NATHAN JOSEPH ALTMANN, known as NATHAN
by Rabbi Dr Bernard Susser LLB, MPhil
Hebrew name: Nathan Nota ben Joseph K"Z, i.e. he and his sons were Cohenim, i.e. Priests.
b. 1766 d. 12 October 1849 (Ply Hoe Tomb B15).
Married Brimay daughter of Abraham Joseph (b. 1731 Germany, d. 1794 Plymouth. "He was one of the people called Jews, but the actions of his whole life would have done honour to any persuasion" (Gentleman's Magazine, 1794, p. 1156). By warrant he was appointed slopman to HRH Prince William Henry who was George III's third son, a royal patronage which continued for three generations). She was born in Plymouth, 1781, and died 23 August 1865 at 15 Queen St, Plymouth (Ply Hoe Tomb B108, JC). The 1851 Census described her as an annuitant and proprietress of houses. In the 1861 Census she is described as a Gentlewoman.
Amongst the effects of the Plymouth Hebrew Congregation in the 1960s was a textile, now disintegrated, which appeared to be a cloth to cover the Sefer Torah during the Reading of the Law. It had embroidered upon it the priestly hands raised in blessing, unusually viewed from behind and covered in fine lace gloves, surmounted by the crown of Torah, with the following inscription:
This belongs to his honour Nathan ben the late Joseph and his partner [in life] Madam Breinal bat his honour the late Abraham Isaac in the year, 'and may He give you the blessing of Abraham' (Genesis 28;4) [the chronogram gives the year '575 = 1815] (see photo).
It is not possible to say whether this cloth or the mappah referred to below was embroidered by Brimay herself.
13 August 1801 ... I forever renounce and disclaim of all the possessions of my father Joseph Altmann Inhabiter of the Herrshaft of Ronsperg in the town of Ronsberg Co. Klattauer Kingdom of Bohemia, to which possessions being the first born son I might be intitled to, as well local as Familiae Numerum, and that I transfer them to my second brother Joachim Altmann who in consideration thereof is to be married to Miss Theresa Mosses. As I am now near 18 years in the Kingdom of England, in the town of Plymouth established and settled and having no children ... Nathan Joseph Altmann (Worth, Plymouth Records).
Their son Abraham was born 3 December 1801 (JJC 39). On his birth they made a mappah (a binder for the Torah Scroll), perhaps embroidered by her, which was used in the Plymouth Synagogue. It is noteworthy that this custom was brought from Germany to England, even though the mother was English born. The inscription on it reads:
Abraham ben Nathan Nota KZ born for good luck on Thursday 28 Kislev '562 [= 3 December 1801]. May the Lord rear him to the Torah, to the Huppah, and to good deeds. Amen. Selah (see B. Susser, The Jews of South West England (Exeter, 1993) p. 184).
An A. Alman Joseph, presumably this child, was a member of the Plymouth Congregation in 1819 and in 1832 (Ply Vestry Book 159, 245).
Another son, Sampson, was born 3 January 1804 (JJC 42).
Their 3rd daughter Julia died at her sister's (Mrs G.J.Asher) home in Montreal, 25 August 1878 (I have no reference for this).
Simha ben Isaac HaLevi was probably son in law (B of R 1b).
A daughter Annie, b. 1823, married Jesse Lawrence 1862 (PMR 48).
According to the 1798 1803 Plymouth Aliens' Register, Nathan Joseph was born in 1766 in Ranspork, Bohemia. He landed at Gravesend in 1784. He was a jeweller in Dartmouth from 1784 until 1802, and in Broad Street, Plymouth from 1802 (AR 57).
He was a member of the Plymouth Meshivat Nefesh [Friendly] Society from 1795 until at least 1825.
