The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 30 The City To The East Of The Bank

Jewish London

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We are here, as the names over the shops betoken, in the great Jewish district of London. In St. James's Place, just to the north of Aldgate, is the GREAT SYNAGOGUE, the Jewish cathedral of London, built in 1790 and occupying a site used for a similar purpose since 1722. In Bevis Marks, close by, is the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, founded in 1679 and said to be the oldest in use in England; and there are synagogues also in Old Castle St., Great Alie St., and Little Alie St. HOUNDSDITCH, running north-west from Aldgate to Bishopsgate and forming the east boundary of this part of the City, is the headquarters of Jewish brokers and dealers in second-hand clothes. The Sunday morning activity here and in Middlesex Street (formerly 'Petticoat Lane'), a little east, presents an animated, picturesque, and curious spectacle well worth a visit. Cutler St. leads east from Houndsditch to the huge Warehouse of the Port of London Authority , containing vast quantities of carpets, porcelain, tea, tobacco, feathers, drugs, spices, etc. (admission as to the Docks). The MINORIES, running south from Aldgate to the Tower, in the same general line as Houndsditch, is another Jewish street, formerly famous for its gun-makers. Its name is derived from an old convent of Minoresses ('Sorores Minores'), or nuns of St. Clare, the old church of which is represented by the church of the Holy Trinity (rebuilt 1706), in Church St., leading east from the Minories. The church was dismantled in 1899, and now serves as the parish room of St. Botolph Aldgate (admission on application to the Vicar). It contains an interesting mural monument to members of the Legge family (Earls of Dartmouth), showing the Washington arms (stars and stripes) quartered with those of the Legges. At No. 156 Minories is preserved Sol. Gill's 'Wooden Midshipman' ('Dombey & Son'). In America Square, just west of the Minories, an interesting section of the Roman wall was brought to light in 1908 (south west corner). No. 14 was once the home of Nathan Meyer Rothschild (1777-1836), founder of the English branch of the family. At the corner of the Minories and Tower Hill is the Institute of Marine Engineers. In Jewry St., leading from Aldgate to Crutched Friars, is the Sir John Cass Technical Institute (east side), an important polytechnic founded with funds bequeathed by Alderman Sir John Cass (died 1718). Opposite is a timbered house of 1650 (No. 7). In the basement of Roman Wall House, at the corner of Jewry Street and Crutched Friars, is another fine section of the Roman wall. In Great Alie St., a little to the east of the Minories, stood Goodman's Fields Theatre, in which Garrick made his first appearances in London, playing the part of Harlequin (incognito) in March, 1741, and Richard III. (under his own name) on October 19th of the same year.