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Ian Stone, historian | The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor
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The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor

On Brune Street, close to Spitalfields Market, is a building with the inscription ‘Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor’ engraved upon its cornice. In my latest YouTube video I explore the history of the building within the context of the Jewish history of east London. I also consider what the building’s current function can teach us about more recent developments in the East End.

  • Richard Shepley

    15th July 2020 at 11:47 pm Reply


    Excellent. Thanks. Informative, interesting and useful maps and pictures

    • Ian Stone

      16th July 2020 at 1:43 pm Reply

      Thanks Richard. It’s a small building with a big history isn’t it?

  • Ann Walker

    22nd July 2020 at 10:53 pm Reply

    Thanks very much, Ian, this is such an interesting departure from the Middle Ages. The East End has real peoples’ history – no glamour or power there. I have read Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor of the 1840’s and there is not much difference in the state of the poor from that date to the period you are discussing, although the demographics were different. The Jewish immigrants had a terrible time- first the pogroms then finishing up in the awful conditions of the East End and its sweatshops. The philanthropy of the Guardians and their donors was amazing.
    The maps and the films were excellent illustrations. Ann Walker

    • Ian Stone

      23rd July 2020 at 8:08 am Reply

      Thank you Ann and well done for ploughing through Mayhew.
      There’s no doubt that conditions in the East End were bad at the end of the nineteenth century. We do have to be careful with the hysterical accounts from the likes of Hollingshead, Mearns and Stead – which is one reason why Booth and his researchers are so useful. For the first time we had a systematic and scientific inquiry into the lives of the poor and the causes of poverty.
      Things HAD changed since Mayhew though. For a start, London’s population had grown which made overcrowding worse in some places. This overcrowding was exacerbated by the construction of the railways and new roads which had destroyed a great deal of working-class housing. But, in many ways, things were better too. The bigger population was accommodated in a bigger area, largely thanks to the railways. The efforts of philanthropists and reformers (Hill, Peabody, Waterlow) had seen the construction of some social housing for poorer Londoners. The rookeries had gone and, generally speaking, wages and living standards had risen since Mayhew’s time – there were no pure finders (not pleasant – look it up) in Booth’s survey. But there were certainly streets, like Dorset Street, in the East End where it would have felt pretty desperate.

  • Ann Walker

    23rd July 2020 at 11:59 am Reply

    Thanks Ian, Bazalgette’s sewers were certainly instrumental in improving the environment of London and reducing ill health and mortality so, yes, I agree that there were differences overall.
    At one time I worked in the area of Bermondsey where there were many leather tanning businesses in the 18th and 19th centuries and a local historian came to speak about the trade (and guild). The description of the pure finders and the processing of their product was very memorable!

    • Ian Stone

      23rd July 2020 at 5:02 pm Reply

      I forgot Bazalgette of course. His sewerage system did more for the lives of poor Londoners than any other thing I should think, even vaccinations.


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