© Marcus Roberts


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Cheltenham is well known as an elegant former spa town with many fine classical style buildings and historically as the chosen place of retirement of civil servants, army officers and the well-to-do. Cheltenham first became a powerful draw to Jews with its success as a Spa town and its consequent burgeoning population, many of whom lived in the new middle class suburb of Pittville.. The town dates its success and expansion from the visit of George III to the spa in 1788 which gave the town that vital royal seal of approval. The town expanded from a mere 3,000 in 1800 to 26,000 in 1826! Naturally the arrival of a generally well-heeled population created many opportunities for Jews in the medical professions or the trades needed or favoured by both the rich and middle class.

Jacob Abraham the optician and seller of curios and fancy goods, was one of the first Jews in Cheltenham. He visited Cheltenham for business from as early as 1791 and set up a shop there in 1814 opposite the Pump Room . The Duke of Wellington seemed to like Mr Abraham for when he visited the spa he would often go into Abraham's shop on the way back from the Royal Wells, to pass the time of day. The Duke would enjoy tapping the glass of one of the barometers and speculating about the course of the weather. Wellington also paid Abraham the compliment of making large purchases in the shop which doubtlessly aided Jewish acceptance in the town.

Abraham was shortly joined by other Jewish tradesmen and medical practitioners. There were also early on teachers of languages who were in demand to help effect the polish and education of the cultured rich.

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