JCR-UK

King's Lynn Jewish Community

and Congregations

King's Lynn, Norfolk

 

 

 

 
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congregations throughout the British Isles and Gibraltar, both past and present.

Town of King's Lynn

The town of King's Lynn, known as Lynn and later as Bishop's Lynn in the medieval period, is situated on the estuary of the river Great Ouse in the northwest corner of East Anglia.  It has a population of approximately 45,000 and is the main town in the Borough of King's Lynn and West Norfolk in the county of Norfolk. The Borough, a local government district with borough status, was formed in 1974 on the merger of the municipal borough of King's Lynn with adjoining areas, and was initially just known as West Norfolk, adopting its present name in 1981.

King's Lynn Jewish Community

There was a medieval Jewish community on Lynn (now King's Lynn).

The modern Jewish community was founded in the mid eighteenth century. A burial-ground was acquired in 1830, with interments dating back to as early as 1811. The community became defunct by the middle of the nineteenth century. There was an evacuee Jewish community during World War II and a small Reform Jewish community was formed in the twenty first century.

King's Lynn Synagogue plaque 
Plaque on site of King's Lynn's former synagogue
courtesy Steven Jaffe, June 2023

King's Lynn Jewish Congregations

18th /19th Century Congregation(iii)

Name:

King's Lynn Old Jewish Congregation(iv)

Addresses:

From 1826, 9 High Street, King's Lynn - "a pretty though small building".

From 1811, possibly until 1826, the coongregation held services in "some private apartment fitted up for the purpose, till a more suitable place can be obtained".

Until 1811, Tower Street, King's Lynn, which was then taken over for the new Methodist chapel.

Initially, services were held at the home of Jacob Segal (or Levi).

Founding:

Founded in 1737, making it one of the earliest Jewish communities to be established outside London following the seventeenth century Resettlement of Jews in England.

On Lag b'Omer 5497 (corresponding to 18/19 May 1737), Jacob Segal (or Levi), a resident of the town who owned a Sepher Torah previously used in divine worship, agree to dispose of it to the small community consisting of himself and a small number of other named individuals. The transaction was evidenced by a sheet of paper pasted into the binding of a congregation's register, which carefully laid down the conditions of purchase and the basic regulations of the congregation.

Closure:

Closed about 1846 - "The last entry in the extant congregational records is dated February 28th 1846".

Ritual:

Although the congregation was an Orthodox Ashkenazi congregation, at least one influential member of the community was Daniel De Pass, whose family and descendants are of Sephardic origin.(v)

Affiliation:

None known.

Ministers and Readers:

Levi Hersch Segal, presumably the son of Jacob Segal (Levi) was named a reader ofthe congregation from 1737

Jacob Hamburger was reader in 1787.

Rev. J. Nuremberg was named as minister in 1842.

Lay Officers:

Jacob Segal (Levi) was a founder and presumably first president of the congregation in 1837.

Other founders include:

Selig or Solomon (ben Isaac) Segal, or Levi
Abraham ben Isaiah
Joseph ben Isaac Segal (Levi)

Membership Data:

1843 - 16 seatholders(vi)

1845 - 3 ba'alai batim (Chief Rabbi's Questionnaire)

 

20th Century Congregation

Name:

King's Lynn Hebrew Congregation(xi)

Address:

Not known

Founding:

Founded during World War II presumably by war-time evacuees

Current Status:

Closed about 1946.(xii)

Ritual:

Ashkenazi Orthodox.

Affiliation:

None known.

Ministers:

Rev. Abraham Baum - minister from 1939 or 1940 until 1941(xiii)

Michael Cohen, BA, - listed as minister, teacher and secretary, from at least 1943 until at least 1945(xiv)

 

21st Century Congregation

Name:

The Jewish Community in West Norfolk and the Fens(xxi)

Address:

Meeting in members' homes. Prior to the pandemic in 2020, it met monthly for kabbalat Shabbat services.(xxii)

Founding:

Founded about 1998.

Current Status:

Active

Ritual:

Reform.

Affiliation:

A Jewish residents community, affiliated to the Beth Shalom Reform Synagogue in Cambridge.(xxiii)

Website:

https://asklily.org.uk/kb5/westnorfolk/cd/service.page?id=awC0l3s6NyQ

Minister:

None

Membership:

Has about 20 members, approximately a quarter of whom live in King's Lynn.(xxiv)

Custodian of Cemetery:

Since 2019, the community have been custodians of the Old Jewish Cemetery King's Lynn, taking over responsibility from the local borough council, and members of the community act as Steward of the Cemetery. In July 2022, the Jewish Cemetery Friends Association, King’s Lynn, was formed.(xxv)  (Also see below).

 

Search the All-UK Database

The records in the database associated with King's Lynn include:

  • 1851 Anglo Jewry Database(updated 2016)

    • Individuals in the 1851 Anglo Jewry Database who were living in King's Lynn during the 1770s (1 record), 1780s (3 records), 1790s (4 records), 1800s (3 records), 1810s (7 records); 1820s (22 records), 1830s (21 records), 1840s (21 records), 1850s (12 records), 1860s (3 records) and 1870s (1 record).

Gustav Metzger
Plaque to Gustav Metzger
courtesy Steven Jaffe, June 2023

Online Articles, Bibliography and Other Material
relating to the King's Lynn Jewish Community

on JCR-UK


Notable Jewish Connections with King's Lynn

(courtesy Steven Jaffe)

  • Daniel De Pass (1839-1921) born in King's Lynn, sugar planter, shipping and guano merchant, later lived in Worthing, Sussex. Portrait.

