Richmond & South West London
© Marcus Roberts


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The first known Jew in Richmond was Solomon Medina in 1697. He was an exceptionally rich Dutch Jew with wide financial interests as a banker and merchant. He was also particularly involved in large army contracts and was of some considerable help to the government of the day. He was also a significant financial supporter to Bevis Marks synagogue. He lived close to what is now Richmond Bridge, but what was at that stage Richmond Ferry.

The attraction of the town for Medina, and those who followed him, was doubtlessly its historic royal associations - with the remains of Richmond Palace. There were also many delectable houses and minor aristocratic seats near the picturesque windings of the River Thames. Importantly these houses and estates were frequently available for lease as was the custom of the day. What was more some properties were also available for freehold purchase - an invaluable investment for those who wanted a more permanent stake among the landed classes.

Medina's arrival coincided almost exactly with the creation of Richmond as a spa town. Once the wells were discovered and the spa quickly established on Richmond Hill, high society flocked to the place to take the waters and attend the entertainment's provided at spa. Most people who were of any note (and indeed many who wanted to be of note) came to the spa to socialise and to participate in the latest intrigues and to take away the most recent and juicy morsels of gossip back to town. Jews who lived at Richmond might be categorized as "spa" Jews, whereas many of their poorer provincial cousins might be typified as "port" Jews as so many of the provincial settlements were around ports of importance in the Napoleonic Wars. The presence of the spa no doubt explains the concentration of Jews in Richmond in particular and in greater numbers than the surrounding area.

Contemporary writers summon up an image of a lively, even risque society in the town. A burlesque poem entitled, "Aesop at Richmond, recovered of his late illness...", describes Richmond's spa society thus in 1696.

"Hither great Gentry do resort,
from City, Country, Town and Court;
Nay some from Holland, Spain and France,
and in promiscuous Order dance;
The place no difference do's afford
Between the Apprentice and the Lord."

Medina's stay in Richmond was met with royal recognition in 1699, when the king dropped into see him for dinner. One year later Medina gained his knighthood - a fact that would not have gone unnoticed among his peers. Other rich Sephardim came in this period in sufficient numbers for their presence to be noted as part of a local social phenomenon.

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