THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF BUXTON
by Geoffrey M. Weisgard
(By holding the cursor over the superscript footnote number in the text,
The town of Buxton lies some 25 miles south east of Manchester. It is situated in the Peak District, about 1,000 feet above sea level. The Romans had a settlement there, and the roads which were laid some two thousand years ago became part of the turnpike network in the 18th century.2 But for the local geology, Buxton would probably have remained what in today's terms would be a small village, like many others in the Peak District. However, a clue to the reason for the town's development can be seen above ground from the pattern of dry stone walls that were built as a result of the Enclosure Acts of the late 18th century and the early 19th. To the north of the town the walls are made out of grey gritstone; to the south, white limestone. Where the two geological features meet, there are a number of springs, some of which were discovered in the 17th century. From that time onwards, Buxton expanded as a spa town.
In Georgian times, the infrastructure of Buxton was developed under the patronage of the Duke of Devonshire. It was in this period, and the early Victorian period, that the town was particularly fashionable.
The Bright family
The 1851 Anglo-Jewry Database shows only one group of Jewish residents. These are six siblings, the children of Selim Bright and Estella de Lara. All six were living on The Crescent which was one of the most prestigious addresses in the town. Five of the siblings are shown as living in the same household. They are Michael, Annette, Justina, Georgina and Edith. Their dates of birth vary from 1833 to 1850 and they are all shown to have been born in Buxton. The compiler of the database has entered 'assume Sephardi' as the faith affiliation. The database does not show either of their parents living in Buxton, The father, Selim is shown as being in Sheffield. He was born in 1799, the son of John (Isaac). Two of Selim's children, Horatio (b.1828 in Sheffield) and Augustus (b.1830 in Sheffield) were also in Sheffield in 1851. The database shows that the mother, Estella, was born in Gibraltar in 1806 but it is not clear where she was on census night in 1851.
This and other information on the 1851 database shows that members of the Bright family moved between Sheffield and Buxton over a period of several decades, at least from the 1820's to the 1870's.
The oldest of the six siblings, Maurice, was also living on The Crescent in Buxton in 1851 but in a separate household from his younger brother and sisters. He is shown to have been born in Buxton in 1826. There is a note on his entry that his 'wife does not seem, from her surname, to have been Jewish'. Further information then shows that his wife was Harriett Ann, née Turton, and that the marriage had taken place in 1849.
Further Information about the Bright family is available on two web sites operated by a Mr. Chris Hobbs. These are to be found at
A further piece of information provided by Mr Hobbs is that on 27 September, 1849, Horatio, the second son of Selim Bright of Buxton married Mary Ann, second daughter of Mr Thomas Burdett Turton of West Lodge, Sheffield. The marriage was at St Matthews, 'Brixton'. As previously noted, Maurice Bright married Hariett Ann Turton in 1849 so it appears that the two brothers 'married out' to two sisters.
The Markovitz family
Commercial vehicles bearing the name, Markovitz, are a common sight in the Buxton area. They belong to a company which is based in Tideswell, some six miles east of Buxton which is engaged in supplying the building, plumbing and similar trades. What is not widely known, however, is that the company has Jewish origins.
A website 'Explore Tideswell's Hidden Histories' states that the name Markovitz originates from Plock in Poland. The site continues that Phillip (probably originally Feivel) Markovitz brought his family to Manchester in the 1880's and that he set out across the Peak District, selling wares from a horse drawn travelling shop. A photograph of the shop, a substantial van drawn by a single horse, is included in Tony Hill's book 'Tideswell Traders' which was published in 2007. Philip was so attracted to Tideswell that he moved his family to the village, where his sons, Maurice and Max founded Markovitz Ltd as an ironmonger, hardware dealer and motor engineer. Philip died in 1912. Despite moving to the Peak District, he must have retained some level of Jewish identity because he is buried at the Jewish cemetery in Blakeley. His wife, Hannah died in 1933 and is buried in the same cemetery.4
Max Markovitz was killed at Flanders, Belgium on 12 December, 1915 having previously enlisted at Buxton. Private 17130 Markovitz had served with the 10 bn. Sherwood Foresters. His name is shown on the war memorial at Tideswell and his address at the time of death was given as High Street in the village.5 Additionally, Max is mentioned in an article which appeared in the Jewish Chronicle dated 7 January, 2016 under the heading 'How the Foreign-Born Jew Fights'.