He was a member of the Plymouth Hebrew Congregation and in 1819 was paying 5 guineas per annum for his seat. He must have had a large household which ate well, as his bill in that year was reduced by 2 guineas Meat Tax. The butcher paid over to the Congregation one farthing for every pound weight of meat purchased by a customer, and this amount was credited to the customer's Synagogue account. Two guineas was 2016 farthings, so the Joseph household in 1819 was consuming just under 40 lbs. of meat every week! (Plymouth Heb Cong Vestry Book, p. 159).
10 August 1828 he moved to London (Plymouth Heb Cong Vestry Book, p. 203).
Between 1801 and 1805 he was the occupier proprietor of a house in Great George Street, Plymouth where he paid twelve shillings per annum rent to be attached to the water conduit system. In 1806 he was registered as paying eight shillings per week Conduit rent (Plymouth Town Rental Books).
He was a Navy Agent in Frankfort Place, Plymouth (Plymouth Directory 1812), and at 72 Fore Street, Devonport (the same address as his brother in law, Joseph Joseph) in 1816 (Navy List 1816).
In 1822 he describes himself as a mercer and draper and advertises that he will remove on Ladyday from Lower Broad Street (Tapp 1822).
In 1823 he is listed as a linen and wool draper at 9 Higher Broad Street, Plymouth (Plymouth Directory 1823)
On 24 November 1815 he signed a lease for water in house in Union Street, Plymouth, inhabited by a Mr Little.
In 1825 he was one of 116 prominent Plymouth business men who declared that they had confidence in the Plymouth Naval Bank.
His will (PCC 736, 1851) refers to him as Nathan Joseph of Plymouth, Navy Agent. It recites an indenture of 31 March 1814 (Phineas Johnson of the 1st part; Joseph Joseph and his wife Edal of the 2nd part; Rosey Joseph and the said Joseph Joseph of the 3rd part; Abraham Aaron and his wife Phoebe, Nathan Joseph and his wife Brimey, Esther Joseph, Edmund Lockyer of the 4th part) by which the Joseph family had borrowed £3,350 from Phineas Johnson on the security of certain lands.
Phineas Johnson called on Joseph Joseph to repay the debt, and Abraham Aaron at the request of Joseph Joseph advanced £1,030 and Rosey Joseph and Joseph Joseph advanced the remainder out of trust monies (arising out of the will of Abraham Joseph, 22 October 1794, by which he left his property to his wife Rosey Joseph, his sons Joseph Joseph and Samuel Joseph in trust for Rosey Joseph, and his daughters Phoebe Aaron, Brimey Joseph, Esther Joseph and their children).
Phineas Johnson then sold to Joseph Joseph two messuages in Friary St, a parcel of ground in New St together with warehouses built thereon by Joseph Joseph, a messuage in Great George St then occupied by Hyman Hyman, a cellar in Castle St by the Brunswick Inn (then called Barbican House), a messuage erected by Thomas Lockyer then called the Island House and now the Fisherman's Steps on Southside Quay or Barbican, then tenanted by Frederick Ralph.
The will continues by saying that Rosey Joseph, Abraham Aaron and Esther Joseph were dead and that Joseph Joseph had been adjudged bankrupt after 1814 but prior to bankruptcy the debt [to Abraham Aaron's heirs and the Trust Fund] had been reduced to £2,550 with large arrears of interest. The debt now stands at:
"NOW I bequeath to my wife Briney, and my sons Sampson Altman of Kingston, Jamaica, Surgeon, and Michael Israel Altman Kingston, Jamaica, Surgeon, everything.
Dated 7 August 1845 [Signed in Hebrew] Nathan Nota ben Joseph HaCohen".
The will was witnessed by Alfred Rooker, Solicitor. Revd Myer Stadthagen and Alfred Rooker appeared on 25 August 1851 to prove the will. Stadthagen declared that the Hebrew sign was the signature of Nathan Joseph and that Cohen "was his Hebrew title or distinction".
It is surely significant that after more than sixty years residence in England he signed his will in Hebrew with his Jewish name.
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