Chatham and Rochester
Marcus Roberts


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Lazarus Simon Magnus' father soon determined to rebuild the existing Chatham synagogue as a memorial to his son. Thus it is to a tragedy that we owe the construction of one of the finest provincial synagogues in the country.

Simon Magnus set about raising some £10,000, a very large sum indeed, to rebuild the synagogue. His principle contributor, judging by the precedence of trustees in the trust deeds of the synagogue, was Manuel Castello who was married to his daughter, then resident at Grove House, near the fashionable spa and wells at Sydenham in south London. This Askenazi and Sephardi cooperation in the building of a new provincial synagogue for Askenazim is exceptional.

The new synagogue, raised on the site of the old with an adjoining minister's house, was completed by 1870 in an elaborate Baroque style. It was considered to be an exceptionally beautiful building and indeed it is a building of considerable quality. Central to the design was the memorial to Magnus, which stood near to the synagogue and was intended to be clearly visible from the street.

The other key Jewish family in Chatham were the Isaac's who followed a similar pattern of ascendance into prominence as did the Magnus family. The family appear to have originated in Poole, Dorset in the 18th Century. Lewis Isaacs, the father of Samuel Isaacs and born in Poole, appeared in Chatham by 1828 and traded as a furniture broker. His brother Isaac Isaacs appears to have come to Chatham at he same time and traded as a slop seller as did another brother John, who traded as a silversmith and Jeweler and later as a Navy Agent.

Isaac and John developed the scope of their businesses so that by circa 1838 Isaac was listed as an army outfitters and by 1845 John was listed as an Army and Navy outfitter.

Samuel Isaac(1815-1886), the son of Lewis Isaacs was perhaps the most famous member of the family as an entrepreneur was a major player in the supply of the confederates in the American Civil War and later the prime mover and builder of the Mersey Tunnel, a celebrated feat of capital and engineering in its time. His brother Saul was also well known, as a colliery owner, magistrate and MP at Nottingham as well a founder and treasurer of the Bayswater synagogue. Samuel started his career in Chatham, by 1845 he had an impressive portfolio of business interests his listing in one trade directory gives him as; Army contractor, military tailor, general East Indian passage agent, tobacconist, trunk merchant, china and glass dealer, general warehouseman, agent to the Church of England Insurance trust and annuity Institution and a dealer in civet cat musk - he was at one point the proprietor of a ship called the Civet Cat!

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