The Development ofStrangeways, 1768-1868


The Decline of Strangeways, 1851-1868.

Jewish immigration to Strangeways.


In the 1851 census we have for the first time reasonably detailedinformation on a minority who were to become within a short time amajority in Strangeways - the Jews. There are approximately eightypeople in the 1851 census whom we may reasonably surmise to beJewish, and these included the Rabbi, the Reader at the Synagogue andhis father, and, of course, the famous Frederick Engels, one of manymerchants from abroad then living in Strangeways. The Synagogue wasat this time situated across the Irk in Ainsworth's Court, off LongMillgate, and Strangeways was conveniently near for several Jewishimmigrants who stayed as lodgers with gentile families. An analysisof their occupations as recorded in the census gives some indicationof the nature of early Jewish settlement in Strangeways.


Merchants 9

Merchants' Clerks 6

Travellers 2

Watchmakers 3

Clerics 3

Cloth cap makers 7

Tailors and Dressmakers 6

Indiarubber waterproofer 3

Hawker 3

Carver 1

Bookkeeper 1

Lodging House Keeper 1

Teacher of Hebrew 1


The mercantile class consisted, in this small sample, of Germanand Levantine Jews. Tailors and watchmakers were also German inorigin, whilst clergymen and clothcap makers were predominantlyPolish. The solitary indiarubber waterproofer is the earliest personrecorded to have carried on this trade in Manchester, a process forwhich Strangeways Jewry later became renowned, and which is stillcontinued to this day. The Mr Marcus Friedlander who bears thishonour may have discovered the process himself, or learnt it in hisnative Poland.

Perhaps the most important feature of this nuclear Jewishcommunity was the presence of its religious leaders. Rabbi SalomonSzinessy lived in New Bridge Street, and Jacob Kantrowitz, theReader, lived in Julia Street, a neighbour of the Teacher of Hebrew.It was thus natural, when the old synagogue succumbed to anImprovement Act, for the Trustees to turn to the land across the Irkfor a site on which to found their new synagogue, and in January,1857, land was purchased from the Earl of Derby for that purpose,using some of the £1500 compensation received from theCorporation. Services were held temporarily in the recently openedJews' School House in Cheetham Hill Road, while the reform Jews setabout building their own synagogue in Park Place, Strangeways. (129)The Jewish community was now firmly entrenched in Strangeways, and itwas natural for new immigrants to settle in the vicinity of the newsynagogue in accordance with the tenets of their religion, and fromthe natural inclination of all immigrants to seek members of theirown community.

During the 1860s the rate of immigration from the continent ofEurope was appreciably increasing, and although its peak had yet tocome in the '80s and '90s with the Russian pogroms, the demands foraid made upon the congregation were reaching proportions that calledfor the creation of an organisation devoted entirely to the work ofrelief. In April 1865 a scheme was mooted to form a Board ofGuardians and on March 30th, 1867, it finally came into being and itslaws were approved. A grant of £25 was received from theCongregation of British Jews for the Passover Relief Fund which inthat year had to deal with two hundred and thirty applications formatzos by 330 adults and 400 children.

Records of the Benevolent Relief Fund in fact survive for theyears 5625-7 C. E. (1864-1867) and supply a wealth of detail aboutthe poorest Jewish immigrants, including addresses, length ofresidence in England, occupation, number of children and the natureand quantity of the relief given. The records of Passover Relief forthe year 5628 and 5629 provide less detailed information, but includenearly twice as many applicants than applied for Winter relief.(130)


It is quite clear from these records that Fermie Street and VerdonStreet formed the poorest part of Strangeways, and where there wasthe highest concentration of immigrant Jews. Occupations wererestricted to a fairly small range, and included large numbers ofhawkers and glaziers, young men who came to Manchester and adoptedthe only way of making a living available to them. They clusteredinto the houses in Verdon Street and Fermie Street, extremely small,cramped dwellings overlooking the unsavoury tannery. Overcrowding wasappalling; there were at least twenty-six people living at 25 VerdonStreet in 1868, for example, and such cases abounded. Many peoplewere only temporary residents, and moved on as soon as they could toAmerica, often with assistance from the Board of Guardians.

By the end of the century Strangeways had a population almostexclusively Jewish; many of the old churches and chapels becamesynagogues, often for different national groups. The Strangewaysghetto became second home for many thousands of Jews displaced fromtheir own countries.

The 1860s certainly saw the end of the old Strangeways. Not onlywas the population rapidly changing in character, Strangeways itselfwas changing physically. The rest of the estate was now developed,covering all the area where the pond had once lain with row upon rowof stock brick. In 1864 the Hall itself was demolished, thus finallysevering the link with the past, and in its place was built AlfredWaterhouse's masterpiece, the Venetian Gothic Assize Courts, with thenow notorious prison behind.

Assize Courts, Great Ducie Street,1859

We have seen the development of Strangeways, how it graduallychanged from fields, to residential estate, to ghetto; and some ofthe people who helped to make Strangeways. What they so painstakinglycreated has already gone; what enemy action spared the bulldozer hassince removed. The people too have gone, and although one mayoccasionally sight the Jewish gabardine, Strangeways is nowdesignated a light industrial area. To most people the name issynonymous with the prison, built after the period covered by thisstudy, and the days when Strangeways was a community have alreadybeen forgotten.


Occupations of Jewish Immigrants, 1864-9
1865 1866 1867 1868 1869

Hawker 11 7 6 4 5

Glazier 11 13 20 65 52

Tailor 7 13 12 30 31

Hatter 1

Teacher 2 1 1 1

Dealer 2 3 2 1

Capmaker 4 2 2 3 2

Tassel maker 1 1

Fishmonger 1 1 1 1

Shoemaker 2 2 5 3

Stonemason 1 1

Picture dealer 1

Joiner 1 2 1

Lodging keeper 1

Shopkeeper 1

Porzer 1

Smith 1

Cane trimmer 1

Gives out bills 1

No trade 1


Houses in Fernie Street where families received Winter Reliefor Passover relief

5625 5626 5627 5628 5629

1865 1866 1867 1868 1869


2 (x2)

4 4(x2) 4(x6)

10 10

14 14(x2) 14(x3) 14(x2) 14

16 16 16(x2)


20(x3) 20 20 20


24(x3) 24(x2) 24(x3) 24(x10) 24(x2)

26(x5) 26(x6)

28(x10) 28(x3)




40 40






Even numbers only. Numbers in parentheses indicate number ofhouseholds in each house that received relief.


 1Introduction 2Industrial Revolution 3The New Strangeways 4The New Suburb 5The Mature Suburb 6Decline ReferencesMaps