PortCities London

The Jewish community and the port

Arrival in the port of London

Getting to London

Map of The UK
View full size imageThe main North Sea ports. © NMM

Thousands of Eastern European Jews emigrating to Brtain came through Hamburg.

Large numbers also came via Bremen, Rotterdam and other North Sea ports.

Most of these travelled on the regular steamship services between these ports.   

The 'Schwan' (1907).
View full size imageThe Schwan (1907). © NMM
One typical service was the Bremen-based Argo Line, which regularly brought small numbers of Jewish emigrants into London.



Arriving in London

'Aliens arriving at Irongate Stairs'.
View full size image'Aliens arriving at Irongate Stairs'. © NMM

Most of these steamships landed at the St Katharine Wharf or nearby.

In the early days, many immigrants were transferred into small boats and landed at Irongate Stairs, near the Tower of London. 

Having travelled in squalid, overcrowded conditions, the emigrants were usually a pitiful sight by the time they reached London.

'Just Landed'.
View full size image'Just Landed'. © NMM

The mass exodus of Eastern European Jews had created business opportunities for the shipping companies, but it also created rich pickings for unscrupulous middlemen along the way. These included border officials and agents.  

The Poor Jews' Shelter

'In the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter'.
View full size image'In the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter'. © NMM
The lucky ones went straight to the homes of friends or relatives. Some were taken to the Poor Jews' Shelter in Leman Street in Whitechapel, founded to help the new arrivals. 

The unlucky ones had to fend for themselves. They often fell prey to conmen promising them work or lodgings.


Many of those who had decided to go to America came via Britain. Most of these 'transmigrants' arrived at east coast ports such as Hull. From there they took trains to Liverpool to catch ships crossing the Atlantic.

Union-Castle liners in the East India Docks.
View full size imageUnion-Castle liners in the East India Docks, 1902. © NMM

Many of the wealthier Jews living in Britain were not keen on the mass immigration of poor Jews from Eastern Europe. Some of those arriving in London were persuaded to move on to countries within the British Empire. Many ended up re-emigrating to South Africa, and left London on a Union-Castle steamer.


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