As a member of the Kew Historical Society’s Research Group I have been using this website to record and describe a number of my research projects.

The earliest entries focused on the Jewish population of Kew in the C19th. Later entries have described the mansion variably known as Byram, Goathland, and Tara Hall, which was demolished in 1960. A number of recent entries describe the hotels of Kew in the C19th and C20th.

The opinions I express on this website are my own, and do not necessarily reflect an official view about the past by the Kew Historical Society.


4 thoughts on “About”

  1. Hi Robert thank you so much for all of your research. My great, great grandparents are Eleanor Haidee and James Simeon. Robert do you have any photos of the family? Do you have more info about the Levys Simeons & the Cohens? Again many thanks. TL NZ

    • TL
      Thank you for your message. I wonder which of the children you are descended from? I presume Frederick Peter Simeon. I thought that I had finished my research into the Simeon family but today I discovered the gold mine. The Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) has records of wills and probate. Those between 1841 and 1945 are available online. You can view the web page at this URL: http://prov.vic.gov.au/wills-and-probate. If you search using the name ‘Simeon’ you will find both Eleanor’s and James’ wills. I felt for Eleanor’s children as I read her will as she was clearly quite wilful and determined.
      I hope that you find them interesting.

  2. Hi Robert

    I am also a descendant of James & Eleanor, a family historian who has been researching the family and Jewish history in Australia, UK and parts of Eastern Europe since 1988.

    Firstly, I must start by saying thank you. What a wonderful effort by you on Eleanor. I have read it and appreciate what you have done. For the record I know Michael Aron and now I wish to correct / fill in just a few holes in your recording. One day I will complete and tell the full story. I will say some more about this further on.

    OK … So was Eleanor Haidee SAUNDERS
    Hebrew Name: Sara bat Avraham Avinu
    Born: c1823/1824 Bath or Bristol. Her Death Certificate states she was born in Bristol.
    Her Father: John SAUNDERS
    Her Mother: Miriam HOWELL

    My extensive research on this family both here in Australia, New Zealand and the UK suggests to me that James and Eleanor met in Australia, most probably Melbourne but quite possibly somewhere in southern NSW as James transitioned from Sydney to Melbourne. He did not come directly.

    It is interesting to note that there is vertically nothing at all in records yet found by me that supports Eleanor was close to her parents and/or siblings. In-fact no link has ever been found to siblings either yet logic suggests she had them. So there is a story of separation there which makes it hard to determine who exactly her parents were, who her siblings were, where did any of them live, what of her family at large either here in Australia or back in the UK. No one has pinpoint her birth record, Saunders or Howell relative has come looking for a lost child, etc. Just blank.

    This said, I acknowledge the Saunders story shared by Norma which I have heard and researched. Provable link found? No however I do have records which I have unearthed but have no yet consumed and maybe one day I will have the answer.


    1. First Jewish Boy born in Victoria

    Frederick Peter SIMEON is recorded as the first Jewish boy by the Melbourne Congregation Registers. The question of whether this record should have been entered is valid given Eleanor was at that time not a Jew. So in a traditional sense, no but given she later converted, what was a no now becomes a yes. So it should be acknowledged that way today in my opinion. As for interpretation of the headstone is exactly that. Factually inaccurate but read another way, factually correct. To clarify, it should not be recorded that Frederick was the first Jewish boy born in Victoria. First registered Jewish boy born in Victoria, yes! See No. 4 below for more insight.

    2. Not buried as a Jew

    I will provide an insight into why she became a Jew further on but she did return to the Church once James died. It is fair to say whether she was real about it or not that at least for some of her life, she lived as a Jewish wife and mother.

    3. Marriage Hobart

    Initial thought I had was she had family there and St. David’s church was her family’s church and of course the family attended, etc. Given her age and given what I know of James as a character and extensive research I have done, it looks probable that James had taken her to Hobart as that is where he had family. His mother’s sister was married to a prominent businessman on Hobart, both of them active Jews but of course James & Eleanor would not have been allowed to marry in the Hobart Synagogue due to Eleanor not being a Jew. So down the road they went to St. David’s. Their marriage records don’t help tell us more. At the time of marriage they were resident Melbourne and only went to Hobart to marry. They had not moved there.

    4. Frederick Peter SIMEON

    James & Eleanor’s first child, Frederick, was born in Melbourne 12 August 1843. His birth is recorded in the Great Synagogue Records in Sydney and relates to a certificate of record obtained by a family member years ago as follows:

    Office of the Senior Minister Melbourne Hebrew Congregation – Melbourne 18th March 1874.

    I hereby certify that according to document in my possession signed by the Rev Chief Rabbi, The Ecclesiastrical Board of the Jewish Conglegaturs of the British Empire, It said:

    “Peter Frederick Simeon was 11 years old the year one thousand eight hundred & fifty four 1854 supposed to be born Aug 12th 1843 Melbourne in the Colony of Victoria”.

