The Gordon Riots

In 1780 London was devastated by terrible riots, instigated by Lord George Gordon against the Catholics.  More than 800 people died and much of the city was destroyed.  Fires broke out as Catholic chapels were attacked, the prisons were broken into and the prisoners released.  Lord George, an unstable Scottish peer, was arrested.  He converted to Judaism, and ended his days in Newgate as an orthodox Jew.

The History of the English Garden

This talk covers the development of the garden in England from the coming of the Romans to present day designs.  The founding of the great monasteries continued the tradition of gardening, supported by the medieval small formal gardens for the wealthy aristocrats of the time.  Tudor gardens surrounded the grand homes of nobles such as Bess of Hardwick, to be followed in the eighteenth century by the great landscape gardeners such as Capability Brown.  Victorian England saw the activities of the plant hunters bringing exotic plants home from the east and the designs of the great gardeners such as Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson.  In our own day small suburban gardens have come into their own to make gardening the fastest-growing hobby in the country.

The Story of Cliffords Tower

The Jews living in England before the expulsion of 1290 were oppressed by the nobles who owed them money.  The Jews of York, to escape the marauding crowds, shut themselves into the keep of the castle.  But the onslaught was so vicious that they thought it better to take their own lives than fall into the hands of their attackers.  This story gives an account of the situation of the Jews in England in the 12th century and the tragic developments at York.

English Books and Book Collectors

A review of the situation regarding books in England before the coming of printing is followed by the advent of Caxton and early printed books.  Then follows a discussion of the Renaissance and the Reformation, including the influence of Shakespeare.  Book illustration from wood engravings to lithography and computer reproduction are examined, together with bindings (leather, vellum, cloth, and paper) .  Then come the first paperbacks and finally reading online and the Kindle.  Is there a future for the printed book?

The Board of Deputies of British Jews

This is an account of the history and development of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of the Anglo-Jewish community.  The foundation of the Board in 1760 led to disputes over the inclusion of progressive Jews in this country, problems of marriage registration and the religious and political influences brought to bear on its administration.  The talk will include a review of how Deputies are elected, the committees which handle its day-to-day work and the problems it faces for the future.

Elizabethan England

After a brief account of how it was that the young Elizabeth came to the throne comes a review of some of the main events of her reign, such as the Armada and her relationship with Mary Queen of Scots.  There will be a discussion of the Queen’s character and the question of her marriage, followed by a look at the flowering of literature during her reign, as well as developments in art, architecture and music.  Finally an examination of the lives of ordinary Englishmen, their home comforts, and how the different levels of society came together in their affection for the monarch.

Sir Moses Montefiore

A member of the Anglo-Jewish ‘cousinhood’, Sir Moses made his fortune on the Stock Exchange, devoting his life to improving the conditions of his fellow Jews at home and abroad.  With his beloved wife Judith he travelled to the Holy Land and set up  the forerunners of the Kibbutzim.  He was responsible for saving the lives of Syrian Jews imprisoned on the grounds of ‘blood libel’, and interceded with the Pope over the abduction and conversion of a Jewish child in Italy.  He died at the age of 100 much mourned by his contemporaries.