© Marcus Roberts


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Thus the stage for the Jewish associations and community in Bath was set. In the early days many rich Sephardic Jews came to take the waters for their health and to effect easy introductions amongst high society in the social mix and informality of Bath that they could not obtain at home. Jewish visitors came from as early as 1730 and lodged for periods in Bath. The visitors included the very rich Franks and Hart families who already lived in the spa town of Richmond. It must be noted that some of the Jewish visitors did genuinely come for their health and even died in the city. These include Isaac Franks, in 1736 and Hyman Hart, in 1738. The extent of acceptance of Jews in highest echelons of Bath society, at this early period, is indicated by the fact that Sarah, Baroness d'Aguilar, was able to open the Ball twice, in May of 1760. Jewish patronage of the resort rose to its high point in about 1765, though Ashkenazim only started to become the majority of Jewish visitors after about 1780.

There was no permanent organised community in Bath until about 1771, when the retired parnas of the Great Synagogue, Moses Samuel, came to live in the city. He was evidently not prepared to be without the consolations of communal Jewish life and sought to establish a community with regular divine service. The first synagogue followed in about 1800 in Kingsmead Street. Moses Samuel was to be the prime mover in the provision of a purpose built synagogue. This was built in Corn Street and opened in 1842, with money from Samuel's will of 1839.

It is interesting to note that the pattern of settlement was very similar to that other spa town of Richmond in Surrey, in both period and type. Early Jews in both places were rich Sephardim who came with both health and social agendas to fulfill. Some settled for periods, but without formally organising Jewish life in these places. Their interest in the spas rose and fell exactly as the spa was fashionable or not. The permanent settlement, with a fully formed community organisation, was only to come later and was to be a largely but not exclusively Ashkenazi affair.

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