A rare early collection of silver religious ornaments from the Plymouth Hebrew Congregations synagogue built in 1762, the oldest built by Ashkenazi Jews in the English-speaking world will be sold by Bonhams
on 25th November.
This earliest and rarest set of silver prayer instruments is estimated to sell for £50,000 to £60,000. The collection includes the earliest known set of English Jewish ritual instruments ever to come up for auction. A number of these rare items used to decorate the Old Testament scrolls known as the Torah were made by Exeter silversmiths.
Nicholas Shaw, Head of Silver at Bonhams in London says: A Jewish community was present in Plymouth by the mid 18th century, and were known to have been meeting regularly for services by 1745. Plans to build a synagogue had begun by 1759. The members were immigrants, primarily from the German lands and the Netherlands.
Charles Lanning, Bonhams Regional Director in Devon, based in Exeter, says: This is an amazing piece of local history, the link between Exeter silversmiths and the oldest Jewish place of worship in the English speaking world right on our doorstep is very exciting. We are delighted to be entrusted with the sale of this remarkable material.
A superb provincial Torah shield made in Exeter c 1765 by Jason Holt and William Pearse add greatly to the significance of this Collection. The estimate is £4,000 to £6,000. This Torah shield seems to be the earliest example from the West Country and its design has not been noted previously.
Nicholas Shaw adds: The Torah pointer is another ritual ornament used in Jewish prayer and Bonhams is fortunate to be able to offer a matching Torah pointer made at the same time as the pair of silver rimmonim, making this the earliest and rarest set of English ritual Torah furnishings to have come up for auction.
There are two Torah pointers, made in Exeter, the first by Simon Levi in 1802, the second, by Simon Harris in 1814.
In the collection there are many other examples of silver rimmonim made in London between 1913-1931 with interesting inscriptions relating to the Plymouth Hebrew Congregation. A good 20th Century Torah shield made in London in 1918 and other 19th and 20th Century Torah pointers are also being sold.
The sale of Judaica is just part of a larger collection of silver coming up for sale in Bonhams Fine Silver sale at 11am on November 25th.