The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 7 March. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed speaker Nigel Grizzard who came to tell us the story of the Jews in Ilkley. Nigel is an expert on local Jewish heritage and leads guided walks around Leeds, Bradford & Ilkley & is co-founder of Heritage Project ‘Making their Mark’ a Bradford Jewish Heritage Trail.
It is thought that Jews may well have been in the Ilkley area during Roman times as soldiers, traders & slaves. A Jewish coin of Herod Aggrippa was found on Bingley Moor near to the site of the Roman road. Many Jewish emigrants came to the UK during the 1890s as a result of pogroms in the Russian empire. Between 1881 & 1914 2.5 million plus Jews migrated from Eastern Europe. Little Germany in Bradford is the site of one of the largest collections of historic warehouses in Britain. Many were built for German Jewish merchants who helped establish Bradford as the Wool Capital of the World. During C19th many Jewish merchants came out of the city to Ilkley for respite as it grew into a spa town.
Well known Jews connected to Ilkley include Charles Semon 1814 – 1877 textile merchant who became Lord Mayor of Bradford in 1864. He built Semon House in Ilkley as a convalescent home in 1874. This stood at the top of White Wells Road and has since been demolished. Victor Edelstein 1842 – 1921 partner of Jacob Moser, Bradford textile entrepreneurs was a member of the Ilkley Bridge Committee and his name can be found on a plaque on the road bridge over the Wharfe in the town. Victor Anglicised his name to Elston in 1915 as did many German Jewish immigrants during WW1.
In the late 1930s Kindertransport arranged the evacuation of thousands of Jewish children to the UK. Ilkley’s Jewish Refugee Committee 1939 was chaired by Mr F. Sugden who explained how they were ‘taking boys out of Vienna to save them from the concentration camps and were educating them in English and getting them onto farms’. These boys lived in a house called Loxleigh on Mount Pleasant Road, Ilkley. Jewish religious services were held at the Ilkley Masonic Hall on Cunliffe Road.
President Stanley Merridew gave a vote of thanks following questions and comments from the audience. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 4 April at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when Gillian Waters will present her talk, To New York, Chicago, Wakefield & Otley. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.