Chatham and Rochester
Marcus Roberts


Bookmark this page |  E-mail this page to a friend

Pages < 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   > 

The first Jewish mayor of Chatham, from 1895-6, was G.H.Leavey, having preceded this office with service as one of the first 18 Councillors for Chatham Town Council.

While Chatham community had undoubtedly achieved much success in the latter half of the 19th century, this belayed the reality that the community had been in decline or at least had stagnated after its peak in population in the 1850s. This fact was publicly noted in circa 1885 in local paper, which lamented that the still new synagogue was lacking worshippers.

This situation continued into this century - a significant Rubicon was crossed in 1942 when the last minister for the congregation, the Rev. Wolf, ceased his ministry. However, as elsewhere, the community continued to be influential in the local community. For example, G.A.Rosenburg was elected Mayor of Chatham from 1925-6. One exceptional and international Jewish figure who also settled in Chatham was H. Wayne, a Palestinian Jew who had been instrumental in the early period of the British Protectorate

However, Chatham is exceptional as the community experienced a second spring after the end of World War II. During wartime the synagogue had been temporarily boosted as it was host to a large number of servicemen. At the end of the war the military and related industries in Chatham were moved out or run down. In consequence light industry was encouraged to move in by the local MP and many occupied the site of the old airport where Stirling bombers had been made in wartime.

Principal among such companies was Elliot Bros. (London Ltd.) A company that had been established in 1900 in Lewisham. The company was effectively run by Jewish businessmen as the result of a buy-out in circa 1950. They traded in Nautical instruments for the Admiralty. The company had around 4,000 employees at its peak and eventually took over most of the airport site. Elliots' was eventually taken over by English Electric and then latterly by GEC.

One significant member of the postwar community was Gerald Faull. Faull had been a wartime pilot from Poland who later married an ex-Wren. Using their gratuity on demob they brought old Admiralty instruments and the like and broke them up for their metals in a hired garage. They also repaired old sacks as many companies used sacks when jute and thus new sacks could not be obtained post-war. Their company was called the Maidstone Sack and Metal Co. was a considerable success becoming the largest scrap metal company in England and many of its senior management were Jewish

At the synagogue the phenomenon of a growing congregation with families and a large number of young children necessitated an expansion of the synagogue facilities. In 1964-72 the Centenary extension was implemented - a classroom, social hall and a kosher kitchen - on the site of the old ministers' house which had about this time fallen into decrepitude and been demolish.

The building of the extension posed a problem as it interrupted the sight line of the Magnus Memorial from the High Street. Since the trust deed had specified that the sight line had always to be maintained an Act of Parliament had to be obtained through the Charity Commissioners to vary the trust. It seems the accommodation of the change was allowed because this 60s style building incorporated a lot of glass, which enabled the Memorial to continue to be seen from the High Street.

The honourary architect and co-chairman of the new center was H. Halpern of Rochester whose grandfather had originally arrived in Gillingham in 1888.

Post a Comment
Submit to this trail