    The 1854 record relates to the conversion of Eleanor to becoming a Jew and it would seem (as I have not yet clarified this) that the children were recorded in Jewish records in Sydney as being Jewish.

    5. James & Eleanor’s troubles

    James and Eleanor did what one can term as a runner. He shut up shop, took his stock and took off. What is interesting is that he headed for Hobart yet Eleanor and James’ brother David and their stock headed for Sydney. I won’t get into the why but after extensive research she certainly wasn’t running to her family. James on the other hand was.

    They all got caught and were returned to Melbourne, James obviously got in trouble and he is actually the first guest (well that’s what I call him) of what was is the Old Melbourne Gaol. Yes, in 1844 he did time in the Gaol before still being built, before they had doors on their cells. Only a matter of weeks though and he was free.

    Be it the marriage or this event, there is no Saunders or Howell family member around to help. To sail on ships that they sailed on, recorded in houses they stayed in, etc. No links whatsoever. So I conclude for now Eleanor walked from her family or they walked from her. So does she hail from NSW? VIC? Or TAS? Simply don’t know. What is known is that James was trading in his 1st shop in Collins Street Melbourne by 1841 and this would put Eleanor at the age of 17/18. James born c1815 being 26.

    6. Return to London

    In 1856, James and Eleanor and the children headed for London. They would reside there until 1863 when they would return to Melbourne to live.

    7. St Kilda Road Melbourne & Albert Road Emerald Hill are One-in-the-same

    When James & Eleanor returned from London in 1863, they came back wealthy people. James had inherited a lot of money while in England. They lived for a time in Toorak and would later build a 10-bedroom mansion on what is today St Kilda Road.

    Sadly the house is no longer but I have plans of the house. Previously this strip of road was the end of Albert Road. It was a substantial property and so Ada Hannah, their daughter died in the same house as her father, in the same year and are buried together in the Jewish section on the old Melbourne Cemetery.

    8. Eleanor a Colonist of 70 years & Family Connections

    Research suggests Eleanor and her family came to Australia either through Hobart or Sydney although I have not yet uncovered a record to support her arrival anywhere to be honest. I do not find support that they met on a ship travelling between England and Australia. Given she likely to be age 16 in 1840, unlikely she meant James in Sydney or inland towns where he ventured but saying that, at 16 it is still possible. Potentially she could have travelled with him to Melbourne which is why no family members around in their lives?

    So is she connected to the story that Norma shared given that that family came from NSW? I have discussed with a few people and researched it a lot. I have tracked James’ movements and nothing suggests a 15 or 16-year-old from mid NSW could meet a mid-20s lad hanging out Sydney or places like Goulburn. So was she a local Melbournite or did he come across her in his travels while visiting his family in Hobart? Or did she work for him and you know, they kissed? Probably never know.
    One thing is for sure. Eleanor left no clues of her past. None at all. And if any do exist, I am yet to uncover them. So was she a colonist for 70 years. No. How long, don’t know. Find the Australian Arrival shipping record!

    9. A little insight to James and Eleanor’s Jewish Conversion

    In 1854 when they returned from England from a trip with the children, Eleanor got married. The same day of the 1st THE AGE newspaper came out and the 1st day of the Melbourne Exhibition. A very big day indeed for the state of Victoria.

    I have concluded Eleanor had to convert to 1] be accepted by Jewish establishment back in London and 2] put her children on the right Jewish path of acceptance too. See, James’ mother’s family played an active and prominent role in Jewish affairs back in London. I believe they had intended to return to London and before doing so, they had to sort their affairs out first in Melbourne and then head back which I earlier said happened in 1856.

    10. Eleanor final years

    In her later years, Eleanor did get offside with some of her children. She protected some and faught with others sometimes through the courts. Money and perceived favouritism was a root cause.

    Her move to England in the 1890s was to live and support her Aron family (story I would expand on for now) but in the end she returned to Australia and lived out her years here. She would live for many years in a couple of places in Powlett Street East Melbourne before moving in with family in 1908/1909 at 52 Davis Street, Kew which as we know she died.

    And there ends my ramble.

    Eleanor’s story pre meeting James is just blank space. Much of what is known has been researched by me or others. The family story as such was not passed down although it has been said Eleanor had a diary where she recorded important things. If true, what became of it no one knows. So the search to know more continues. Without completing the riddle of her parents, we shall know no more. As for James’ story, well that hasn’t been fully told and one day it will be.

    Again Robert many thanks for your work. I hope you find what I share above of interest. If you wish to discuss or know more, email me.


    Stephen Hanford
    Eleanor was my GGG Grandmother.

  3. Michael Aron said:

    I am looking for the entry for James Simeon from ‘These are the names’. Would you be able to copy it for me? I would of course pay for this service.
    Michael Aron

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