History of Jews at Clifton

History of Jews at Clifton

Polack's House at Clifton College, founded in 1878, was the first Jewish Boarding House in an English public school.

While there is no longer a separate Jewish Boarding House at Clifton, the School continues to welcome Jewish boys and girls.

The history of the Jewish Boarding House at Clifton is closely connected to one particular family - the Polack family. This family provided four housemasters, over three generations and 89 years - the Revd Joseph Polack (1890-1923), Albert Polack (1923-1949), Philip Polack (1949-1964) and Ernest Polack (1964-1979).

The House, particularly in the early years, was also closely connected with the Anglo-Jewish Community. It attracted boys (and later girls) from the principal Jewish communities in Great Britain.

Many old Polackians have gone on to make significant contributions in their chosen walks of life - including the arts, academia, the City, business and the law. The Lord Mayor of London in 2011 (Sir Michael Bear) is an Old Polackian.

In 2005 the House closed. The Anglo-Jewish Community has changed a great deal since the last quarter of the nineteenth century and there was no longer sufficient demand to support an independent Jewish House.

Nevertheless the proud traditions that were established over the 127 year history of the House remain relevant today and the Polack's House Educational Trust seeks to promote those traditions and the values which were absorbed by generations of Jewish pupils at Clifton College. These values include:

  • An awareness of Jewish religious life and culture
  • Tolerance
  • Inter-faith engagement
  • Humanity and a concern for others
  • Education as a means to self-awareness and self-confidence


These values resonate with the values which continue to be promoted by Clifton College.


Further reading

Those who are interested in finding out more about the history of Polack's House should refer to "Dynasty - The Polack Family and the Jewish House at Clifton", by Derek Winterbottom published by The Polack's House Educational Trust in 2008. Copies are available from Clifton College.