Brighton & Hove
Marcus Roberts


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Jewish Occupations in the 20th Century

There were a number of specialist Jewish occupations in Brighton, from the early 20th century. These including a number of Jewish furriers, whom were able to take advantage of the commercial opportunities, presented by wealthy residents, and visitors, to Brighton and Hove. I understand that members of my wife's family, the Blooms, were in this trade, from the turn of the 20th century, as well as other families, such as the Dudkins. The fur-skin trade was not necessarily pleasant, as the process of curing the fur-skins, would involve the furriers treading the skins, with their bare feet, in pickling liquor up to their knees, for hours on end. Furs are never truly tanned as in normal tannery processes, but will rot if exposed to water. All branches of the tannery trade are very smelly, as most stages of the business involve putrifying protein wastes.

The Dudkins hailed from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, which was the center of the Russian fur trade and they used their family connections to bring in furs to Brighton. Abraham Dudkin established his fur business in c. 1909 having moved from Great Yarmouth.

A number of fur shops are well remembered by members of the Jewish community. Stanley Dudkin, of the Dudkin family previously mentioned, had a fur shop in Western Road, and there was a huge stuffed bear outside the shop. He later moved to the Bartholomews. Maurice Rosen who had a fur shop called M. B. Anthony and Sid Epstein who had a fur shop called 'Louis Furs' in Hove, at the corner of Church Road and Wilbury Road.

Brighton Jews and Arts and Entertainment

The Brightonian Jewish professional involvement, with the arts and literary life, continued and broadened in the Edwardian era, and into the modern day, there has been a significant involvement with popular arts and entertainment. This involvement ran from Jewish photography studios, pier promotion, through to cinema ownership, performing in the theatres, and entertainment promotion, with Brighton Jewish figures being major theater and arts promoters.

Abraham Dudkin, the previously mentioned furrier, brought into the photographic business in Brighton, between 1912 - 1925, and established several successful photographic studios in Brighton called the 'Modern Studios'. His first was in c. 1912 in North Street, quickly followed by another in West Street. Abraham and family members, Mordecai and William Dudkin, established a chain of studios. No doubt a day behind the camera was far better than a day paddling knee deep in a cold vat of fur skins!

One of Brighton's iconic landmarks, the Palace Pier was actually created by a Brighton Jew in 1899, and marked a continuing desire to build into the sea for pleasure and entertainment purposes. Sir John Howard (c. 1830 - 1917), was a Jewish entrepreneur and railway director, who financed the construction of Brighton Pier in May 1899, having taken over, revived and saved the existing, but ailing, pier project. He was described in a contemporary article in the Jewish Chronicle (28.12.1906) as a devout Jew of Brighton, an engineer, who laid down the water works at Egham, a Director of the North British Railways, as well as being the chief proprietor of the Pier at Brighton.

This was not the first pier in Brighton by any means, as the Chain Pier had been built in 1823, followed by the West Pier in 1866 and with finally the Palace Pier in 1899. The much later Brighton Marina, continued this now Jewish tradition. It was built by the Jewish entrepreneur, Henry Cohen, between 1972 -77, was a grand extension the theme of recreation, by and on the sea, and involved 127 acres of reclaimed land.

There were many Jewish entertainers in Brighton itself, many appearing at the Hippodrome. The community has particularly cherished memories of Sydney Sharpe, who became musical director of the orchestra at the Hippodrome in the mid 1930s, where he remained director for over 30 years and then continued performing in the community during his retirement. Bud Flanagan, the famous vaudeville star had a house in Shoreham Beach and was another Brighton regular.

Brighton Jews were also found working in the arts out-side of Brighton. When the world's first formal high-definition public service TV transmission started on 2nd November 1936, from Alexandra Palace, there was a grand opening at 3pm, and at 3.30 pm, the first ever BBC music programme was broadcast on TV. The conductor was Hyam Greenbaum [1901-1942], a Brighton born Jew, who was once a violinist in the Queens Hall Orchestra, and who had helped orchestrate some of William Walton's film scores. The Alexandra Palace transmitter, was coincidentally set up by Russian born Jew, Isaac Shoenberg [1880-1963]) .

Jews have traditionally has a particular link to the cinema, and in many towns up and down the country the earliest cinemas in each town, were often founded by a Jewish entrepreneur. In Brighton, Myles and Trudie Byrne, became leading cinema proprietors and theatre impassarios. Myles was a lapsed Catholic and an atheist who married Holocaust survivor Trudie, who worked in the box office at their first cinema, and worked with her husband, in running what was to become a chain of venues. They owned the 'Continental', and 'Embassy Cinemas' and 'Brighton Film Theater', as well as other small cinemas in the region. Byrne also successfully ran the 'Palace Pier Theater', in the late 1960s. Trudie was important contributor to his work. Harry Jacobs, mentioned earlier, was another well known Jewish cinema owner, who owned the Curzon Cinema, in Western Road as well as the Embassy and was noted as a tireless worker for the Welfare Board.

Another very well known figure in the Brighton arts scene, was David Land who became a leading show business impresario of Brighton. His start in the business was when he promoted the big name entertainers of the War-time, including Vera Lynn. Post War, his career included promoting notable acts such as the Beatles and Bee Gees. He also discovered Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber and was a founder of the Young Vic. Locally, he saved the Theater Royal in New Road Brighton in 1984 from closure. He then subsidized and and ran it for ten years, reputedly spending subsiding it to the tune of £400, 000 a year. He was a great charity supporter and founded the David Land Arts Centre in London which supports performers with learning difficulties.

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