The 1921 census shows Hannah Markovitz, born in 1858 in Poland, living on High Street, Tideswell, being a self employed confectioner. At the same address were Maurice, born in 1885 in Poland, a cycle and motor agent; Eva Markovitz, born in 1896 in Manchester, a confectioner's assistant; and Naomi Markovitz, born in 1898 in Tideswell, also a confectioner's assistant.
Maurice became a British citizen in 1929. His naturalisation papers list him as 'Markowicz, Moszek Lejb (known as Maurice Markovitz)', from Poland, a motor car and cycle dealer at High Street, Tideswell.6 Maurice, who never married, died in 1974.7
Other early residents and visitors
The Commercial Directory of the Jews for 18948 does not include any entries for Buxton, and it seems that the town had no organised community at that time. Similarly, no entry for Buxton appears in the Jewish Year Book for 1896.9 It is possible that any Jewish inhabitants of Buxton wishing to observe their religion used the services of the newly formed congregation at Stockport10 which lies between Buxton and Manchester. All three locations were, and continue to be, connected by a direct railway link.11
Jacob Marcus Banes (formerly Baneszek) lived in Buxton in 1900. He lived at Kenneth House, West Street (now called West Road). Although the name 'Kenneth House' may give the impression of a substantial detached property, it was (and still is) a mid terraced address, all be it with three storeys. In 1900, Jacob was engaged to my grandfather's sister, Esther Weisgard, and he entered into an indenture whereby the contents of Kenneth House were put into trust. The idea seems to have been to give Esther some protection in the event of Jacob's future bankruptcy. In the deed, Jacob is described as a 'general dealer'. Esther is shown as living at 181, Bury New Road, Higher Broughton which was (and is) a district of Manchester. The prospective bride and groom were members of a network of Jewish families from Kraków who had settled in Manchester in and after the third quarter of the 19th century.
The marriage of Jacob and Esther duly took place in Manchester, and the couple then set up home at Kenneth House. The 1901 census shows the couple living there, Jacob, a general dealer, aged 26 having been born in 'Austria' and Esther, aged 25 having been born in Manchester.
At the time, Jacob Banes, who was also known as John and sometimes Jack, was in partnership with Jacob Dryer. This second Jacob was the husband of one of Esther's aunts. The partnership was dissolved in 1901. The notice of dissolution in the London Gazette refers to the business of money lenders and smallware dealers at 37 Bridge Street, Buxton under the style of 'The Buxton Wholesale Supply Company'.12
Shortly afterwards, the Buxton Advertiser ran an article which describes John Banes' legal action to recover the sum of £1 15s 6d from a debtor of the partnership. The Judge made an Order for the defendant to make payments to Mr Banes at the rate of five shillings per month.13
By 1907, John/Jack Banes had moved to Manchester and had become the Hon. Secretary of the Cracow Benevolent Society.14 He naturalised as a British subject in 1908.
Maurice Levine was born in 1907 and became a social activist. He took part in the Kinder Trespass of 1932 and also fought in the Spanish Civil War. His father, Abraham, was a commercial traveller in cotton goods during his late forties. Although the family lived in Manchester, from Monday to Thursday in each week Abraham was based in Buxton and from there he worked the surrounding villages such as Monyash, Peak Forest and Doveholes, 'getting around on foot or by bus if there was one', His landlady was a Mrs Naylor, a keen church goer who was impressed by Abraham's religious observance whilst he was away from home.15
Joseph Samuels was a young boy at the end of the First World War. He lived with his family in the Cheetham district of Manchester. In his unpublished memoir, he relates how in 1919 he spent a month on holiday in Buxton in rooms rented from a Mrs Maddox who lived on Fairfield Road. Like other Jewish visitors to Buxton, the family took their own cooking utensils and crockery so that they could keep kosher. Joseph remembers that 'Buxton was at that period of time a very popular hydropathic resort where people came to drink the water. The better off went in the building called the Pump Room, others drank from the well in front of it.'16
Percy Lionel Rothband, the son of Sir Henry, reached the rank of Captain in the First World War. He later became a director in a substantial family company, J Mandleberg & Co Ltd which was in Manchester and manufactured and sold waterproof garments. In 1926, apparently still traumatised by his experiences in the trenches, Capt. Rothband took his own life whilst travelling from his home in Wyelands, Buxton to Manchester. The suicide was reported widely in the press. According to one report 'Mr Rothband was found shot in a corridor of a Buxton train on its arrival at Manchester on Saturday morning'.17 A search on the Jewishgen web site for the town of Buxton in the UK reveals that Mr Rothband is the subject of one of the 18 'matches' on the Family Tree of the Jewish People.
