Hampstead: Judaism

Pages 158-159

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, Hampstead, Paddington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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Like other City merchants, many Jews bought houses as country retreats. Daniel Defoe commented in the 1720s that Jews seemed to have a preference for Highgate and Hampstead. Eliezer Isaac Keyser retired to Hampstead in 1812 until his death in 1820, leaving a series of letters about his life there, and Jewish names were recorded occasionally in the late 18th and early 19th century, although there was no place of worship. (fn. 1)

More widespread settlement took place from 1870, the newcomers being served by St. John's Wood synagogue, Abbey Road, just south of the parish, from 1876 until Hampstead synagogue opened in 1892. Hampstead was popular with Jewish scholars and intellectuals in the 1880s and 1890s, while many Jews from the City moved into Kilburn in the 1880s and followed the spread of building north and west. (fn. 2) From 1905 Kilburn was served by Brondesbury synagogue, Chevening Road (Willesden). (fn. 3) The period between the World Wars brought many Jewish refugees from Europe, especially to Swiss Cottage and West Hampstead, and several congregations set up their own synagogues. (fn. 4)

Hampstead synagogue, Dennington Park Road, was founded after a meeting of c. 20 members of St. John's Wood synagogue in 1889. A second group held more radical services at West Hampstead town hall from 1890 and then at Kilburn town hall until 1893. Hampstead synagogue, designed by Delissa Joseph, was built in 1892 to accommodate 700. It came under the guidance of the United Synagogue, but concessions were made to the strong desire of Jews in England for reform. The number of seats let rose from 293 in 1893 to 668 by 1900, and membership continued to rise until Hampstead was the largest congregation in the United Synagogue. Seating was increased in the body of the building, by a classroom at the side in 1897, and by further additions in 1900-1. Attendance 1903: 898 a.m. Hebrew and religious classes were started in 1891 at West Hampstead town hall, later moving to the synagogue, with 72 children in 1892 and 200 in 1908. Youth services from 1925 led to the opening of a junior synagogue in 1935. A community centre was built 1962-4 adjoining the synagogue. (fn. 5)

North-west London Hebrew Institute, no. 1 Minster Road, Shoot-up Hill, was registered for worship in 1928 and closed by 1954. (fn. 6)

The Beth Hamedrash Kehilath Israel synagogue was registered in rooms at no. 6 Minster Road in 1938 and had closed by 1960. (fn. 7)

Regent's Park and Belsize Park district synagogue opened at the corner of Eton Road and Eton Villas in 1938 and was affiliated to the United Synagogue. It was rebuilt in 1960 on the same site and renamed South Hampstead district synagogue. (fn. 8)

The Adath Yisroel congregation registered Sarah Klausner Memorial synagogue at no. 11 Fairfax Road in 1943. It moved to no. 33 Compayne Gardens in 1945, to no. 31 Broadhurst Gardens in 1947, and no. 10A Cranfield Gardens c. 1974. A constituent member of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, (fn. 9) it was in use in 1985.

Shomrei Hadath synagogue (Beth Hamedrash), a constituent synagogue of the Federation of Synagogues, was opened 1946 in the former West Hampstead Congregational church, no. 527A Finchley Road, (fn. 10) and was in use in 1985.

New Liberal Jewish congregation was established in 1939, and registered a synagogue at no. 30 Buckland Crescent in 1943, moving to its own building at no. 51 Belsize Square in 1951. Renamed Belsize Square synagogue c. 1972, it was a constituent of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (fn. 11) and was in use in 1985.


  • 1. C. Roth, Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish Hist. (1962), 242-9.
  • 2. Trans. Jewish Hist. Soc. xxi. 89-90.
  • 3. V.C.H. Mdx. vii. 246.
  • 4. Below.
  • 5. S.C.L., Hampstead Syn., cuttings; R. Apple, Hampstead Synagogue 1892-1967 (1967).
  • 6. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 51430.
  • 7. Ibid. no. 58288; Jewish Year Bk. (1960).
  • 8. A. Newman, United Synagogue 1870-1970 (1976), 221-2; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 58845.
  • 9. G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 60524, 61124, 61616.
  • 10. Ibid. no. 61564.
  • 11. Ibid. nos. 60422, 63061; Jewish Year Bk. (1973, 1986).