A major Jewish East End landmark is to have its post-restoration unveiling on Sunday February 26, with a series of events and distinguished speakers following a JEECS campaign that has safeguarded its future.
The drinking fountain memorial to Leonard Montefiore at Stepney Green had been derelict for many years and risked being dismantled.
Clive Bettington, JEECS chairman, writes: “I managed to get the requisite funding from the Heritage of London Trust and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets – some £14,000 in all. Tower Hamlets Council also dealt with the necessary but complex planning permission and arranged for the fountain to be linked to the main water supply.”
Programme for the unveiling on February 26
- 11 am. Walk: Jewish grandees and the East End. This walk focuses on the great families including the Montefiores, Sassoons, Rothschilds and Mocattas and their contribution to the East End. Meet at 11am at the front of Whitechapel tube station. The walk will finish at Stepney Green at about 1pm. This is a free event, but donations will be welcome.
.2. 1.30 pm Unveiling of fountain by Rabbi Julia Neuberger.
- Talk by Professor Michael Berkowitz of UCL University of London, on Claude Montefiore’s service as President of the Jewish Historical Society
- Talk by Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein on the role played by the Montefiore family and the origins of Liberal and Reform Judaism in England.
The drinking fountain was originally unveiled in 1884 at Rutland Street School to commemorate Leonard Montefiore and was moved to Stepney Green in 1939.
Leonard Montefiore was born in London on May 4, 1853, the son of Nathaniel Montefiore, who was the great nephew of the legendary Sir Moses Montefiore and the nephew of Sir Anthony Rothschild. His brother was Claude Montefiore, one of the founders of Reform Judaism.
Leonard was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was greatly influenced by Professor Benjamin Jowett, a theologian and classical scholar who became one of the great public figures of Victorian England. One of his closest friends at Oxford was the economic historian Arnold Toynbee, who died at the age of 30 and after whom Toynbee Hall in the East End is named.
Leonard wrote numerous articles for learned magazines. At the time of his death in 1879 he was working on the history of the German struggle for emancipation. He was associated with many philanthropic movements and was very supportive of the movement for women’s emancipation.
Leonard was on a visit to America when he died of “acute rheumatism” in Newport, Rhode Island, aged only 27. The New York Times gave great prominence to his funeral service at the prestigious Fifth Avenue synagogue the Temple Emanu-el in the presence of leading members of the New York Jewish community. His body was embalmed and shipped to England for burial.
His Literary Remains were published privately by his family a year after his death.
The drinking fountain is made of red and grey granite, but became covered in graffiti and parts of the structure, including the taps, had been removed. It is Grade II-listed.
The wording on it reads: “In affectionate remembrance of / Leonard Montefiore / who loved children and /whom all children loved.”