Mention can also be made of Louis Winter, a leading member of the Stockport Jewish community, who in 1938 lived at Disley, between Stockport and Buxton.18
The second world war – a real community
The paragraphs which have been set out above show that some Jewish individuals lived in Buxton in the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th. However, these were just individuals rather than members of an organised Jewish community. It was only the influx of refugees and evacuees before and during the Second World War to Buxton and the nearby town of Macclesfield19 which produced numbers which were sufficient for the creation of communal institutions.
Buxton College was founded in 1675 and from the 1920's it served as the town's grammar school. During the 1930's the principal 'Mr Mason accepted about 30 … refugee German boys of Jewish extraction … as boarders. Many of the German boys had high ability … including Heinz Thannhauser undoubtedly one of the most brilliant boys ever to attend the School. For this act of humanity and generosity (in some cases he [Mason] charged no fees and bore the whole cost himself) he met with a fair amount of local criticism.'20
Several refugees are mentioned in the following paragraphs. At this point, however, it can be mentioned that in 2021 a tree was planted on Serpentine Walk in Buxton as part of the 80th anniversary celebrations by the Association of Jewish Refugees. The event was sponsored by the family of Herbert Rindl who was on the last Kindertransport out of Austria.21
Reference can also be made of the work carried out by Buxton historian, Netta Christie. In 2021, shortly before the planting of the commemorative tree, Netta gave a talk to the Buxton Civic Association entitled 'Buxton – A Safe Haven'. The first part of the talk relates largely to soldiers, mainly Canadians, who were hospitalised in the town during the First World War, whilst the second part is devoted to Jewish refugees and evacuees in Buxton during the Second World War. The talk can be viewed at https://buxtoncivicassociation.org.uk/buxton-a-safe-haven/ Netta Christie runs an enterprise, 'Discover Buxton' and she publishes a blog on a variety of historical topics.
'The Jewish Year Book' was published from 1896 for a period of about one hundred years. The first reference to a community in Buxton is to be found in the book for 1940. This shows that services were held at Sommerford House, a boarding house on Terrace Road which is mentioned below. Communications were to be sent to a Mr H Hoffman.22
The website for 'Jewish Communities and Records – United Kingdom' (JCR-UK) lists information from various Jewish year books which were published during the war years and shortly afterwards. These show that the communal Rabbi was Benzion Lapian (1913-2002) and that the following served as communal officers:-
The 1945 Year book shows that the community had a Women's Zionist Society.23
Recollections of various wartime Jewish residents of Buxton have been set out in a book by Yvonne Chalker, 'Buxtonians a Hardy Breed' which was published in 2015.24
Judith Usiskin is one of the contributors to the book.25 She and her brother, Harold, arrived shortly after the outbreak of war. Judith was 5 and Harold 11. They were accompanied not only by their parents but also a grandfather who lived in Palestine and a girl who was named as Lore. She had joined the family from Germany via the Kindertransport. Judith notes that Buxton was considered a safe haven, away from major cities and surrounded by hills. She understands that eventually, up to three hundred Jewish families lived in Buxton and the surrounding area. She notes that kosher food was brought in from Manchester and there were frequent religion classes at a local cheder. Her written account does not specifically mention a Synagogue. However, the JCR-UK web site notes that Friday evening services were held at 4 Lower Hardwick Street and Sabbath morning services were held at the Oddfellows' Hall on Market Street. The festivals which are recalled by Judith Usiskin are Purim, Channukah and Simchat Tora – arguably those festivals most likely to appeal to a young child.
The girl named Lore mentioned by Judith Usiskin was Lore Gutwillig. Her story is told in the January, 2019 issue of 'Kindertransport' published by the Association of Jewish Refugees.26 Lore arrived in the English port of Harwich at the age of 14. She then travelled up to Manchester and stayed with the Slutzkin family. She names the daughter in the family as Judith. The Slutzkin family was orthodox, observing the Sabbath and eating only kosher food. Lora remained with the Slutzkin family until 1951 when she married and moved to Lucerne, Switzerland. She died in 2016.
