Skip to content

Aubrey Goldsmith of Shoreditch

May 28, 2011
by the gentle author

Aubrey Goldsmith sits poised in tremulous expectation at the bottom left of this Rochelle School photograph of 1934, ready to reach out and grasp his future – or, as he puts it quite simply, “I was desperate to get on.” Yet the personal trajectory of Aubrey’s life must be set against the extraordinary perspective of his family’s presence in the East End, because Aubrey’s ancestors first came here in the early seventeenth century from Portugual via Holland – and his own story exists as both coda and culmination of their history.

At Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London where records of marriages since the time Oliver Cromwell re-admitted the Jews to England in 1656 are preserved, Aubrey can trace fifteen generations of his family. “The Belinfantes, they were Bankers, Religious Ministers, Lawyers and Courtiers of the Dutch court – but we have gone down hill a little since then,” he admitted to me with a crooked smile. And, as evidence of the social decline of his aristocratic forebears, Aubrey cites his grandfather who grew up as one of eleven children in a couple of rooms in Tilly St off Whites Row, with one of the daughters recorded in the 1860 census as an umbrella maker by profession at eleven and a half years old.

Recent ancestors remain present for Aubrey and, even though they may have died years ago, these characters spring into life when he speaks of them. Aubrey will tell you about his grandmother Sarah Belinfante, a draper in Redchurch St who enjoyed a pint of Guinness and a cigar at McCanns with her sister Edith, much to the disapproval of more recent East European Jewish immigrants. Aubrey will also tell you how Sarah set up a tally business collecting money weekly from the girls in the cigarette factories, paying for towels and sheets from her drapers shop to make their trousseaux – an endeavour that preceded the modern credit industry. Aubrey will tell you about his grandfather Raphael Goldsmith, a modest clerk at the Stock Exchange who invested in rubber shares in 1900, became the proprietor of the London Rubber Company, built a factory on the North Circular and was responsible for bringing the first Indian workers to Southall. Aubrey will tell you about his uncle known as “Kid Millions,” reputed to be the highest-earning taxi driver of all time. Aubrey will tell you about his father’s cousins, a Portuguese family by the name of Elboz, who were once famed gangsters in Petticoat Lane, until their snooker hall was closed down by the police in the nineteen seventies.

Lowering his voice, Aubrey will then tell that you his father Samuel, one of the first pupils at Rochelle School in 1902, used to line up with the other neighbourhood boys to watch Prince Edward arrive at the Blue Anchor, a notorious boxing booth and brothel at the corner of Chance St  – where the prince had a weekly appointment with a whore who gave him VD, that he passed on to Princess Alexandra. And nearby was the church in Old Nichol St – he will also tell you – with the famous priest, Father Jay who regularly used to lay his hand on Samuel’s head and curse him as a Jew.

Aubrey had plenty to live up to, but he proved himself worthy of his ancestors – achieving success that took him away from the East End, yet fulfilling the aspirations of his forebears magnificently.

“I was born in Shoreditch in 1928 and my father was the number one tic-tac in Britain, the only one that ever saw a hundred pounds a day in the nineteen twenties,” revealed Aubrey, introducing his story with pride, “But he had two children that died, my brother and sister that I never saw, and he swore that money was unlucky and he gave it up and became a taxi driver, and after that he only earned enough money for our food and clothes.

We lived on the Boundary Estate and I was a pupil at the Rochelle School and, in 1939, Peter Moore and myself took a scholarship exam for two places at the Coopers’ Company School, along with two hundred others, and we were both successful. But then the war began and I was evacuated to Helston and didn’t come back until 1942. I went to Coopers’ Company School in Tredegar Sq when I was fifteen but my education was destroyed. I wanted to be a doctor and you had to have Latin but the classics teacher had been called up.

