London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......

Site map of my personal journey through the Jewish East End of London


Remembering the Ruda family - 'landed Jewish gentry' from North West London and owners of Ruda's wet fish shop, 16 Wentworth Street, London E1 - by Ruth E, great granddaughter of Harris Ruda - founder of the business.

"My mother Evelyn was born into a beautiful world, which was rare for a Jewish girl in the early 1900s.  Her parents were part of a large Orthodox family who originated in Poland.  Her grandfather - Harris Ruda - had 9 sons, all of whom ran the very famous Ruda’s Wet Fish Shop in "Petticoat Lane" (Wentworth Street, East London). Her parents and all the brothers and their wives lived on a country estate called Sky Peals owned by my Great-Grandparents Harris and Pearl Ruda.  The estate was in Highams Park on the edge of Epping Forest, North East London.  How unusual was that for an East End Jewish immigrant family?

Great Grandfather Harris was autocratic and eccentric.  He had so many children and so many grandchildren that he frequently took himself out to his apple orchard - where he had built a summerhouse - and slept there, together with, I am told, a very "friendly and accommodating" maid from among the workers on the estate.  My mother remembered the bed in the summer house as it had a huge purple satin eiderdown.  His sons (when they lived at home) and of whom he sometimes despaired, had a habit of sneaking down the staircase in the night, past all the very large oil paintings on the stairs, and drinking his whisky.  He cured them - he replaced the whisky with, well, urine......that was the end of that!  Mother grew up on Sky Peals Estate with all her relatives and cousins and remembered the amusing occasion her grandfather bought a caravan and took them through the leafy lanes for a holiday.  Unfortunately, the caravan got stuck under the first bridge it came too!   There was a carp pool in the grounds that he stocked for fishing and my mother told me of his fury when all the village boys caught his fish and scrumped his apples when all he could catch was a cold! She remembered parties and running in and out of cousins’ houses, picnics and summer days - never cold grey days.  She also remembered the private synagogue her grandfather built in the grounds of the estate.  Grandfather Harris is a memory now, a sepia photograph of a white whiskered gentleman with a gold topped cane. Grandmother Pearl is also a memory - a beautiful, small waisted woman (even after all those children!) wearing lots of lace with piled up hair topped with a huge feathered hat.  All is now gone. I only have one relative remaining who can remember those days, and he always smiles and smiles when asked about Sky Peals.  And Sky Peals now? I am told there is a road there named after the estate. The orchards are built over and the landscape has changed.  I have some relics from the house in the form of huge china platters for gigantic meals but nothing more."

Ruth E, London 2003

Double click the photos below to enlarge

Pearl & Harris Ruda of Ruda's Wet Fish Shop, Wentworth Street, (Petticoat Lane), London E1, photographed in approx 1890

Harris Ruda, (photographed approx 1890) of Ruda's Wet Fish Shop

What is so incredible about these photographs is my grandfather in his full lounge suit with waistcoat, sweater, collar and tie, which would have been worn under his white working coat. He had on his usual grey trilby which in the summer was replaced by his habitual Panama hat.  I remember these coats, absolutely caked with fish scales and dried blood because a lot of the fish were freshwater carp and bream and they lived in giant tanks at the back of the shop

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