Meir Posen was another German refugee who spent the war years in Buxton. Born in Frankfurt, he moved to London after the war and qualified as a Rabbi. He later became an internationally recognised authority on the halacha of mikvah's (Jewish religious law relating to ritual baths).27
Henry Wertheimer and his wife Elsa (née Valfer) were also German refugees who settled in Buxton. Their daughter, Fay, was born in early 1943 at the family home in South Avenue. On her birth certificate, the father's occupation is shown as warehouseman.28
Michael Dee was also born in the town. His gravestone at Yeshurun Synagogue's cemetery in Cheadle states that he, Michoel ben Yehudah Dovid, was born in Buxton on 11 January, 1941. Mr Dee became joint managing director of a confectionary manufacturing company Swizzels Matlow which traded from extensive premises at New Mills, between Stockport and Buxton.
Judith Slutzkin's brother, Harold, also contributed a piece to Yvonne Chalker's book 'Buxtonians; A Hardy Breed'. He notes that the family lived in Didsbury in south Manchester when the war broke out – unusual at the time for an orthodox Ashkenazi family. They rented a house in White Knowle Road, Buxton, a town 'where there were suitable educational facilities and the nucleus of a Jewish life'. He notes that a kosher boarding house had been opened by Mr and Mrs Hoffman on Terrace Road, Buxton. Irene Wineberg, who is mentioned below, remembers it as 'Somerford House'.
The Jewish Chronicle frequently reported on events which took place in Buxton. For example, the newspaper carried an item on 20 September, 1940 which referred to Mr. N Slutzkin of 'Cranford, White Knoll Road, Buxton'. In August, 1941 the paper carried a report of a meeting of Mizrachi in the town. A further entry in the 'JC' for 17 October 1942 reported that delegates from Buxton attended a Regional Zionist Conference in Manchester.29
Mr Slutzkin eventually moved to Petach Tikva in Israel. He recalls the time when he was at Buxton College. The German master dedicated some time to the study of medieval German. To quote Mr Slutzkin, 'Imagine the amazement of the two or three Jewish boys in the class when it transpired that it was practically identical with what our grandparents …. spoke daily.'30
Selwyn Rose is another contributor to the book. He refers to his education at Fairfield Endowed Infants School and Fairfield Endowed Juniors. He suffered from polio and was treated at the Devonshire Hospital.
Joan Sklan, another contributor, was evacuated from London to Buxton, where she stayed for five years. She describes her education at Cavendish High School. Her sister and her fiancé were the first Jewish couple to be married in Buxton. It is clear that the Sklan family was one of several religiously observant families in Buxton, since Joan describes how, on Sabbaths, a non Jewish woman carried out certain tasks that the family could not carry out.
It is also clear that the Jewish community was close to Jewish servicemen who found themselves in Buxton and the surrounding area. Joan Sklan notes that the local Jewish community cared for Jewish soldiers who served in a unit of the Pioneer Corps which was stationed in Buxton. Yvonne Chalker's book includes an extract from a local newspaper stating, 'On Sunday evening last, the festival of Pentecost was observed at the Jewish Forces Club at Oddfellows' Hall when a service was conducted by the Rev. W. Wolfson, O.C.F.' It also shows a further newspaper notice which includes the following:- 'Jewish members of the forces staying in Buxton during the Holy Days are invited to apply to Mr. J N Jackson, Oddfellows' Cottages, Buxton, so that reserved seats shall be allocated to them.'
The J.N. Jackson who has been mentioned was 'Jack' Jackson, a retired cabinet maker. According to his grandson, Bernard, 'Jack' served as secretary of the Buxton Hebrew Congregation, though he is not recognised as such on the JCR-UK web site. Bernard was 9 years old when he arrived in the town from London. He remembers that there was not one but two synagogues, including one for 'a more orthodox community, who held their services in Dale Street'. He also remembers a family called Gould who lived at number 6, Oddfellows' Cottages. Gould is one of the family names that appears on the Jewishgen 'Family Tree of the Jewish People' for the town of Buxton.
Judith Usiskin also remembers, with some amusement, that whilst in the early years of the war there was only one synagogue, by the end of the war the community had split so that there were two. She confirms Bernard Jackson's testimony that the Dale Street synagogue was the more orthodox, and followed 'foreign' practices so that some of its members could be seen around the town on Saturdays wearing their eastern European fur hats (streimels) and long frock coats (kapote's). The 'official' communal synagogue, however, was altogether more Anglicised. Despite these differences, Mrs Usiskin remembers that the two synagogues shared the same Hebrew classes (cheder).31
Another contributor, Arthur Weiss, remembers that a kosher hotel ('or that was how it was described to us') in Buxton was owned by Nechama Finkestein and her husband, Bernard. This, apparently, is not to be confused with the boarding house mentioned by Harold Slutzkin, and named by Irene Wineberg as Somerford House. It might, for example, have been the Pavillion Hotel which regularly placed advertisements in the Jewish Chronicle.
