Monday, September 21, 2009

Furriers, Glaziers, Doctors and Others: A History of the Jewish Community of Preston England


Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Recently, I was contacted by Lorna Kay who is the Chairman, Manchester Regional Group, Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain.  I have known her for some time and she often sends me things of interest via e-mail.  This time she wanted to let me know about a new book out entitled:

“Furriers, Glaziers, Doctors and Others:  A History of the Preston Jewish Community” by John Cowell, published 2009.  John Cowell is a member of the Manchester Regional Group and he has produced a book in hard copy form as well as on CD.  The book is over 200 pages in length and is full of detailed information, biographies, tables and much, much more.

With the realization that the Preston Jewish community had almost disappeared, John organized an historical project to retain the memories of the Jews that remained.  Here in John Cowell’s own words is a summary of the contents of his new book and an idea of what it is about.  Please also note info on how to obtain a copy which is at the end of the piece.

The author has mined the Jewish Chronicle online archives, local and national newspapers, local directories, birth, death and marriage records, and some of the surviving archives of the Preston Hebrew Congregation, all of them after the 1930s. Many of the early Jewish residents, and regular visitors, were dentists, one of whom was in the town for over thirty years. There were also, in the 19th century, opticians, pedlars and hawkers (some of them spectacularly boastful about their wares), clothiers, and jewellers. From 1881 onwards a larger trickle of Jewish settlers arrived, many of them in the drapery and tailoring trades, but also a bicycle dealer, a glazier, and eventually, from the late 1920s, a set of doctors who made this rather an unusual small community.

Further increase in numbers came in the 1930s and Second World War with the arrival of refugees from Continental Europe and from British cities, but after the War numbers declined, and with them the range of activities that could be undertaken, not to mention opportunities for work and marriage, and the availability of kosher food.  The synagogue closed, and people moved away, as improved access to universities and the professions made movement in the pursuit of good jobs easy.

There is a full bibliography as well as appendices that give a breakdown of where people came from and where they went to; their occupations in Preston; and the population in the 1911 census. The set of short biographies of members of the community is an outstanding feature of the book, filling out details of members of the Goodman and Goldberg families, the Lewises and Schwalbes, as well as others less well known.  The author has deliberately set out to be inclusive, particularly of Jewish people who were not members of the Congregation, as well as of those who were.  The book is more than 220 pages long, with illustrations and some tables. 
(Available in paperback at £9.99 + £1 post and packing, or as a CD, at £5.25 + £1 post and packing from the author, John Cowell, at jcowellnix@yahoo.com)

It is of interest that prior to John’s book, there was little documenting the Preston community.  One could find a small amount of detail on-line at the JCR-UK web site on JewishGen, but other than that, there was not really anything substantial.  You can view the JCR-UK material at:  http://www.jewishgen.org/JCR-uk/Community/preston/index.htm.

The book should, at least, tempt researchers with Preston roots to investigate more into a town which was noted as having a Jewish population of 89 in 1905, a high point in 1946 of 300, and in 1990, a low point of Jewish growth of 25.

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