Lyon Samson (c.1786-1843)

by Angela Shire and cousins and Saul Marks

The documented facts about Lyon Samson are few. He was born c.1786, most probably in Holland and was, by occupation, an optician, as referenced in Baines Lancashire Directory of 1823 and Gore’s Liverpool Directories of 1823-44. The Liverpool Poll Book of 1832 lists him at “Roden Place, Percy Street”.

Lyon’s wife, whom he married at some point before 1815, was named Sarah, and she was born in Norfolk around 1792. Lyon and Sarah had seven known children:

Asher Samson
born in Hull c.1815

Dinah Samson
born in Hull c.1817

Samuel Samson
born in Liverpool between 1815 and 1820

Frances Samson
born in Liverpool 6 March 1822 when Lyon and Sarah lived on North Street

Charlotte Samson
born c.1822

Sampson Samson
born in Liverpool 21 January 1824 when Lyon and Sarah lived on Brownlow Hill

Lewis Samson
born in Liverpool 30 November 1825 when Lyon and Sarah lived on Brownlow Hill

In 1841, the family lived on Pitt Street. Lyon died on 26 January 1843 at 58 Gildart Street, Liverpool, aged 57. His burial record at Deane Road Cemetery gives his Hebrew name as Judah ben Sampson, accompanied by the word “Stern” in English. No tombstone was ever erected in his memory.

At least three of Lyon Samson’s children, Asher, Charlotte and Lewis, married outside the Jewish faith and Lewis is recorded in 1881 as a “Missionary to the Jews”.

Dinah Samson married Henry Hyman Defries on 25 February 1846 at 75 Dale Street, Liverpool, Henry having previously applied and been granted a Licence by the synagogue committee. Frances Samson married John (Jacob) Jacobs of Sheffield on 1 September 1841 at Cornwallis Street Liverpool.

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle published on 24 September 1900, John Jacobs, painting a rosy, and largely fictitious picture of the Samson family, states that his father-in-law, Lyon Samson, was the sopher (scribe) for the Seel Street Synagogue. Some years ago, then community archivist Joe Wolfman conducted an extensive search through the synagogue’s archives and found no evidence that Lyon Samson had ever acted as sopher to the congregation. The account books show that he had once received a small payment for a repair, but that appears to have been an act of charity rather than a fee.

Worse was to follow! Whilst Joe could find no evidence that Lyon had ever even been a member of the synagogue, he had, notwithstanding, been the recipient of extensive charitable payments over a period of several years. A series of increasingly exasperated letters, sent by the synagogue to Lyon’s brother, the London cigar importer Asher Samson, appear to have remained unanswered. These letters convey an understandable concern over the burden these payments were laying on the long-suffering community whilst, at the same time, suggest a commendable sense of obligation for the well-being of the Samson family, who they record as being in extreme poverty, in debt and at risk of eviction. They also suggest that Lyon’s health was poor and that he was suffering from some sort of mental breakdown, possibly even dementia.

An obituary for Asher Samson published in the Jewish Chronicle on 5 January 1849 describes him as a man of charity, but modest; a sponsor of Jewish artistic and scientific endeavour; and a donor of aid to Jews of the Holy Land, a country he had visited on many occasions. Sadly, it would seem that Liverpool, although much closer to home, did not enjoy the fruits of this benevolence. Had Asher Samson’s patience, generosity, and the ties of brotherly duty and affection been tried to breaking point? Or were Lyon’s claim to kinship just another piece of the family’s aspirational fiction?

- Baines Lancashire Directory 1823
- Gores Liverpool Directory 1823-1844
- Liverpool Poll Book 1832
- Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation archives
- Deane Road Cemetery burial register
- 1841 census of England & Wales
- Lyon Samson death certificate

Grave Reference
Lyon Samson (c.1786-1843): A 01.25