A further contributor, Mr West recalls that his family cared for Harry Ralton, a refugee from Breslau (now Wrocław) and 'RAF officers who were billeted with us from time to time'.
Sabina Sussman arrived in Buxton in 1941 at the age of seven. She attended Hardwick Square Junior and Cavendish Grammar Schools. Her memories include the caverns, woods and hills which, to this day, remain features of the countryside around the town.
Irene Wineberg's parents were already in Buxton when war broke out. They were there to attend a 'cure' in the spa. Irene and her immediate family stayed in the town during the war. She remembers several visitors to her home, including Vivian Herzog who was stationed in the nearby town of Matlock. Vivian was to become Chaim, the President of the State of Israel. Other memories include the deep snow, the Cavendish Grammar School and, at Passover, the supervised milk which was bought from Farmer Peacock.
Geoffrey Preger speaks of a thriving Jewish community in Buxton. At school he was ink monitor and he remembers 'in those days, ink came in solid bricks which I broke up and mixed with water.' Of religious life he remembers Mr. Cohen, the communal Chazan (Cantor) and Shabbat evenings on cold winter nights 'where whiskey and herring were staples'.
The Goldstein and Corman families owned a company which made military Greatcoats during the war. The company's factory was located in Macclesfield but members of the families lived in Buxton. Abraham Goldstein is remembered as 'a deeply pious and religious man and a generous benefactor to Jewish and Zionist causes'.32
Harry and Elsie Kersner were also residents of Buxton during the war years. Their son, Michael Louis was born in February 1943. His birth certificate shows the place of birth as St John's Nursing Home whilst the family address is shown as 91 Macclesfield Old Road, Burbage, Buxton.33
Chaja Ziment lived in Southport at the time of the 1939 Registration but stayed at 95 Spring Gardens, Buxton during part of the war. In 1941 she registered as an alien with the police at the nearby village of Chapel en le Frith. She died six years later in Salford.34
End of the community
Eventually, the war came to an end and most Jewish residents of Buxton returned to their pre war homes. The Jewish community of Buxton ceased almost as quickly as it had been created. The Jewish Year Book for 1947 lists information regarding the community and its officers that had been provided to the publishers in earlier years but no entry for Buxton can be found in the Jewish Year Book of 1949. Nevertheless, some Jewish presence did remain, including, for example, members of the Almond and Franks families. Jack and Eve Lawson lived in Buxton after the war and Eve was an active member of a golf club in the town.35
Personal announcements of Jewish residents of the town appeared in the Jewish Chronicle until 1948. The newspaper carried advertisements of the Pavillion Hotel until 1948, and the Somerford House Hotel until 1950. The Pavillion was stated to be 'strictly orthodox under the Kashrut Commission'. The Jewish Chronicle also reported on a Summer School which was held in Buxton during 1951.
Ben Dulberg and his wife, of St Annes, spent holidays in Buxton during the post war years. Ben's death certificate shows that he died at the Buckingham Hotel, Buxton, in December, 1961.36
One Jewish family that did live in Buxton for a considerable time in the post war period was the family of Herbert and Gisela Eisner, both of whom were refugees from Germany. In 1936, at the age of 15, Herbert was sent from his home in Berlin to attend Buxton College, which, as already noted, had a record of taking in Jewish refugees from Germany. After serving in the Army, in 1948, he married Gisela Spanglet who came to Britain aged 13 with the Kindertransport. The family moved to Buxton in 1951 and the family, including four children, lived a secular life there. Herbert spent most of his working life at the Safety in Mines Research Establishment at Harpur Hill, just outside the town, becoming director of that establishment. Gisela was a lecturer in economics at Manchester University. The couple continued to live in Buxton until 2011 when Herbert died.37 However, in this respect they were an exception.
In conclusion, it has to be admitted that the title of this article only partly comes up to expectation. It is true that there has been a Jewish presence in Buxton from the middle of the 19th century up to the present time – in the 2011 census four individuals identified themselves as being Jewish.38 However, there was what might be termed 'a Jewish community' only during the period of the Second World War. The community was transient, a 'pop-up community' created to meet the temporary needs of evacuees who were fortunate enough to find themselves in the delightful surroundings of the English Peak District.
Geoffrey M Weisgard
17 May, 2022
Notes (↵returns to main text)
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