Painting a picture

After leaving Russia[1], my great-grandparents’ path of travel would have likely taken them through Austria-Hungary or Germany to the nearest railway station whence they would have crossed Europe to a North Sea port in Germany, Holland or Belgium.  There they would have boarded a ship for England, probably travelling third class where conditions were hardly luxurious, but adequate for the two-day crossing.

Many such migrants passed through Sheffield on their way from Hull to Manchester, Liverpool and ultimately America.  Some decided to stay and set up as watchmakers, jewellers or tailors. [2]  My great-grandparents were among them.

Typical of migrants in a strange land, new arrivals often went directly to members of their own family who had already settled in England, or else to people from their village back home. [3]  The Jewish community, which grew from a base of about 60 in the 1840’s to 800 by the turn of the century, established itself in the Scotland Street and West Bar area of Sheffield, which included Shepherd Street.

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Google Maps

The map below shows part of this area as it was in 1873.  Someone has fortuitously applied a red pen to a section of the map which includes 37 Shepherd Street, Harris’ first home.  This is in the building at the intersection of Shepherd and Doncaster Streets just inside the area marked in red.  Judging by the depth of the housing footprint, number 37 may have been part of a “back to back” development and/or could equally have looked out onto a communal court.

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source: Sheffield City Council

A number of photos of the area were taken by the City Engineers Department of Sheffield Council in 1937.  Other than the addition of modern touches such as the motor car, the buildings and streetscapes look much like they would have in Harris’ first year of life.

A local shopping strip:

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Allen Street, No. 65-67 John Truswell Ltd, wholesale provision merchants (Sheffield City Council).

What some of the housing looked like from the rear:

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Elevation of wall at rear of 15-19 Doncaster Street and 43-47 Shepherd Street (Sheffield City Council)

A Victorian streetscape…with pub at the junction of the two streets:

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Nos. 43-63 Shepherd Street and (former Corner Pin P.H.) 80 -70 Allen Street (Sheffield City Council)

Did my great-grandfather enjoy a drink at the Blue Boy?  Or was the family teetotal?

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Court No. 9 Shepherd Street, wall and property between yard at the rear of the Blue Boy P.H., 41 Shepherd Street (Sheffield City Council)

The foundation stone for the former synagogue in Church Street – see below – was laid in January 1872.  Did my great-grandparents get married there?  Was Harris circumcised here?  Was the family active members of the local congregation?  Did they celebrate the high holy days and keep to Jewish customs?

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North Church Street, Nos 2-6, Talbot Chambers, St. Peter’s Close and former Jewish Synagogue, 2003 (Jean Moulson)

Is this the building in which Harris spent his first year of life?

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Shepherd Street at junction of Doncaster Street, Netherthorpe. Court No. 6, Shepherd Street at rear of properties, left. Court No. 4, under archway, right (Sheffield City Council)

I can only speculate about these things.


[1] Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire during the nineteenth century

[2]  Sheffield City Council Sheffield’s Jewish Community 2011

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8 thoughts on “Painting a picture

  1. Rose, this is fantastic. You’ve found out so much. You’ll have to go to Sheffield on a personal field trip. Well done. I’m finding the search for Harris absolutely fascinating.

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