A History of the Preston Jewish Community

~ author John Cowell


John Cowell has mined the Jewish Chronicle online archives, local and national newspapers, local directories, birth, death and marriage records, and some of the surviving archives of the Preston Hebrew Congregation, all of them after the 1930s. Many of the early Jewish residents, and regular visitors, were dentists, one of whom was in the town for over thirty years. There were also, in the 19th century, opticians, pedlars and hawkers (some of them spectacularly boastful about their wares), clothiers, and jewellers. From 1881 onwards a larger trickle of Jewish settlers arrived, many of them in the drapery and tailoring trades, but also a bicycle dealer, a glazier, and eventually, from the late 1920s, a set of doctors who made this rather an unusual small community. Further increase in numbers came in the 1930s and Second World War with the arrival of refugees from Continental Europe and from British cities, but after the War numbers declined, and with them the range of activities that could be undertaken, not to mention opportunities for work and marriage, and the availability of kosher food. The synagogue closed, and people moved away, as improved access to universities and the professions made movement in the pursuit of good jobs easy.

There is a full bibliography, appendices give a breakdown of where people came from, and where they went on to, their occupations in Preston, and the population in the 1911 census. The set of short biographies of members of the community is an outstanding feature of the book, filling out details of members of the Goodman and Goldberg families, the Lewises and Schwalbes, as well as others less well known The author has deliberately set out to be inclusive, particularly of Jewish people who were not members of the Congregation, as well as of those who were. The book is more than 220 pages long, with illustrations and some tables.

Available in paperback at £9.99 + £1 post and packing,
or as a CD, at £5.25 + £1 post and packing
from the author John Cowell
email: jcowellnix AT yahoo.com


  1. Jo Higginson

    Hello John
    I am in Australia and would love to buy a copy of your book. I saw the shul – in disrepair and in danger of demolition, on a visit to Preston this time last year. My dad, Bob Higginson, lived on Cadogan Place and served as a Shabbos Goy and odd jobber at shul in the late 1940s (we have Russian Jewish ancestry but no connection to Judaism since my great grandfather disappeared during WWI). Dad had a funny story – I don’t know how true it was. One Saturday he ran into a rabbi parking his car. That week the rabbi gave him extra money. The following week my dad deliberately walked past that spot at the same time and offered to look after the car (as kids in Avenham did at that time). His services were no longer required and he lost his first job! My grandmother said it was a lesson to him – always do research on your employer! Regards Jo

  2. John Cowell

    Thanks, Deborah, for your comments. I did try to make contact with Theo, but it was difficult because he was so busy. The web page I mentioned in the sources for the short biography of your father was very interesting, and worth looking at, if it is still there. Vimeo also has a short video of your late father talking about the past, at

    – my apologies for underestimating the number of his children. And there is an obituary of him at this page:
    http://www.international-brigades.org.uk/IBMT%202007_1.pdf – sorry if you’ve already found those, but just in case…You must be very proud of him.
    Best wishes,
    John Cowell

  3. Ellis

    I have just been forwarded a copy of the page concerning my family Singer.

    My late father Conrad Singer (Huna Zingher) with my late mother Lily Singer (nee Marks from Hull) ran a chain of 15 shops in Lancashire including 4 in Preston. We were 4 children Judith, Raquel, Deborah and Theo. Diane was Theo’s wife.

    Thank you

    Deborah Ellis

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