Slough Jewish Community


Berkshire (formerly Buckinghamshire)




The Jews of Slough in the 19th Century

by Harold Pollins


Although Jews have tended to congregate, usually in sufficient numbers to become an organised community, together with officers, specialised buildings, and sometimes associated facilities, such as a kosher butcher’s and a delicatessen, it has not been uncommon for individual Jews, or small numbers, to settle in a place and not set up such an infrastructure. So it was not too surprising to read of a Jewish soldier, killed in the First World War, who came from Slough, a town which had no community then and formed one only some two and a half decades later, in the Second World War. However, some preliminary research indicated a small Jewish presence from the mid-19th century, part of a collection of individual families to the west of London, in Uxbridge (Middlesex) and in Iver and Slough (Buckinghamshire)

The earliest I have found was Rosa Cohen, who was in Iver at the 1841 Census, a woman of independent means - as she is described in that and in the subsequent two Censuses - at the last of which, 1861, she is living in Slough. She died in 1862. Laurence (or Lawrence) Lazarus and his family moved to Uxbridge in the late 1840s, the 1851 Census recording the age of 2 of the first of his 3 children to be born in that place. One early resident, who lasted for over two decades in Slough, was Annie Cohen. She arrived in time for the 1871 Census (as ‘A. Cohen’), an unmarried annuitant, in households of similar women, at the last of which aged 87, in 1891, she was described as ’Imbecile’.

One of the daughters of Lawrence Lazarus, Rebecca, married Nathaniel Isaacs in 1867, thereby starting a dynasty of at least four generations, in Slough. He was a pawnbroker and cigar merchant and his wife produced a baby in each of many years before she died, aged 48, in 1888. The demands of his large family may perhaps have been a factor in his becoming bankrupt two years before her death. In 1886 an advertisement appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, signed by the Mayor of Windsor and other non-Jews from Windsor and Slough, appealing for funds for the Isaacs of Slough. They had 12 children, it said, and they were bankrupt. They were the only Jews in town and had been known to the men making the appeal for some 20 years. A number of Jews came forward in response and, as was common at the time, their names and the amount of their contributions were printed in the JC. In the issue of 10 September £15 was contributed and a second list, printed on 1 October, gave a total of £25.15.6.

From the London Gazette we get more details of his bankruptcy. The Receiving Order, under the Bankruptcy Act, 1883, was made on 2 May 1886, and the judgment, towards the end of the year, was that the discharge was suspended for 3 years until 19 November 1889. This could be earlier if he paid 2s in the £. The ‘Grounds' named in Order for refusing an 'Absolute Order of Discharge’ were these:

Bankrupt has not kept proper books of account, and had traded after knowing himself to be insolvent, and contracted several debts without having reasonable expectation of being able to pay same.

One of the children, Samuel Nathaniel, the eldest, was unaffected by these events. In 1882, aged 14, he had taken on a solid and well-sought-after job, that of a clerk in the prestigious Great Western Railway. This was a permanent occupation as he was still there in 1911, at the Census. But others were touched by it and apparently the money collected
for the family was insufficient to meet its needs. At the next Census, in 1891, two sons, Isidore and Henry (aged 11 and 10 respectively) were at the Jewish Home and Hospital (Norwood). Two older children had also moved away. Joseph aged 20, was an assistant at a non-Jewish pawnbroker’s, in Wolverhampton, and Elizabeth, aged 18, was a domestic servant in Islington, in the household of a Jewish importer of French jewellery and fancy goods. There was in that household, in addition, another domestic servant, from Warsaw whom I take to have been Jewish too. However, in 1891, five of the remaining children were with the widowed father in Slough. I cannot find the chronologically-fourth child, Lawrence, born 1871, nor Sarah, the second child, born 1869. But since she was living in Slough in 1901 and 1911 she may well have been there also in 1891.

I have so far discovered only four marriages among the children. Joseph married Eliza Rose Quinion in 1897, a non-Jew but subsequent events suggest she must have converted. Although that family first lived at Halesowen - they were there at the 1901 Census and their two sons were born there - they soon moved back to Slough, thus forming the second generation of the Isaacs family in the town. Samuel, the railway clerk, married in 1905 and lived in Ladbroke Grove, near Paddington Station, appropriate for a Great Western Railway employee. Hannah, born 1878, married in 1909, as his second wife, Jacob Fine of Penrhiwceiber, South Wales, and the youngest child, Markham Howard, born 1883, married Lena Cohen in 1914. Something is known about Joseph’s family. The family lived in Slough, and in the absence of a congregation, the two sons, Samuel Edward and Hubert Lionel, used to travel to London for their religious education at the Bayswater Synagogue. And it was Samuel Edward who was killed in action in France towards the end of the war.

The Jewish Chronicle (11 October 1918) carried an obituary:
PTE. SAMUEL E. ISAACS.- Pte. Samuel Edward Isaacs, London Regiment, was killed in action on September 14th. He was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Isaacs, of 170, High Street, Slough. They have received a letter from the officer of his company, who wrote: “His loss will be felt by us all, as the company has lost a good and willing soldier, and the men have lost a good comrade. We all deeply sympathise with you in your sad bereavement.” The deceased received his religious training at the Bayswater Synagogue Classes and in order to do so, he and his younger brother travelled from Slough each week for some years. His letters to his parents showed that, as far as circumstances permitted, he faithfully observed the religious practices. A letter which he sent from Jerusalem early this year graphically describes the principal features of the City. Pte. Isaacs served first in Salonika and afterwards in Egypt and Palestine. Last July he went to the Western front, where he met his death.

He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. This memorial, at Haucourt, Pas de Calais, commemorates 9,813 men of Great Britain and Ireland who fell in the period 2 August 1918 to the Armistice on 11 November and have no known grave.

Samuel Edwards’s brother, Hubert Lionel, married Kathleen Benjamin at the Bayswater Synagogue in 1927 and by remaining in Slough became the third Isaacs generation there. He was active in the congregation that was formed in the Second World War, as his obituary in the JC, in 1965, recorded. He subscribed to charities in general and was a benefactor to the congregation. At one time, when the Jewish children had no place for lessons he allowed his house to be used and even participated in teaching. He also erected a hut in his garden for a children’s synagogue. The obituary was wrong, however, in saying that his family had established a furniture business in Slough 100 years before his death , ie in the 1860s, when his grandfather, Nathaniel, arrived. Both Nathaniel and his son Joseph were pawnbrokers in most of their appearances in the Census; Joseph for a time in Halesowen was a clothier and furnisher, and in 1911 Nathaniel, living as a lodger, was described as a Traveller (i.e. pedlar), selling furniture. A Sarah Isaacs, possibly Hubert’s aunt, living in Slough in 1901, was a wardrobe dealer; except that one person in her household, Jennie Rudderforth, an upholsterer, was described as Sarah’s aunt. She is otherwise unknown in this family and perhaps the enumerator wrote it down in error.

Hubert had four children who were married in the 1960s, one of whom (as Ruth Joan Paull) went to live in nearby Windsor; Nathan David’s first two children were born in Windsor but the next two in Slough; similarly Joseph Edward‘s first child was born in Windsor , but the next two in Slough. Thus four generations of the Isaacs family were represented in the town for at least 100 years.

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List of all JCR-UK Articles and Press Extracts by Harold Pollins

Page created: 16 December 2012
Latest update or revision: 4 August 2016

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