Doctor Hans Leo Lehmann, Ph.D., F.R.I.C.
(1907-1992)


The Residential Copyholds of Epsom
The Residential Copyholds of Epsom:
From the Records of the Manor of Ebbisham, 1663-1925
Photograph courtesy of Hazel Ballan

Dr. H. L. Lehmann's book The Residential Copyholds of Epsom: From the Records of the Manor of Ebbisham, 1663-1925, which was published by Epsom & Ewell Borough Council in 1987, has often been referred to by other researchers of this website but nothing has been written here about this remarkable man who had a love of music, literature, history and was very well informed of Jewish scholarship. He became a highly respected local historian and expert speaker on the history of Epsom. He was an author in his own right and edited The Journal of William Schellinks´ Travels in England 1661-1663 with Maurice Exwood.

He also became the first leader of the Epsom Jewish community and founder of the Epsom and District Synagogue.

Dr. Hans Leo Lehmann
Dr. Hans Leo Lehmann
Photograph courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Hans Leo Lehmann was born into an orthodox Jewish family on 26 October 1907 in Nuremberg, Germany, the eldest of three sons born to Felix Lehmann (1882-1967) and Metha Lehmann, nee Lewin (1880-1974). His parents eventually left Germany and settled in Israel. After studying chemistry in Heidelberg and gaining his doctorate, Hans Leo worked as an assistant in the Institute of Physical Chemistry and the Institute of Technology in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. In 1933, with the coming to power of Hitler and the Nazi government with their persecution of Jews, Hans Leo, like thousands of other Jews across Europe, made the decision to leave his job, his family and Germany and settle in England. Even so, as a Jewish scientist, his name remained on the Nazis' wanted hit list.

Settling in Golders Green, the heart of Jewish London, he became a researcher for a year in University College, London. It was then he met his future wife Ellen Haas (1906-1999), a fellow Jewish refugee who had fled Germany at around the same time as Hans Leo. After their engagement was announced in the magazine The Israelite on 23 August 1934, they married on 1 January 1935 in their synagogue in Golders Green. (See www.british-history.ac.uk for more information about the history of London's synagogues)

Hans Leo and Ellen's engagement announcement
Hans Leo and Ellen's engagement announcement
The Israelite 23 August 1934

Postcard of Golders Green Synagogue c.1960
Postcard of Golders Green Synagogue c.1960
Courtesy of Stephanie Comfort www.jewishpostcardcollection.com

In the autumn of 1936 a book about displaced German scholars, including Hans Leo, was published in London. It reported that Dr. Hans Leo Lehmann had a good understanding of the English, French and Italian languages and that his special fields were physical chemistry, photochemistry and optical activity, as well as listing his former German places of employment.

Hans Leo was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry (F.R.I.C.), and set himself up as a consulting analytical chemist in his own laboratory in Stamford Hill, North London. Hans Leo was instrumental in applications for five UK patents between 1932 and 1945. Two in particular related to glue and were held jointly with Max Sondheimer, who owned Sondal Glue, a glue manufacturing plant neighbouring Hans Leo´s laboratory in Stamford Hill. Max was also a refugee from Nazi oppression; he and his family had come to England in 1937 from Stuttgart, where his family had run their glue-manufacturing factory since 1830. Hans Leo and Max's collaboration continued and in the early 1950s, as the chip board industry was developing and growing in the UK, Hans Leo joined Sondal Glue as their full time consulting chemist, the position he held until his retirement in the mid 1970s.

Hans Leo and Ellen had four children, Hannah, Hermann, Rose and Jonathan. Their first child Hannah was born in 1935, their second, Hermann Peter, in 1937 followed by Rose in 1940. Shortly after Rose's birth, Hans Leo and Ellen moved with their three children from North-West London to Woodcote Road, Epsom, Surrey and settled into a three bed semi-detached house which they named "Cranmere". This became the Lehmann family home for the next 56 years. Hans Leo and Ellen's youngest child, Jonathan Michael, was born in Epsom in 1948.

In 1941, Hans Leo opened their new home as the first regular meeting place for the small Epsom Jewish community. The following appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, page 25, on 30 May 1941:
"It will interest readers living in Epsom, Ewell, or district that regular services have been established at Epsom. The first was held on Saturday last at a private house and was attended by 15 people. Future services will be held at Church House, Church Street, Epsom, on Saturday mornings at 9.30. On Shavuot services will be held on Saturday evening at 9, on Sunday morning at 9.15, and evening at 9, and on Monday morning at 9.15. - H.L. LEHMANN, "Cranmere", Woodcote Rd., Epsom, Surrey."
For a while the Epsom Jewish community held their meetings in Church House, Church Street but also started in 1944 holding their High Holy Day services in the Congregational Lecture Hall in Upper High Street.

