Ancestry UK

The Jews' Hospital, London

The Jews' Hospital (or 'Neve Zedek') was founded in the East End of London in 1795 following a proposal by Abraham and Benjamin Goldsmid, members of a prominent Jewish banking family. Despite its name, the 'hospital' was not intended as a medical facility but rather a refuge for poor and needy members of the Jewish community in the area, its object later described as being for 'the support of the aged, and the maintenance, education, and employment of youth.' The brothers soon raised sufficient funds to open the establishment although problems with officialdom delayed its inauguration for a number of years. A property was eventually purchased at the north side of Mile End Road, Whitechapel, and formally opened at the end of June, 1807. It initially accommodated five old men, five old women, ten boys and eight girls.

By the late 1850s, however, the decaying state of the premises led to plans being made and funds raised for a new building. An eight-acre site at the west side of Knights Hill Road, Lower Norwood, was given for the purpose by Mr and Mrs Barnet Meyers. The foundation stone of the new Hospital was laid by Sir Anthony de Rothschild in June, 1861, and the building was consecrated on February 26th, 1863, by the Chief Rabbi, the Rev. Dr. Adler. The Jacobean-style building, which could accommodate 220 children, was designed by Messrs Tillott and Chamberlain.

Jews' Hospital and Orphan Asylum, West Norwood, 1863.

On 15th September, 1868, the establishment was accredited for operation as a Certified School, allowing it to receive workhouse children placed by Boards of Guardians.

Children boarded out by Guardians were charged at a fixed weekly rate — in 1890, this was 6s. per week. Admission could also be gained via a twice-yearly election of the charity's Governors and subscribers. Annual subscribers of 10s. 6d. had one vote at each election, and donors of £10. 10s., two votes. Children seeking admission had to be of Jewish parentage, with boys aged from 9 to 11 years of age, and girls from 8 to 12. Orphans were admitted from the age of 2 years. Children received a 'plain education' and were either apprenticed to a trade or found suitable situations. By 1900, the establishment could accommodate 350 children.

In 1876, the Hospital merged with the Jews' Orphan Asylum, then becoming known as the Jews' Hospital and Orphan Asylum.

Jews' Hospital and Orphan Asylum, West Norwood, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

The premises were extended in 1874 and again in 1897. In 1911, the Arnold and Jane Gabriel Home, named after its benefactors, was erected at the south of the site, fronting onto Wolfington Road. It housed 50 of the younger children, aged from 5 to 8 years, who then moved to the main building.

Lads' Brigade at Jews' Hospital and Orphan Asylum, West Norwood, c.1902. © Peter Higginbotham

In 1928, the Asylum was renamed the Jewish Orphanage.

In 1939, at the onset of the Second World War, the children were evacuated to Worthing where they stayed in private homes. The following year, they were relocated to Hertford. During the war, the Knights Hill site was used as a training centre for the London Fire Brigade as a training centre.

Another change of name came in 1956, from which the institution was known as the Norwood Home for Jewish Children. In line with the general trend to family-group accommodation, Samuel House and Stephany House were erected in the orphanage grounds and seven further houses acquired in the area, including 17-19 Chatsworth Way, West Norwood.

In 1959, the home had 150 residents, inclusing 40 refugee children from Hungary and Egypt. Each family group had a television, with a large set in the 'Cinema Hall', which was also used for indoor games and amateur dramatics.

Norwood Home for Jewish Children, 1959. © Peter Higginbotham

Norwood Home for Jewish Children, 1959. © Peter Higginbotham

Norwood Home for Jewish Children, 1959. © Peter Higginbotham

Norwood Home for Jewish Children, 1959. © Peter Higginbotham

The main building was finally closed in 1961 and demolished two years later. The entrance lodge, just off Knight's Hill, still survives, as does the Gabriel Home building, now home to a local school.

Former Gabriel Home building at Jews' Orphan Asylum, West Norwood


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