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

Places of interest

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Home of Berman Defries - 29 Robertson Street
The Castello Fountain - Marina
Albany Hotel - 7-9 Robertson Terrace, Hastings
Synagogue Rooms (1921) - 2 Robertson Terrace
Home of Nathaniel Jonas - 32 Eversfield Place
Samuel Stiebel House - 15 Eversfield Place, St Leonards
Jewish Hotels - 69, 61 and 92 Warrior Square
Former Synagogue and Boarding House - 51 Warrior Square
Beaufort House College (and Synagogue) - 24 St John's Road

1. Home of Berman Defries - 29 Robertson Street

Among the earliest Jews to be born (c. 1853) in Hastings, was Berman Defries, the son of Louis Henry Defries, a hardware man at 29 Robertson Street, Hastings. No 29 is part of a Georgian terrace and appears to be the original property (now Café des Arts).

Some of the wider Defies family were certainly part of the Cousinhood group and there are records of some of the wider family making a marriage union with the Castellos.

2. The Castello Fountain - Marina

The Castello Fountain, opposite the former St Leonards pier, was presented by James Castello in 1908 in memory of his late wife, and recently restored by members of the Castello and Quixano Henriques families, with the assistance of Hastings Council as decades of salt spray and air had eroded its fabric.

I was at a gathering of the families soon after the rededication ceremony at the fountain and the event was evidently a moving and significant one for all the generations of the family gathered for the occasion and a speech was given and pictures taken.

The Castello family were linked to the Jewish 'Cousinhood' who effectively ran Anglo-Jewish affairs into the 20th century and were prominent functionaries of Bevis Marks synagogue, the former centre of Sephardic life in England.

The fountain reads: This drinking fountain has been erected by James Castello in affectionate memory of his beloved wife EDITH who passed away 24th June, 1907. (1908)

The fountain now additionally reads: 'Restored by the four grandchildren of James Castello and Hastings Borough Council, 2016.

The fountain is situated on the promenade, opposite the Collanade, 50 yards / 47 meters, SW from the junction of Marina with Burton Way.

3. Albany Hotel - 7-9 Robertson Terrace, Hastings

The Albany Hotel,at Robertson Terrace, Hastings was listed in the 1894 the Anglo-Jewish Commercial Directory with a C.A. Schawabe as the proprietor, 7-9 Robertson Terrace, which was a large hotel occupying most of Robertson Terrace, with grand facilities including a large ball-room replete with potted palm trees.

The hotel was bombed and destroyed in the Blitz. The Albany Hotel was hit by a bomb dropped by a Focke Wolf 190 on 23rd May 1943. This early afternoon raid, carried out by 10 aircraft was the second worst of the war in Hastings, resulting in the deaths of 25 and injuring 85 others.

The site of the former Hotel is west side of Debenhams and the east side of Albany Court residential flats.

4. Synagogue Rooms (1921) - 2 Robertson Terrace

From the end of the nineteenth century there has been a continuous presence of dozens of Jewish families resident in Hastings. In 1921, a 'Hastings, St Leonards, and Bexhill Congregation' was announced, with services, at Criterion House, 2 Robertson-terrace, Hastings (the address of Mrs Kornbloom), conducted by Rev. I. Young.

5. Home of Nathaniel Jonas - 32 Eversfield Place

The earliest death of a Jew in Hastings was that of a tobacco merchant, Nathaniel Jonas, a Londoner, who died at 32 Eversfield Place, St Leonards, on 5 November 1861.

6. Samuel Stiebel House - 15 Eversfield Place, St Leonards

15 Eversfield Place was the home of one of the early Jewish residents, Samuel Stiebel (1798-1883,) who died at 15 Eversfield Place, St. Leonards, and who was in his life, a wealthy and philanthropic East and West Indies merchant, whose grand-nephew was barrister Sir Arthur Stiebel.

7. Jewish Hotels - 69, 61 and 92 Warrior Square

There were a number of Jewish hotels (as opposed to boarding houses) established in St Leonards. Halpern's 'Commercial Directory of the Jews of United Kingdom' in 1894, listed the following: at Messrs. Jay at 69, Jacobs at 61 and Hyman at 92 Warrior Square respectively. These indicate that members of the Jewish community were well established in the local economy. All of these hotels were close to the railway station, in one of the prime locations and close to the sea.

8. Former Synagogue and Boarding House - 51 Warrior Square

The property at 51 Warrior Square is a former Jewish business and residence which also functioned as a synagogue. In smaller Jewish communities it was common for services to be held in private residences, if numbers and finances were not sufficient to justify renting or building a separate place of worship. Also, larger Jewish boarding houses, or hotels, would often provide a place of worship for their upper-class guests.

From 1895 services were mainly conducted at 51 Warrior Square, by Mr Abraham Abrahams (c1841-1907), at 'Strathclyde', his wife's boarding house.
Services were also led there by guests such as Rev. Bronkhorst (1895), Rev. S. Rapaport of Port Elizabeth (1896), Rev. B. J. Salomons from Montefiore College, Ramsgate (1904), and the Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler who stayed there in 1897 and 1904.

9. Beaufort House College (and Synagogue) - 24 St John's Road

Beaufort House is a notable site, as the house, which still survives, was both the college founded by the Rev. Bender and was also a synagogue, for the students, but also local Jewish residents or visitors.

The origins of the college lay with the Joseph sisters who had ran a boarding house in the elegant Regency-style, Wellington Square, from 1875, but moved the boarding house in July 1878, to Beaufort House, which was already being used as a school, 'Winchester House', though this school transferred to Chapel Park Road. The Rev. Bender's college then obtained Beaufort House from the sisters and established his new college at Beaufort House in 1881. Beaufort College, St. John's Road, and became the keystone of the local Jewish community. As principal there (1881-1895), he prepared Jewish students for a commercial or professional future. A synagogue was also established there for students and local Jewish visitors and this was a normal feature of these colleges and schools. In this period Jewish ministers often wished to, or needed to, to have additional work to any ministerial duties.

The former college still survives, but in a declined state and the name of the house can still be seen inscribed in stone on the gate pillars.


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