Although the first Jews arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror in 1066, the major influx of Jews into this country began in 1881. Many of the new arrivals from Russia settled in Tower Hamlets, where most arrived by ship.
By 1914, there were around 150,000 Jews living in the Whitechapel/Aldgate area alone. More Jews arrived in the 1930s as refugees from the Nazis.
Tower Hamlets is the cradle of the British Jewish community. The borough has a rich heritage of Jewish buildings – from synagogues to schools, from hospitals to soup kitchens. This month, we profile the Sandy’s Row Synagogue, off Middlesex Street, E1.
The Sandy’s Row Synagogue is the oldest Ashkenazi Synagogue in London still in use. It was originally built as a chapel in 1766 by Dutch immigrants working in the tobacco industry.
The Dutch were economic migrants to this country who settled in the East End some years before Russian Jews began arriving here in the 1880s.
Many current members of the Sandy’s Row Synagogue are descended from these early Dutch immigrants. Orange – the Dutch national colour – is a notable feature of the building’s fine interior.