  • Hackney Downs School, formerly known as the Grocers Company School, evacuated to King's Lynn during World War II. At that time, a large majority of the 600 boys attending the school was Jewish.(xxxi)

  • In 2021 the Foundation for Jewish Heritage published a study by archaeologist Joe Abrams, on the Medieval Jewish community in King's Lynn. The survey flagged up streets and sites in the town associated with the community. For example, a street off the main market was known as Jews Lane until the 19th century.(xxxii)

  • Stephen Fry (b. 1957), actor, broadcaster, comedian and writer, whose mother was Jewish, spent part of his childhood in North Norfolk and attended Norfolk College of Arts and Technology in King's Lynn. He has a home in a village about seven miles from King's Lynn.

  • Gustav Metzger (1926-2017), German-born artist, who developed the concept of Auto-Destructive Art, and was a pioneer protester against environmental pollution and nuclear proliferation, lived in King's Lynn from 1953 to 1960.

 

Community Records

Registration District (BMD):

  • Norfolk (since 1 April 2014)

    • Previously King's Lynn, from 1 July 1837 to 1 April 2014

    • All registers would now be held by the current office.

  • Link to Register Office website

 

King's Lynn Jewish Cemetery Information

The following is the only known Jewish cemetery in King's Lynn:

  • Millfleet Jews' Burial Ground, Stonegate Street, King's Lynn

    Dating possibly from as early as 1811, only vestiges remain and no burial records survive. There are about 18 headstones, not iin situ, on a gravel floor, largely illegible. The cemetery was administered by the Board of Deputies of British Jews since 1915. However, in 2022, the small Jewish Community in West Norfolk and the Fens became a custodian of the cemetery and formed a friends’ association to maintain it.(xxxiii) It is open during the summer months on Wednesday afternoons 2-4 pm

    The walls enclosing the Burial Ground is a Grade II Listed Building, listed on 26 July 1993 (number 1298159). See Historic England Listing & Description.

    Foe photographs of the cemetery, see above.

For further information on King 's Lynn's Jewish cemeteries, see IAJGS Cemetery Project - King's Lynn

 

King's Lynn Jewish Population

1842

7 families

(The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950)

1945

10 families

(The Jewish Year Book 1945/6)

 

Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) and (ii) Reserved.

  • (iii) Unless otherwise stated, all details of this congregation have been extracted from the section on Kings Lynn in The Rise of Provincial Jewry by Cecil Roth, 1950.

  • (iv) It is not known how the congregation actually styled itself.

  • (v) Communication from the a member of the Jewish Community in West Norfolk and the Fens, 7 June 2023.

  • (vi) Paper on King's Lynn from Provincial Jewry in Victorian Britain.

  • (vii) to (x) Reserved.

  • (xi) This was the name listed in the Jewish Year Book 1945/6.

  • (xii) The congregation was only listed in the Jewish Year Book 1945/6, the first to be issued following cessation of publication during World War II.

  • (xiii) Jewish Chronicle of 14 April 1941 reported that Mr Baum was until recently minister to the evacuee community and Jewish teacher to the evacuated Hackney Downs School at King's Lynn, Norfolk. To view a short profile of Rev. Baum, hold the cursor over the name.

  • (xiv) Rev. Cohen was listed as minister, teacher and secretary in the Jewish Year Book 1945/6. The Jewish Chronicle of 30 July 1943 reported: The first Jewish wedding for one hundred years took place recently at King's Lynn. The bridegroom was Private Myer Rock and the bride Miss Yetta Lcvine: the officiating ministers were the Rev. M.I. Fabritz, of Norwich and the resident minister, the Rev. Michael Cohen.

  • (xv) to (xx) Reserved.

  • (xxi) This is the name on the community's website

  • (xxii) The Jewish Chronicle of 30 April 2021 contained the following article:
    MARSHA Parker moved from North-West London to the King’s Lynn area in 1978 – “we were young and romantic; we wanted a rural life”. Today the studio in her home is the unofficial HQ for a local community of 20, about a quarter of whom live in the town itself. Pre-pandemic, Kabbalat Shabbat services were held monthly and Ms Parker hopes they can resume in May with the next phase of the easing of restrictions. She says her grandsons refer to the studio as “the synagogue”. The scattered community is largely comprised of people who have moved to Norfolk from Jewish population hubs. It is affiliated to Beth Shalom Reform in Cambridge, which provides support. Ms Parker also singled out the efforts of Donna Semmens “for helping to hold us together”. Members have been doing their bit to preserve local Jewish history by taking over the maintenance of a Jewish cemetery.

  • (xxiii) Community' website.

  • (xxiv) The Jewish Chronicle of 30 April 2021 - see note (xxii).

  • (xxv) The community's website, The Jewish Chronicle article of 30 April 2021 and a communication from the community 7 June 2023.

  • (xxvi) to (xxx) Reserved.

  • (xxxi) Hackney Downs 1876-1995: The Life and Death of a School by Geoffrey Alderman.

  • (xxxii) The Jewish Chronicle, 30 April 2021.

  • (xxxiii) Jewish Chronicle report of 18 August 2022 - West Norfolk unites to preserve local Jewish cemetery.

 
Jewish Congregations in Norfolk

List of Reform Judaism Congregations

Jewish Communities of England home page


Page created: 25 June 2005
Consolidation of Kings Lynn community & congregation pages: 7 May 2017
Data significantly expanded and notes added: 25 May 2023
Page most recently amended: 27 June 2023

Research and formatting by David Shulman


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