The Jews of Falmouth—1740-1860

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ABOUT 1740, there began one of those phases of immigration from the Continent which, since the seventeenth century Readmission, have been a recurrent feature ^of Anglo-Jewry and within a short period two sharply contrasted groups had become noticeable in the Community. Under the later Stuarts the newly-won right of entry had attracted bankers, brokers and foreign merchants from Holland and (to a less extent) from the great trading centres of Northern Germany, whilst from the West Indies there was a steady, if smaller, influx of planters and traders who wished to spend their retirement in England and its more temperate climate. At that period retail trade in the City of London was permitted only to members of the jealously restricted Merchants Guilds, but these earlier settlers were not affected since their main interests were finance and foreign trade. For these activities London was the obvious centre and as late as the year of George Fs death no Community existed outside the capital. By the end of the century, however, Jews were to be found in all the major towns of England and in most cases ministers had been appointed and synagogues built.

These Provincial settlements were formed almost entirely by Jews belonging to a social and economic level very different from those of their co-religionists in London. By 1750 there was a regular flow of immigrants from Alsace and the German Rhineland, where those who had not left their homes too young to have a trade had been artisans or small shopkeepers. To them London presented few opportunities, owing to the restrictions on retail trade, their lack of capital and the difficulty of obtaining employment caused by sabbath observance. In a short time a "Jewish Problem" had arisen and vagrancy and crime spread to an extent that alarmed Londoners, both Gentile and Jew alike.

That this problem was solved was due to the fact that the Ghetto system never applied in England and Jews enjoyed complete freedom of movement. To overcome the difficulties of earning a livelihood in London many immigrants took to the road as peddlers of second-hand clothing, jewellry, trinkets and such other small articles as could conveniently be carried in a pack?a life to which the many immigrants from Alsace were accustomed since in their homeland they had been forbidden to live in towns. These earliest peddlers would choose a market town as their centre, working the sur? rounding country-side, and in due course many settled in these centres, notably as silversmiths. The first towns to attract Jews in this manner were the seaports of the South and West coasts of which Falmouth was one of the earliest.

At the present time, Falmouth is regarded as an agreeable resort favoured by elderly invalids who hope to avoid there the rigours of the English winter. In the eighteenth century, however, it was a flourishing port of some consequence in the country's economic life. Since 1688 it had been a packet station for mail to the West Indies, Portugal and the Cape

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