So, at the end of 1943, unknown to my parents, I left school, I managed to get employment cards at Penton St Labour Office and took a job with a firm of chartered accountants. Even though I was only sixteen, I did tax computations and final accounts for some very important clients. My parents didn’t want me to leave school, but I had to tell them eventually and my father didn’t speak to me in quite a while. One of things I did in my job was to play snooker every Saturday morning with Tommy Trinder – “if it’s laughter you’re after, Trinder’s the name” – because I could play snooker and he liked snooker and  he was a client of my boss. He invested all his money and owned half of Sydney.

I was playing soccer with some quite wealthy boys when I was picked for the English Jewish eleven to play in France in 1948, and one of them introduced me to people in my future trade which I knew nothing about then. I saw there was a lot of money in selling furniture on behalf of the manufacturing trade as an agent. After two years, I broke through and got an agency, and then for four or five years I was reputed to be the highest paid agent in the country. And I moved to Scotland where I enjoyed another very successful seven years as chairman of two public companies, and my accountancy skills proved to be a big help. Then I retired at fifty to travel with my late wife, we met some very important people both socially and in my work – we dined with Pierre Trudeau and Imelda Marcos.”

Aubrey Goldsmith left Shoreditch a long time ago, yet when when I asked him if he still has a relationship with the East End he looked at me in surprise, turning suddenly emotional and launching into this eulogy, full of tenderness, and searching for words to complete a story that eludes conclusion.

“I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in the East End. You mix with a lot and it teaches you humility. There’s many a friendship that has endured. It taught me that I could mix with anybody. I am a freeman of the City of London. I consider being a Londoner is quite something. My kids only knew affluence, they only knew two bathrooms, while I went to the public bathhouse when I was child. After school I worked every day, knocking up mirror frames to sell. My parents were never very wealthy or very educated but they were good parents, we were very lucky. I bought my father a house in Cockfosters but he would never move into it. I used to put him in my Rolls Royce and he was relieved to get back to the East End.”

Sarah and Ethel Belinfante, 1912

Cambridge & Bethnal Green Boys’ Club Summer Camp 1943 – Aubrey stands in the centre

Samuel Goldsmith (1895 – 1981) The number one tic-tac in the nineteen twenties.

Aubrey’s Portuguese cousins, the Elboz family, were gangsters who ran a snooker hall until the police closed them down.

The corner of Chance St and Grimsby St where once stood the Blue Anchor – boxing booth and brothel. As a child, Aubrey’s father saw Prince Edward visit here for his weekly appointment. The new building on the site is aptly named “the dirty house.”

Aubrey Goldsmith

You may also like to read about

The Return of Joan Rose

The Return of Aubrey Silkoff

Ron Goldstein, Cambridge & Bethnal Green Boys Club

Cambridge & Bethnal Green Boys 86th Reunion Dinner

20 Responses leave one →
  1. Aubrey Silkoff permalink
    May 28, 2011

    A really fascinating story. I knew ( know) him although he doesn’t know me as I was a friend of his younger brother David, and the lore was that one didn’t associate with one’s kid brother. He (David) and I used to play in the streets and yards of the estate mentioned.

  2. RONALD FRANKEL permalink
    July 16, 2011







  3. AUBREY GOLDSMITH permalink
    July 17, 2011





  4. Alan Kane permalink
    July 25, 2011

    Having recently aquired a computer, I have been surfing the net quite a lot and completely by chance, whilst searching for another old friend, I came across your name and clicked in.

    A most interesting thumbnail sketch of your early days at the Boundary Estate, which brought back many memories to me. You will recall the I was a great pal of your brother David and we have met at recent old boys reunions of the Cambridge & Bethanl Green Boys Club.

    I trust that you are keeping well and look forward to seeing both you and David at the forthcoming reunion in September!