During the early 1950s, the Epsom Jewish community were also holding some of their meetings in the Foresters' Hall in Waterloo Road. Eventually Hans Leo, as the President and Secretary of the local Jewish community, started to negotiate terms to lease the Bugby Chapel in Prospect Place, which was being vacated by the local Baptists in favour of their new chapel being built in Dorking Road. Eventually in 1954 Hans Leo was able to purchase, on behalf of his community, the freehold of this property and, when consecrated by Dayan Dr. M. Lew, the chapel was renamed the Epsom and District Synagogue. The following appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, page 21, on 29 October 1954:
"EPSOM SYNAGOGUE CONSECRATED - Former Baptist Chapel. The Epsom and District Synagogue was recently consecrated by Dayan Dr. M. Lew. The synagogue, at Prospect Place, was formerly a Baptist chapel and renovations were undertaken by members of the community in a voluntary capacity.
The consecration was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Epsom and Ewell, and the Vicar of Epsom. Dayan Dr. Lew referred to the hospitality of the Gentile clergy who had helped the Epsom community to find accommodation for their services in the past. Regular services on Sabbaths and Holy-days have been held at Epsom since May, 1941, and religious instruction has been given to the children."
By 1966 Epsom's Jewish community numbered around 50 people and at least half of them were attending the Epsom and District Synagogue. Peter, Hans Leo's son, has very kindly donated this photograph, dated September 1970, of the inside of the Epsom and District Synagogue.

Epsom And District Synagogue
Epsom And District Synagogue
Photograph courtesy of Peter Lehmann

He explains: "The cabinet up against the wall is the "ark" where the Torah scrolls are kept. I think the Epsom community had four Torah scrolls. These contain, handwritten on parchment, the first five books of the Old Testament (five books of Moses). The ark is situated on the eastern wall of the synagogue - the direction of Jerusalem. Hanging in front of the ark is a permanently light lamp to commemorate the eternal flame in the biblical temples in Jerusalem. The candelabra, next to the ark, is a menorah - used during the festival of Chanukah in December. The seats next to the ark were used by the Rabbi or community leaders during the services. My father never used these seats himself, preferring to sit with the congregation. Also, in front of one of these seats was a small podium used by the Rabbi and others to address the congregation. In the early years of the community they even had a Rabbi serving the community. But as the numbers declined after the war the services were led by some of the congregants. The platform in the centre of the synagogue (called the bimah) faces the ark and was used by the person conducting the services (my father and other members of the congregation). During the Saturday services one of the Torah scrolls was placed on the table at the centre of the platform for the weekly reading. Prayers and readings are said facing east (towards Jerusalem). Also, the seats and the lumber for the platforms were "recycled" from a disused (bombed?) synagogue in the East End of London. They were retrieved, brought to Epsom and installed by members of the congregation."

As mentioned before, Hans Leo had a keen interest in history, architecture and literature. Following his retirement he took up collecting and organizing the information that led to the publication of The Residential Copyholds of Epsom: From the Records of the Manor of Ebbisham, 1663-1925.

The Manor of Ebbisham manuscript - Click image to enlarge
The Manor of Ebbisham manuscript - Click image to enlarge
Courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

In 1975, combining his knowledge as a chemist and his interest in history, he wrote The history of Epsom Spa, which was published in the Surrey Archaeological Collections that same year. It was while preparing this monograph that he met Maurice Exwood, another local historian interested in the Epsom Well. It was their shared interests and close friendship, which lasted until Hans Leo's death, that lead the two friends into collaborating with the translation of The Journal of William Schellink´s travels in England 1661 to 1663, which was later published by the Royal Historical Society in 1993.

Lehman titles
The Residential Copyholds of Epsom: From the Records
of the Manor of Ebbisham, 1663-1925, The History of
Epsom Spa, The Journal of William Schellink´s travels
in England 1661 to 1663.
Photograph courtesy of Hazel Ballan

Hans Leo continued to be the hands-on leading member of the diminishing Epsom and District Synagogue until his death, aged 84, in 1992. After his death, as the male membership had dwindled to nine and the female membership to only four, there were no more formal services performed in the Epsom and District Synagogue; by mid 1993 plans were made to merge the Epsom and District Synagogue with the Sutton Synagogue, which today [2013] has over 160 members.

Epsom and District Synagogue (formerly the Bugby Chapel) c.1993
Epsom and District Synagogue (formally the Bugby Chapel) c.1993
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Hazel Ballan
May 2013


Sources:
  • With thanks to Dr. H. L. Lehmann's family.
  • A Guide to Academics in Peril in Nazi Germany During the 1930s.
  • Ancestry.com
  • Jewish Chronicle
  • www.movinghere.org.uk
  • Non-scientific publications:
    • H. L. Lehmann. The history of Epsom Spa. Surrey Archaeological Collections, 69 (1973), 89-97.
    • H. L. Lehmann. The Residential Copyholds of Epsom 1663 to 1925. Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, 1987.
    • Maurice Exwood and H. L. Lehmann. The Journal of William Schellinks´ Travels in England 1661-1663, (Royal Historical Society: Camden Fifth Ser 1, 1993).
  • Patents held with Max Sondheimer:
    • GB544771-April 27, 1942: Wood waste, preferably a mixture of particles of wood shavings and sawdust is mixed with dry powdered or crushed animal glue, and then with water sufficient to swell the glue but not more than to make an extremely thick solution. The mixture is submitted to pressure and heat (90 lb. per square inch and 150 F.) preferably between sheets of veneer, paper or metal. The product is rendered waterproof by incorporating in the mixture formaldehyde or its polymers or substances which develop formaldehyde on heating, e.g. hexamin.
    • GB570811-July 24, 1945: Dry-mix glues, particularly for use with hardwood veneers, are prepared from casein together with sodium aluminate, either as the sole alkaline ingredient or with the addition of other alkalis or alkaline salts. The latter are preferably those which are able to precipitate the aluminium-containing radicle of the sodium aluminate, e.g. sodium fluoride. The pH should preferably be kept near the neutral point to prevent the glue from staining the veneers.


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