Keswick - Lake District
Copyright Marcus Roberts (with additional material by Dr Yaakov Wise (also with special thanks to Ian Tyler for his expertise on local mining history)


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The majority of Queen Elizabeth Tudor's German miners were Christians. The leading family, the Hochstetters, were Catholics and Ambrose Hochstetter, the founder of the family, was described as a, "good Christian, entirely opposed to Lutheranism," and a private chapel with an oak altar was discovered in Daniel Hochstetter's house in Keswick, when it was pulled down after 1890.

However, there is evidence of a probable Jewish contingent in their ranks, which is suggested in the lists of the comings and goings of 'Germans' involved in the project and who were given free entry to the country to work in the Royal Mines. In a list of 1580, a Moyses Van Dam is recorded in London, and is stated to be among the strangers, "of no church." Another German miner, Jacob Yerich, came to the attention of the Privy Council in 1578, and is thought to be Jewish and whose real name was probably Jacob Yarchi.

A re-examination of the names lists of employees of the mines, against list of names frequently adopted by German Jews shows that some 30 miners and company members (out of a total of 180 employees) had names which indicate that they might have been Jewish. The lists include possible Jewish names, particularly among the miners at Goldscope mine, and some at Newlands, as well as among other company staff, in managerial, support and manufacturing roles. However, it is only for Gaunse that we have independent verification of his Orthodox Jewish identity.
The most likely employee of the company, to be Jewish, other than Gaunse, was Israel Waltz, who is recorded as the company Barber-Surgeon at Newlands in 1567. His identification is most likely, on his forename, his calling as a doctor as well as his surname, which is a German-Jewish surname. It is fascinating to think that both he, and Gaunse, would have been to the mines in the remote valley at Newlands on many occasions. A London agent of the mines around 1574 was a Friederich Schwartz. Among the miners at Goldscope we find Rochius Franke, the assistant manager, in 1568 and Balthazar Moser, a miner, noted in 1567 and in 1569.

At the Keswick works there was a group of nine copper smiths and one polisher, brought over from Germany in 1574-5, to provide copper goods, as another income stream for the mines, at a point when there were problems with cash flow, and there had been an over-production of copper for royal use. Four of this group had names which suggest that they could have been Jewish or of Jewish origins; these include Melchoir Moser, Casper Strauss and Sebastian Schweitzer. Copper smithing was a Jewish artisan occupation.

Jews were expelled from Augsburg and other German cities (and later the Alpine countries) in the 15th century and many went to Bedzin and the Zaglebie regions in Poland and became important in the mining industry there, as well being generally influential and well-organised in the area. In the later 16th century Jews were permitted to own mines and also to deal in the metal industry, and were particularly prominent in this industry around Olkusz. This historic background explains Jewish figures such as Gaunse, who hailed from Prague, rising to prominence in the mining industry. It also connects Gaunse and other Jewish specialists, to the activities of the German miners from Augsburg.

The Jewish identity or origins of other members of the mining company is a question needing more research, but the verified Jewish identity of Gaunse, and the historical Jewish mining context, and the name evidence, makes it likely that at least some others in this corps of miners and specialists, were also Jewish or of Jewish origins. It is also likely that Orthodox Jews such as Gaunse would have desired the company of fellow Jewish travellers. Indeed, it is also suggested, that when Gaunse went on his later American adventure, that one of his two fellow mineral men on the voyage, John Feuer, could also have been Jewish.

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