Sheerness & Blue Town
Marcus Roberts


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In their general business practice the Sheerness Jews were not beyond reproach. By 1816 there were nine Jewish Navy Agents in Sheerness. Two of them had their licenses revoked in 1813 for alleged improprieties and a third, Samuel Abrahams (the founder of the Sheerness synagogue) in 1820. Also in 1846 a member of the community was held up for widespread criticism for selling of or losing the effects of the dead from a plague ship, though the real blame lay with the Naval authorities.

The HMS Eclair had been operating off Madagascar on an anti-slavery patrol when a large part of her crew were wiped out by disease. Having only just managed to get back home, the effects of most of the officers were sent straight off to a Jewish general dealer in Mile Town, without the Navy having tried to sort out or send on the remaining effects to relatives of the dead men.

Much of the effects were sold off or lost, leaving the Navy to deal with streams of family members writing daily, " regain some lost relic of their unfortunate relatives." The paper conceded, "There must have been some sad mismanagement in thus entrusting such a bulk of valuable property into the hands of some old clothes man without security of any sort."

The community continued to grow and to diversify in its business during the Napoleonic War. In 1824 there were recorded navy agent, pawnbrokers and silver smiths, tailors and drapers, watchmakers. Around this general period some of the community had moved across from Blue Town into Mile Town.

With the conclusion of the Napoleonic War the community started to suffer a long-term and terminal decline. In 1831, ten of the 47 Jews of Sheerness had moved to Glasgow. Over time many went on to other ports, including Cardiff and to London. Others emigrated.

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