Jewish Emigration to Britain

Case Study: John (‘Jack’) Symons

John (‘Jack’) Symons was the first Jewish person to hold civic office in Hull. Born around 1824, Jack was educated at the Hull Grammar School. 

Aged 16, he became a clerk in a local steamship company, before working as a silversmith and bullion dealer, then finally as a jeweller and watchmaker at a shop in Queen Street. 

Political career: 

In 1857 Jack became a Guardian of the Poor. Six years later he joined the Town Council for Market Place Ward and in 1875 he was elected as Alderman. The Hull Critic published this description of him on 23 October 1886: ‘whether it is the fulfilling of his responsible duties as a civic magnate, the preparation of manuscripts for the press or the dispensing of private charity, Alderman Symons’ heart is in his work, and he does it well.’ 

In 1890 he was also appointed as Sheriff of Hull.

Personal interests: 

Proud of his native city, Jack lectured at the Mechanics Institute in Hull and wrote many articles, as well as several books on local history. His books include High Street, Hull, The Visitor's descriptive Guidebook to Kingston upon Hull and Hull in ye Olden Days. In 1872 he became an honorary member of the Institute of Journalists.

Jack Symons was regarded fondly by his contemporaries for caring about his fellow-citizens, whatever their religion or position in life. He died in 1907, aged 83, and is buried at Delhi Street Cemetery, Hull.


Alderman – A historic name for a senior member of a local council
Civic – Something to do with the government of a place or the local community
Contemporaries – Someone who exists at the same time as someone else
Guardian of the Poor – An official who inspected the local workhouse 
Institute – Organisation offering education
Lecture – An educational talk
Magnate – Someone with a lot of wealth and power
Silversmith – Someone who makes or repairs silver objects

Scroll down for a list of related links on this topic and see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Hull History Centre | 
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