Return to the Forum homepage


The Jews’ Free School, London

The Jews' Free School dates back to the year it was re-established at Bell Lane, Spitalfields, London, 1817, to provide basic education to the poor Jewish community in London's East End. 

Founded as a charity on the philanthropic initiative of the more wealthy members of Anglo-Jewry, the School was supported and financed by benefactions and subscriptions, notably from the Rothschild family. Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) was an early benefactor, and his widow, Hannah (1783-1850), established an accumulating fund for the permanent endowment of the school in memory of her husband who had been so closely interested in its progress. Hannah also gave a benefaction of £500 for providing a new outfit of clothing for the 500 boys and girls each year, from 1822 until her death in 1850. In the early years, this gift was given anonymously through Messrs. Moses, Levy & Co. After Nathan's death in 1836, Hannah established an accumulating fund for the permanent endowment of the school, to which other mebers of the family gave substantial donations. Account books in the Jews' Free School Archive show that the school's investment account was held at NMR from 1841-1906.

The Rothschild family provided four active Presidents of the school, covering 115 years: Sir Anthony (1810-1876) (President 1847-1875); Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915) (President 1876-1915); Leopold (1845-1917) (President 1915-1917) and Anthony Gustav (1887-1961) (President 1917-1961). 

Anthony's wife, Louise (1821-1910), together with her sisters-in-law Juliana (1831-1877) and Charlotte (1825-1899), sat on the Ladies' Committee, supervising tuition in the school. Charlotte and the daughters of Louise, Constance (1843-1931) and Annie (1844-1926), taught classes, all three subsequently publishing the texts of their lessons.

In addition to the papers below, sundry correspondence concerning the Jews' Free School will be found in the Correspondence Department sundry Correspondence series. An illustrated testimonial to Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915) from the Jew's Free School on the occasion of his 70th birthday will be found in the Rushbrooke Collection. Correspondence mentioning the school will be found in the papers of members of the Rothschild family, together with copies of published texts. 

The Jews' Free School, artefacts, undated

000/2585, 1 item

Lapel badge manufactured by E.B.A. London, showing a hand grasping five arrows and the motto 'Concordia, Integritas, Industria' with Hebrew inscription above and the word 'Prefect'. Presumed to be a Prefect's badge from the Jews' Free School.

The Jews’ Free School, press cuttings, 1897

000/1671, 1 item

Daily Graphic, 27 January 1897, containing article on the presentation to Mr. Frederic David Mocatta by Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild at the Jews’ Free School.

The Jews’ Free School, publications, 1835

000/1215, 1 volume

A manual of Judaism detailed in conversation between a rabbi and his pupil; being an introduction into the knowledge of the principles of the Jewish faith for the use of the juvenile members of that persuasion by Joshua Van Oven. (London: Wertheimer (printers), 1835). Sold at the Jew's Free School, and with a dedication to Mr and Mrs de Rothschild (Nathan and Hannah Rothschild). Note: this is a modern reproduction of the original volume.

The Jews’ Free School, publications, 1897

000/1604, 1 item

Presentation to Mr Frederic David Mocatta at a public meeting, held at the Jews' Free School, London on January 26th, 1897 (London: Zaehnsdorf , 1897) . Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild, in the chair at this meeting, gave the address, which is reproduced in the pamphlet. 

The Jews’ Free School, reports, 1841; 1858; 1917

000/653, 000/1941, 3 items

Twenty-fourth Report of the Jews' Free School, (London, J. Wertheimer & Co., 1841); Forty-first Report of the Jews' Free School, (J. Wertheimer & Co., 1858). Annual Report of the Jews' Free School, for year 1916-1917. With a note relating to the death of Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917).