Nitza Spiro Hebrew Studies

Registered Charity No 1070926


Born and brought up in the East End, when it was buzzing with Jewish life and activity, both Dr David Ryde and his wife Marian (born as Miriam) went back with the Spiro Ark walking tour on a 'memory lane trip'.

Each street corner evoked forgotten tales, telling the rest of the group about their own experiences as kids, teenagers and young courting couple (while babysitting for a relative) which gave a vivid extra dimension to the rest of the exploring group.

Dr Ryde repeatedly mentioned how emotional it was for him after scores of years to visit places of his family residence, family owned shops and memories of the colourful life they had led there.

My wife Marian was born in Mother Levy's Maternity Home in 1938 and I was born above Nordheim's the baker shop in Petticoat Lane in 1928. Previously we have joined several such East End tours and found them nostalgic and helpful in recalling childhood memories.

The group was to meet where Old Broad Street joins Liverpool Street facing the station entrance.

In the forecourt of the station we saw a large bronze monument of a group of children and adults with their luggage recalling the arrival in 1938-1939 of the 10,000 Kindertransport children - a moving experience for us.

Our party, which sadly was composed of only six people, including the guide Manuela Rathaus, now set out on its 2 1/2 hour journey into the past. It was immediately evident that much of the old East End has vanished with replacements and new buildings everywhere. I recalled that in the old days traffic volume was modest and horses and their droppings littered every street. That has now disappeared but the density of motorised traffic was now intense.

Slowly, we walked along Middlesex Street recollecting old memories. We stopped at the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane where Machzike Hadas Shul had once been. This was originally a Huguenot Church and currently is a Mosque. Then into Brick Lane where my father, one of 14 children, was born in 1894 at no. 50, then a hardware shop. He and 2 brothers slept on bales of straw in the cellar while other sibs slept on the shop counter.

We reminisced outside the old Shul in Sandy's Row, the site of the old Whitechapel Bell Foundry, past the former Bloom's restaurant, Fieldgate Street Synagogue and on to Nelson Street Great Synagogue [where they still hold services] and the Yiddish Theatre in Commercial Road. En route we viewed the rebuilt Rowton House, originally a home for vagrants in Fieldgate Street. This was immediately opposite where my paternal grandparents [Booba and Zaida] lived in a tiny basement flat. We then past Fieldgate Mansions where Marian's oldest friend once lived. We saw the back of the now Royal London Hospital where Marian grew up and lived till we got married.

We saw the Old Soup Kitchen which helped feed many of the East-End poor - there was once 100,000 Jews in the East End, now there are just 4,000 with only a couple of functioning Synagogues.

The East End, being close to the Docks, was once heavily populated with refugees. Originally there were Huguenots, then the Irish, next came the Jews from eastern Europe. Now the East End is populated by Bangladeshis in their traditional dress.

We terminated the tour admiring lots of architecture in Leman Street. Manuela pointed out where the Alie Street Synagogue used to be near Half Moon Passage.

After thanking Manuela at Aldgate East Station we said our goodbyes and went on our way.