April 22nd – On this day in 1662, one Joseph Greenhalgh wrote in a letter to Samuel Crompton:
“Lately … I lighted upon a learned Jew with a mighty bush beard, … with whom … I fell into conference … ; at which time he told me that he had special relation as Scribe and Rabbi to a private Synagogue … in London, and that if I had a desire to see their manner of worship … he would give me such a ticket, as, upon sight thereof, their porter would let me in … . When Saturday came, … I … was let … in … ,, but there being no Englishman but myself, … I was at first a little abashed to venture alone amongst all them Jews, but my innate curiosity to see things strange … made me confident … . I … opened the inmost door, and taking off my hat (as instructed) I went in and sate me down among them; but Lord … what a strange … sight was there … [as] would have frightened a novice … . Every man had a large white … covering … cast over the high crown of his hat, which from thence hung down on all sides, … nothing to be seen but a little of the face; this, my Rabbi told me, was their ancient garb, used in divine worship in … Jerusalem … : and though to me at first it made altogether a strange … show, yet me thought it had in its kind, I know not how, a face and aspect of venerable antiquity ”.
For more on Jewish London up to the time of the Great Fire of 1666, see our March 16th blog on the subject.
On a related note, Bevis Marks Synagogue, London’s oldest surviving Sephardic Synagogue, built in 1701 (as a replacement for Creechurch Lane Synagogue, originally built in 1657), is visited, although not entered, on our “London Wall – A Story of Survival” standard walk. And Sandy’s Row Synagogue in Spitalfields, London’s oldest surviving Ashkenazi Synagogue, founded in 1854 (on the former site of a French Huguenot Church, originally built in 1766), is passed on our “Aldgate, Bishopsgate and beyond – Priories and Playhouses” standard walk.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by phone (020-8998-3051).