130 years ago this month, the Home and Hospital for Jewish Incurables, Tottenham was founded. To mark this occasion we take a look at the material we hold relating to the institution (MS 284).The establishment and running of the Institution
In 1888, there were few places Jewish immigrants could go to spend their remaining years if suffering from incurable diseases. The main option was local authority infirmaries, which lacked “a Jewish atmosphere and the facilities for religious observances.” [MS 284 A978/6/2]
This struck a chord with Morris Barnett, who wrote to the Jewish Chronicle in October 1888, asking for those interested in “founding a home for incurables” to contact him. This led to a meeting held at his house in February 1889, where a public meeting was arranged to inform the community of the creation of the Society for the formation of a Jewish Home for Incurables. At the public meeting, a committee was elected and over 400 people promised to be subscribers.
The first Home opened in 1891 at 49-51 Victoria Park Road, E9, with nine patients. Its object was the care, maintenance and medical treatment of United Kingdom residents of the Jewish faith with a permanent disability. Under the rules of the Home, patients had to be of the Jewish Faith, who had resided in England for 5 years, and it was open between 11am to 6pm for the inspection of the public. In the early 1890s the average weekly cost was 21/ per patient. Concerts, annual poultry dinners, were provided for patients, as well as lectures and film showings.
The Institution was managed by a Committee of Management consisting of the President, Vice-Presidents, Treasurers, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Solicitor, Honorary Medical Staff, and other Honorary Officers deemed necessary. The Committee met once every quarter, and were responsible for receiving correspondence from medical staff, approving accounts and purchase orders, appointing a matron, nurses and servants; and regulating the household management of the institution and the patients. The latter was done through the appointment of a House Committee that consisted of ladies annually elected, who met once a month and visited the Home periodically to inspect the interior management and domestic arrangements. They were also responsible for checking that patients were receiving adequate treatment, and reported their observations and suggestions in a book laid before the Committee of Management.
Responsible for the entire charge of the home, the Matron kept accounts, appointed or suspended nurses of domestic servants, and arranged leave of all staff. Menus of the day were arranged with the Housekeeper and medicines ordered by the doctor were dispensed with the Assistant Matron. The Matron was in charge of receiving all visitors, and in general, carried out the instructions of the Board of Management and Medical Officers. The Institution’s first matron was Esther Goldberg.How the institution was funded
Funding for the institution was achieved by subscriptions, donations, and payments made by patients and members of the public. In the beginnings of the institution, “the first funds were raised in London’s East End Streets by carrying a mock patient in a bed around in a cart and appealing for subscriptions of one penny per week.” [MS 284 A978/6/2] Events were also organised to raise funds for the institution, such as annual balls, garden fetes, and dances.Development of the Institution
The institution moved to a larger house sufficient for 20 patients in Wood Street, Walthamstow in 1894 and again in 1896 to High Road in Tottenham. The Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald described the building as being “built in the Elizabethan style of architecture” and being “placed on the site so as to afford the maximum amount of sunshine to the patients.” [Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald, April 1901]
After building work at this site, the Home was formally opened on 3 July 1903 by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll (sister of King Edward VII). Up to 80 patients were admitted, with male patients on the ground floor, where there was also a concert hall and access to a garden, and the female patients were on the first floor. Staff and kitchen quarters were located on the third floor.
A new wing was completed at the Tottenham Home in 1913 and a new synagogue was opened in 1914. In 1918, the Home was approached by the Ministry of Pensions seeking to use the new wing to accommodate Jewish soldiers. A scheme was agreed whereby twenty-eight soldiers were admitted for twelve months.
In 1939 fear of air raids led to the evacuation of the Home to Chesterfield House near Saffron Waldon. The accommodation at Tottenham was taken over by Middlesex County Council in May 1940 to accommodate refugees.The Institution as the Jewish Home and Hospital
In 1963, the institution’s name changed to Jewish Home and Hospital. With 114 patients in 1974, the Jewish Home and Hospital provided a much-needed service in north London. Patients who came in chair-bound were helped to walk again, and other patients who would otherwise be home alone suffering the expense of nurses coming to wash and feed them, could be somewhere where they could make friends and be cared for at the same time.
Physiotherapy and occupational therapy was provided, as well as facilities such as dentist and a hairdressing salon. Rooms were provided for crafts, and prayer and meditation. Being in a home where you could mix with Jewish patients and practise religious activities was of pivotal importance for the patients. “When you’re not well, you like to be near God, like a child. They haven’t got a cure yet, so you want to die in a Jewish place.” (Judith, Jewish Chronicle Supplement, 20 September 1974 [MS 284 A978/7/6]).
In 1992, the Home merged with Jewish Care. By the late 20th century, Tottenham’s Jewish population had largely moved away and the building became obsolete. The Home closed in 1995.
Consisting of 24 boxes and 5 volumes, the MS 284 collection contains minute books; annual reports; legal and financial papers; correspondence; and photographs. The material provides a valuable resource for research into nineteenth and twentieth century Jewish community services for the disabled.