    Alan Kane:

  5. jonathan lamb permalink
    March 11, 2012

    dear aubrey

    i’m judy lamb’s (nee elboz’s) grandson. i came across this article very randomnly!

    perhaps you could contact me on my email so we can piece together some more of our family history!

    regards, jonathan

  6. emma chase permalink
    March 12, 2012


    I hope someone can reply to me, I have been tracing my granddads history and have just seen this site. My granddad (Peter Moore) went to Rochelle school and his father (Stanley Moore and Alice Moore) lived in the school house as his father was the school keeper. You mention a Peter Moore above and I have a feeling this could be him as he was also born in 1928 which would make him in the same school year as yourself. Any info would be greatly appreciated x

    Emma Chase

  7. April 19, 2012

    One of my cousins showed me this page – it’s absolutely fascinating, although a little before my time. All these little details of colourful people that we heard about growing up.

    We are Aubrey’s second cousins – grandchildren of Adelaide, who was the sister of his grandmother Sarah.

    If you want to learn a little more about the illustrious Belinfante family we descend from, please visit my web site


  8. Michael Green permalink
    April 21, 2012

    Hi Aubrey, recently spotted your website by chance. I remember your grandmother Sarah very well and saw her on many occasions when she used to visit her sister, my grandma Adelaide Pampel nee Belinfante.
    I passed on the detail to our cousin Harold Rabbie. Harold is nowdays the “keeper” of the Belinfante family tree website. It’s very informative & interesting and quite surprising who we are related too.Take a look at it!
    I haven’t seen you at the David Lloyd club in Finchley for some time. Are you still playing tennis?
    Trust you are well.


  9. Ian Goldsmith permalink
    July 11, 2012

    For those of you who are interested watch BBC 2 Wednesday 11th July @9pm. Secret history of our streets focusing on Arnold Circus. My father Aubrey Goldsmith will have a few words to say no doubt!

  10. David Green permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Hi Aubrey,

    It’s David Green from Barget days. Remember me? Just saw you on that programme about Arnold Circus – would love to meet up for lunch and reminisce about the old days. Contact me on

  11. Steve Parrott permalink
    May 12, 2013

    Dear Aubrey,

    Are you the same Aubrey who worked with Malcom Meredith at PMA/Lebus in the 70’s?

    I’m trying to track down some of those guys I worked with at that time and I recall some interesting times being ‘mentored’ with an A.G then.

    Steve Parrott in Bristol

  12. BOBBY SHEARS permalink
    July 14, 2013

    Hi Aubrey, Having read the above information I am convinced you are THE AUBREY GOLDSMITH! The one who was inspirational to me as a kid starting off in the furniture trade 55 years ago. You were then with Stonehill of Edmonton. and later moved to Dykes of Glasgow. When we first met I was working for my 2 uncles Ron & Fred Shears, together with my Dad Bert Shears. Sadly they have all passed on. At 70 I am still selling furniture, only part time now, having moved to Scotland 7 years ago to retire. It must be in the blood! Would love to hear from you, and as my family is spread all over the courntry I am always traveling, and perhaps we could meet up some day. All the best, Bobby Shears.

  13. BOBBY SHEARS permalink
    July 14, 2013

    Hi Aubrey, Re the above comment in case e-mail is not shown contact on or phone 07941444461 Bobby Shears

  14. Janice Humpage permalink
    August 15, 2013

    I have loved this story in particular, though ‘ The Gentle Author ‘ inspires me every day !
    — thank you Aubrey ,

    May I intrude a little and ask about a boy in the school photograph that is shown at the begining,
    — he is seated in the second row up, second from the left ,
    If it is possible to identify him as a ‘ Browne ‘ or a ‘ Ferguson ‘ by name , then I see an ancester!

    He is so like my brother , who passed away some years ago – and he has what
    we call ‘ the Browne ‘ frown .

    I am convinced my relatives are from the East End of London , then spread to Islington and other areas of North London, where I was brought up,

    Please contact on ‘ janice.humpage ‘ if you can help, many thanks.

