The Duke of Wellington's Mistake
DURING THE LATE SUMMER OF 1830, the police were called in to deal with some curious cases. In August a fire broke out at the shop of a pawnbroker in Berwick Street, Soho, which consumed not only the shop but its entire stock of pledges belonging to the poor of a densely inhabited district. Before the site was handed over to the builders, an auction of the half-burned pledges dug out of the rubbish was held, and since it was supposed that no one but Jewish dealers would attend, all others were excluded, including the poor people to whom the pledges belonged.
There was at the time no marked anti-Semitic feeling among the poor in London, but the patent injustice of excluding owners of the pledges from the sale fired the mob. The auction had scarcely begun when the place was surrounded by hundreds of people of both sexes waiting for the Jews to come out with their purchases. No sooner did the first Jew make his appearance than he was set upon by the crowd, chiefly by the women, and despoiled of what he had bought. The news was carried inside; a panic seized the Jews, who burst out of the ruined shop and ran for their lives, with the Christians yelling behind them. Some made their escape, but others took shelter in the first open house that presented itself. In one house in Wardour Street a regular siege was opened by the pursuers, who demanded the surrender of half a dozen fugitive Jews. The women attacked