Brighton & Hove
Marcus Roberts


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Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid (1778-1860) took a very active interest in the development of the town and indeed the Jewish community. He was a founder and director of the London and Brighton and South Coast Railway that was instrumental in the growth of the town and it may be noted that there were many other prominent Jewish members and directors of this railway company, including Leo Shuster a founder director (1846), Ralph Lopes (1846), Jonas Levy (1867) who was the deputy chairman of the LBSCR, Sir Julian Goldsmid, Bt. M.P. (1891) and Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1898). David Mocatta, was the railway architect for the company. These and other Jewish entrepreneurs were commemorated when railway engines on the LBSCR were named Jonas Levy, May 1888 (scrapped 1931); Ralph Lopes, May 1888 (scrapped 1911); Goldsmid, 1892; and Rothschild, June 1896.

In 1830, Goldsmid brought the residue of the Wick estate from Kemp and upon which the Adelaide Crescent and Palmeira Square developments were to take place. It would appear that the Palmeira Square development is named after Sir Isaac as it alludes to his creation in Portugal as 'Baron de Goldsmid and de Palmeira' an honour he was allowed to use in this country by royal license after 1846.

At times the increasingly prominent Jewish community found itself in scandal or tragedy. In 1833 Levi Emanuel Cohen was convicted of seditious libel, after he used his newspaper to accuse heavy-handed magistrates of causing agricultural unrest. He spent six months in goal for his pains, for bringing the magestry into disrepute, setting the lower classes against the higher and inciting people into acts of incendiarism and the case raised important issues about the freedom of the press. He continued to edit his paper from Chelmsford Goal during his incarceration.

In 1843 the Minister of the synagogue and his mother were arrested for allegedly killing their maid-servant by poisoning. The young girl aged 14-15 years had died in mysterious circumstances, from some form of poisoning. A resumed inquest led to them being released, though the verdict of, 'death by poisoning administered under unknown circumstances' did not greatly help the minister and the family and the mother was admonished for not helping the girl. The minister and mother soon left town under the proverbial cloud.

Worst of all Henry Solomon was murdered in cold blood in his own police station by a mentally deranged felon on March 13, 1844. A young thief, John Lawrence aged 23 years, who had a reputation for violence, had stolen a carpet and was arrested and brought to the Police Station in Brighton Town Hall. While being held in the Police Office, the felon showed mental agitation and expressed a wish to kill himself. Solomon calmed him and sat him in the constable's sleeping chair and resumed a conversation with four other men. At that point the thief grabbed a poker and stuck the Chief Constable a most severe blow across the back of the head. It was so hard it bent the poker by a 20 degree angle. Lawrence was restrained and sent in shackles down to lock-up called the 'Black Hole'. Solomon's heavily-bleeding head-wound was dressed and he was taken home, where he fell unconscious and died the next morning.

Solomon's death attracted national attention and his funeral turned into a massive affair. Many thousands lined the route of the cortege and all of the civic dignitaries were present. His murderer even passed the funeral procession on his way to Lewes.

Lawrence was rapidly brought to trial at Lewes Assizes on March 20, where he was rapidly convicted despite a plea of temporary insanity by his defense. He was hung at Horsham at a public execution at the Goal. Soon after a large public subscription was made for Solomon's widow and nine children a total of £1000 was raised including £50 from the Queen an indication of the shock and loss felt by the community and the esteem in which Solomon's had been held.

In 1875 the community had risen to the extent that they were able to build a new synagogue at 66 Middle Street to designs by Thomas Lianson. The need for the new edifice had been created to accommodate a new influx of Jews both living in the town and visiting. This new synagogue, while relatively unprepossessing on the exterior, has an exceptionally ornate and beautiful interior, and is still to day an exceptional building.

Many distinguished Jews took up temporary or permanent residence in the town at this time; such was the reputation of the resort and its convenient access from London by train. Many of the leading Jews lived in the environs of Hove which had many of the most prestigious addresses in town. The Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogues, Dr Nathan Adler, lived in 36 First Avenue, Hove, in 1880 and died there in 1890. Baron de Worms was at 27 Adelaide Crescent in the 1890s. Sir Julian Goldsmid, Bart., the son of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, lived at no. 4 Palmeira Square, the address his father had developed. He was a barrister, an M.P. for various seats and was also the Vice-Chancellor of London University.

The Sassoon family held a long tenure in the town. The family were exotic descendants of Sheikh Sason ben Saleh, (1750 - 1830), who was head of the Jewish community in Baghdad, and banker to the Pasha, in the late eighteenth century and a major banker.

Following persecution, by avaricious new Pashas, his son David (1792 - 1864) went to Basra on the Gulf, and thence to Bombay in India, where he settled and further built the family business empire of 'David S. Sassoon', trading in as many branches of business where profit was to be found. His eight sons (through two marriages) under the close direction of their father (who was a pious Jew who never adopted western dress) pushed the business to new heights, and to countries as distant as China and Japan, though a good part of their income was through the notorious Opium trade with China. In 1853 David Sassoon became a naturalized British subject and he became a proud Anglophile, though he was never able to master the language.

Soon after David Sassoon's third son, the scholarly Sassoon David Sassoon, then came to open an office in London, to effect an expansion into England in 1858 and he was brought Ashley Park as his seat. When David Sassoon died, in 1864 (leaving £4,000,000), Sassoon David Sassoon, then took over the business, though his health was poor and he had to work hard in London due to the American Civil War which meant that Indian cotton was suddenly at a premium with the American supply cut-off. However, he died too, in1867, while on a visit to London to the Langham Hotel, on a sweltering hot day, to see a model of a statue of his father that was being made to be erected in Bombay. Albert (Abdullah) David Sassoon (1818-1896) continued the business with two of his brothers in England.

The brothers gravitated to Brighton, and brought grand villas there. Their presence was noted laconically by the M.P., Henry Labouchère, who said aptly, that Brighton was, 'a sea-coast town, thee miles long and three yards broad, with a Sassoon at each end and one in the middle'.

The three brothers, Albert, Arthur and Reuben, were very well socially assimilated into English aristocratic life and became close confidants of the Prince of Wales and very much part of his Marlborough House set gallivanting around Europe with him. In consequence the Prince of Wales (to be King Edward VIII) often came to Brighton to see the Sassoons (especially Arthur), and to stay at their houses, not least because their hospitality was exceptional. The visitations of the Prince to Brighton, was very important to the prestige of Brighton, and his visits are very much a continuing community memory; the bench on the sea-front which he favoured can still be found and sat on.

It is said that the Sassoons also helped the Prince of Wales organise assignations with his mistress, the actress Lillie Langtry in Brighton. Certainly, Reuben Sassoon was a good friend of Lillie Langtry's before he became friends with the Prince and it could have been that the Sassoons made the introduction.

The majority of their houses and those belonging to other members of the family, can still be found in Brighton and Hove. Arthur Sassoon (1840-1912 lived at 8 King's Gardens. Reuben Sassoon (1835-1905) lived at 7 Queens Gardens (now demolished). Albert (Abdullah) Sassoon (1st Bart.) lived at 1 Eastern Terrace, Brighton as did his son, Sir Edward Albert Sassoon (b. 1856-1912), Second Bart (1890), lived there with his wife, Aline, the daughter of Baron Gustav de Rothschild. Flora Sassoon (the widow of Sassoon David Sasoon (1832 - 1867), lived at 37 Adelaide Crescent in Hove. Aaron Sassoon (1841-1907) lived at 35 First Avenue, Hove (another Brother).

The Sassoon's also had a long association with the Middle Street Synagogue and were among patrons of the building.

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