A photograph of shop workers in Leeds relaxing in a solarium belonging to the Burton Menswear company is just one of the discoveries relating to Jewish life in Britain featured on the new Hidden Treasures website. The first shop was opened by Jewish immigrant Montague Burton in 1904 and Burton’s went on to become one of Britain’s largest chains of clothing stores. The picture was part of a bundle of photographs found amongst the Burton archive (held by West Yorkshire Archives) in an envelope labelled ‘Welfare’ and shows one of the many benefits and perks offered by the Jewish owned firm to its staff in the 1930s.
Hidden Treasures showcases and celebrates British archive collections, large and small across the UK, which hold material relating to Jews and their experiences in Britain. The website is a portal to more than 25 diverse collections held by national and government institutions including The National Archives at Kew, Liverpool Record Office (which holds the Merseyside Jewish Community Archive), Hull History Centre and the Imperial War Museum. There are also archives held by specifically Jewish oriented organisations including the Jewish History Association of South Wales, Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, The Wiener Holocaust Library, Sephardi Voices UK and the Jewish Chronicle.
Hidden Treasures also features the contemporary archive currently being created by the Board of Deputies which is collecting digital material showing how the Jewish community in Britain has responded to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The story of Jews in Britain can be found in unexpected places and archival records, in a variety of formats, which offer a fuller and more colourful picture for researchers and the general public. Now, thanks to the Hidden Treasures website, people can discover the documents, photographs and other archival materials illustrating the diverse history of the Jewish community in Britain.
The website is an initiative of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and will be launched at an online event on Sunday 26 July 2020. It will feature speakers from The National Archives, West Yorkshire archives and the Wiener Holocaust Library and chaired by Gillian Merron, Chief Executive at the Board of Deputies. No registration is necessary for the event. Just go to www.celebratingjewisharchives.org/online-events to watch the launch. You can also watch on these social media channels.
Other fascinating items include a medieval doodle in the margin of a document from 1277 regarding criminal cases in the king’s forest held by The National Archives as Kew. The sketch of ‘Aaron – son of the devil’ appears next to a case concerning killing of deer near Colchester by a gang of youths. It’s one of the earliest English images of the ‘Badge of Shame’, a kind of medieval equivalent of the yellow star.
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “This is such an important project for anybody interested in the history of our community and I’m very proud that the Board of Deputies is leading the way. I’m sure that the public will be encouraged to discover and learn much more about the story of Jews in the UK.
Dr Sean Cunningham, from The National Archives said: “The National Archives collection includes a rich and diverse range of records showing Jewish experiences in Britain over the centuries, from medieval times to the present. This material is an important part of our wider national story.”