ‘A Colony of Israelites in Essex. Extraordinary Scene’.1

Extraordinary it certainly was, but it is an uncharacteristically upbeat note on which to begin this paper, for the story of post-Resettlement Jewish involvement in Essex actually starts in a rather darker key and over a century before the railway age. History, we are often told, is a sceptical science, and members of this Society have long grown accustomed to modifying received ideas about notabilities of past generations to accommodate such

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