  15. Irene permalink
    January 20, 2014

    Hi Aubrey, Thanks for shareng your story. Certainly is a colorful one at that. Been reaearchng the Belinfante family tree and from what I have gleaned, seems your GFather Raphael was the brother of my GGGGFather Samuel Belinfante b. c. 1786 and the father of my GGGMother Sarah Belinfante. – Irene

  16. Bernd Schulze permalink
    November 23, 2016

    Dear Aubrey and Carole,
    We met in the Club Britannia dining room on the QE cruising to the Canaries.
    the email address Johathan Goldsmith at 64 BT that you wrote out didn’t work.
    I attempted to email you some pictures, without success.

    If you want to see the pictures you will have to be a good boy and do it right. Perhaps Carole will help you.

    Regards Bernd and Karin

  17. Lionel Russell permalink
    August 26, 2017

    Dear Aubrey

    You went to Coopers Company School with my wife Stella Rotman and My friends Martin Vasner and Monty Goldberg who became Lee Montague the actor.
    I was in Frome with Coopers evacuees till we returned in 1945

  18. Terry Loughrey permalink
    October 24, 2020

    I am the son of Tony Loughrey of Bournemouth.
    You knew each other from Stonehills.
    I am going through thousands of family letters,
    all our yesterdays. Just saw you got together
    when you visited in Bournemouth
    in April 1994. Maybe that was your last meeting.
    Hope you are still doing OK and that I will
    hear back – any memories appreciated.

  19. Michael jones permalink
    August 14, 2021

    Don’t know if Aubrey is still alive but he used to call on our business in Dalston when he worked with Lebus what a great character!! Fond memories


  20. Errol (TeddyBoy1962) permalink
    April 7, 2023

    Hello EastEnders (& “honourary EastEnders),

    My Mum, June Friend (was June Hayes) is Aubrey’s cousin. Her brother, my Uncle Bill Hayes has just informed us that sadly, Aubrey has recently passed away.

    Some of Aubrey’s recollections above were known to me but many were brand new! I remember Aubrey hosting a Bar Mitzpha for one of his sons in the ’70s which our family were invited to – I couldn’t believe the amount of food! What a treat! Aubrey dropped in on my (late) father’s business in Sutton, Surrey in the early ’80s. We were specialists in lifting equipment. My father’s name was Terry Friend. Later, we visited Aubrey and Janet at their opulent home in Barnet (I think it was).
    His parents still lived in their East End council flat – know to me as Uncle Sammie and Aunt Bessie, I visited them one day because I had a delivery to make for one of my Dads customers close by. Aunt Bessie opened the door and was so welcoming! She rustled up salt beef and gherkin sandwiches in no time! And Uncle Sammy told me about various film stars, celebrities and villains that he’d had as fares in his cab – he’d retired by that point.

    My Mums Mum was Rachel Hayes (nee Levy), and was the sister of Aubrey’s mother Bessie.

    My Mum’s early life was riven with tragedy. She was evacuated at the age of 5 with her brother Billy who was 11. They arrived in Cuckfield, Sussex where Mum was passed around from post to post due to being “difficult”. She wouldn’t settle – even punching a hole in the window of an elderly spinsters cottage because the old lady had insisted on locking Mum up. At 5 years old, it’s hard to fathom that adults couldn’t work out what was troubling Mum. An enforced separation from he parents and big brother (he’d been billeted elsewhere) following the destruction of their East end cottage just weeks before, then being put up by total strangers in a village setting… Several weeks later, her Dad, Will Hayes who was reserved occupation (lorry driver) was on his way to visit them in Sussex having completed a non stop shift driving from the London docks to Liverpool and back when he crashed and was killed near Redhill.

    Mum returned to Bethnal Green when she was 11 and was enrolled into Daniel Street school – along with the Kray twins!

    She is 88 now and in poor health but has all her “marbles!”

    R.i.P Aubrey Goldsmith.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS