Hastings and St Leonards
Dr Michael Jolles (Copyright) - Trail devised and edited with additional material M. Roberts.


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Jews have lived in Hastings and St Leonards Jewry for over 150 years. For just over half that period there was some communal place of worship, even though no formal synagogue was ever built.

Individual Jews and their families appear to have lived in Hastings from as early as the early 19th century before a formal community was established. A number of Cohens were resident, who appear to have been Jewish - Isaac Cohen, a freemason, tea dealer and Berlin wool warehouseman, was noted in Hastings as early as 1813. An Ann Cohen was born in Hastings, in about 1828; her father was Isaac Cohen, a watchmaker from London (born c. 1769).

Amongst the definite Jewish residents, Samuel Stiebel (1798-1883) who died at 15 Eversfield Place, St. Leonards, was a wealthy and philanthropic East and West Indies merchant, whose grand-nephew was barrister Sir Arthur Stiebel. Among the earliest Jews to be born (c. 1853) in Hastings was Berman Defries, the son of Louis Henry Defries, a hardwareman at 29 Robertson Street, Hastings, and of Catherine, the daughter of Berman Issacher Barnard (died 1848), of Rochester. George Hyams (born 1825), a lapidary and jeweller, was at 17 Wellington Place, Hastings, in 1858. In 1862, a Moses Guedalla (died 1875) lived at 6 Castle Hill, Hastings.

Hastings & St Leonards drew Jewish residents and visitors due to its renown and opportunities as a fashionable health resort, and location for sea-side academies and from about the 1850s visitors came by train. Jewish women (about a dozen of them) ran boarding houses for Jewish guests. It seems no accident that most of the Jewish residences and businesses were clustered around both the Hastings and Warrior Square railway stations. It was the Joseph sisters who had, since 1875, run a boarding house in the elegant Regency-style, Wellington Square, and who moved in July 1878 to Beaufort House, where Bender's college was established in 1881. The sisters appear to have purchased Winchester House School, which was convened in Beaufort House from 1872-7, though it is not clear if they continued to run a school there, or if there was a short educational hiatus before Bender arrived.

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