A Singing Lesson at the Jews' Free School (1908). Courtesy of the Jews' Free School [School's own website]

A brilliant pupil at University College School in Bloomsbury, Moses Angel overcame a family scandal (his father had been transported for robbery) to become the revered Headmaster of the large Jews' Free School in the East End. This grew to an astounding 2,400 pupils by 1870. Indeed, according to Gerry Black, it would eventually top 4,000 under Angel's leadership, becoming probably the largest school in the world. Matthew Arnold, in his role as Schools' Inspector, was greatly impressed by it. When Picard shows Angel at the roadside, picnicking with his army of pupils after a school outing to the British Museum and the Surrey Zoological Gardens, we too pause to admire this man who did so much to integrate immigrant Jewish children into the mainstream of English society.

According to Lucien Wolf’s “The Jews in London,”

The great glory of the London Jewish community centres in its schools. Of these there are a round dozen all remarkable for their efficiency. The Jews' Free School is, the largest and most successful elementary school in the country. It is the principal Anglicising element among the foreign Jews in the East End, whose children are mostly educated there. The number of its pupils is over 3,000, and its pass average at the Government examinations during the last few years has been over 98 per cent. Remarkable as this average may appear, it is not exceptional in the Jewish community, and has been more than once excelled by other Jewish Free Schools. Many of the synagogues have attached to them Sabbath classes for instruction in Hebrew and religion. There is also a seminary in which Jewish ministers are trained. It should be added that the London Jews support three weekly English newspapers and a quarterly review, which are conducted with considerable ability, and play a useful part in the intellectual and spiritual as well as in the administrative progress of the community. [604]

Related Material


Black, Gerry. "Angel, Moses (1817-1898)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Viewed 15 April 2007. (Black is the author of The History of the Jews' Free School since 1732 (1998) to which Picard refers).

Jackson, Lee. A Dictionary of Victorian London: An A-Z of the Great Metropolis. London: Anthem Press, 2006. 338 + xiii pp. £12.99. ISBN 1 84331 230 1.

Picard, Liza. Victorian London: The Life of a City, 1840-1870. London: Phoenix, pbk ed. 2006. 444 pp. with 45 illustrations, including two maps. £8.99.

White, Jerry. London in the Nineteenth Century: "A Human Awful Wonder of God." London: Cape, 2007. 624pp. with 35 illustrations and 17 maps. £20.00.

Wolf, Lucien. “The Jews in London.” 40 (16 November 1889): 599-604. Hathi Trust online version of a copy in the New York Public Library. Web. 17 July 2021.

Created 30 April 2006

Last modified 18 July 2021