London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:


Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of the Jews' Temporary Shelter, 1896-1998. The archive consists mainly of minutes, accounts, annual reports, correspondence and registers of inmates of the Shelter and a Shipping Register.

    PLEASE NOTE: access to this collection requires the written permission of the depositor. Please see staff for details
Extent: 7.35 linear metres (16 boxes, 25 volumes, 1 file).
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • At the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth many thousands of Jews, mainly from eastern Europe, emigrated to Britain as conditions at home made it difficult for them to practise their religion freely. Some immigrants became transmigrants and travelled on to the United States, South America and Africa. Many of the migrants were very poor and had little knowledge of English. Little however was done by the Anglo-Jewish community to welcome them or to provide any charitable relief. With some notable exceptions Anglo-Jewish leaders rather wished the immigrants would move on or return to their original homes.

    An institution with the name "Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter" was opened in Church Lane in the spring of 1885 by Simon Cohen (sometimes known as Simha Becker) to provide a refuge for the homeless, the jobless and immigrants from the docks. The Jewish Board of Guardians had this shelter closed down for being insanitary soon afterwards. However, many people protested at this and a public meeting was held at the Jewish Working Men's Club. The idea of reopening the shelter attracted three wealthy and influential Jews, Hermann Landau (a Polish immigrant of 1864), Ellis Franklin and Samuel Montagu. Hermann Landau advocated " institution in which newcomers, having a little money, might obtain accommodation and the necessaries they required at cost price, and where they would receive useful advice." (Jewish Chronicle, May 15 1885).

    In October 1885 the Shelter re-opened with the aim of helping immigrants, but not encouraging immigration. It gave aid only to immigrants in the form of shelter for 14 days and 2 meals a day (3 meals from 1897). Inmates were required to pay what they could afford for their keep and there was a labour test. As well as staff to run the Shelter, representatives of the Shelter would meet ships coming into dock in order to assist and protect the newly arrived immigrants who were vulnerable to waterfront thieves and fraudsters. In due course the police and port authorities took over these responsibilities. Transmigrants were helped to buy steamship tickets and get their currency changed. The Shelter was run primarily to help Jews but has always assisted small numbers of non-Jews. The name of the Shelter was changed to "Jews' Temporary Shelter" in the early 1900s.

    The Shelter helped thousands of people every year: nearly 5,000 in 1903 - 1904 for example and over 8,000 in 1938 - 1939. Up until 1939 the majority of residents at the Shelter generally came from eastern Europe. Refugees came from Belgium during the First World War. German and Austrian Jews came in the 1930s. Between 1940-1943 the Shelter provided temporary housing for people who had lost their homes in the bombing of the east end of London. The Shelter's building in Mansell Street (headquarters from 1930) was requisitioned by the War Department for housing American troops in 1943, but the organisation continued to provide an advisory service. Help was given to people trying to trace lost relatives immediately after the war and temporary homes to refugees from the countries formerly occupied by Germany and her allies in Europe.

    Most residents in the post-war period came from eastern countries such as Egypt, India, Aden and Iran. By the 1960s the Shelter had started to help people find jobs and assisted in liaising with the Home Office on questions of nationality. There was also an advisory committee for the admission of Jewish ecclesiastical officers which made applications to the Home Office for the admission of clerics and talmudic students. A Luncheon Club and Kosher Meals on Wheels service were other facilities developed by the Shelter.
Creator: Jews' Temporary Shelter x Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • Deposited in two accessions, in 1998 and 1999.
  • B99/018
  • B98/203
Access Restrictions: access by written permission only
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: The archive has been sorted as follows:
Committees LMA/4184/01;
Administration LMA/4184/02;
Residents LMA/4184/03;
Finance LMA/4184/04.
Publication Notes:

For further information please consult the LMA Information Leaflet No. 16: "Records of the Anglo-Jewish Community at London Metropolitan Archives"; available to download here: (URL correct Feb 2010).

Content Note:
Searched as part of the Pensions Research Guide Project, collection contains no pensions material 6 February 2012.