Woolfe and Lily Shifren

Maynell Avenue

Woolfe (known as Willy) can be found with his sister Annie in the 1929 Electoral Register at ‘The Gedula Shifren’ in Handel Road, Canvey. Probably the family holiday home.

Woolfe (known as Willy) Shifren. The Photo is dated May 1942.He was in the Pioneer corps.He never saw any active service.

Both Willy and Lily were of Russian descent. Willy’s father Morris was born in Gomel, Belarus in 1882, son of Dorah Shiffren. The family, three generations, can first be found in England in the 1911 census at Hanbury Street, Spitalfields and it was here that Willy was born in 1908.

Morris Shifren had a Tobacconist & Confectionary shop in Hanbury Street, according to the phone books. Willy had a barbers shop in Hanbury Street, after he married Lily Rubin in 1939, they moved to Stoke Newington. The London Electoral Registers show him living in Hanbury Street until 1938 then from 1939-1954 at 166 Stoke Newington Road, the phone book confirms Willy was a hairdresser in Stoke Newington until 1953.

At some point around this time Willy lost both his legs through illness and it is thought this might be the reason the family moved to Meynell Avenue, Canvey around 1955. At about the same time his father can also be found in the property Willy was living at in 1929 ‘The Gedula Shefrin’ in Handel Road. Morris died here in 1956 his wife Sarah died in 1967. (“GEDULA” means  “Greatness” in Hebrew)

His nephew remembers him “ He was a very gentile man , a barber by profession never complaining despite the loss of both of his legs due to illness. I loved to play ball with him.”

Willy died in 1962.

Lily taken in Southend

Lily Rubin was born in Commercial Road, London to Davis and Rebecca Rubin.

Davis came from Russia c1900 settling in Stepney where he built a successful shoe retailing business. He was killed in the Coronation Avenue, Stoke Newington bombing in October 1940 where 170 people were killed.

After Willy’s death Leah was introduced to a widower Woolf Levy, by her sister at a kosher B&B run by Mrs Rosenburg. Leah and Willy’s nephew Raoul remembers Mrs Rosenburg “ I remember seeing her budgie… the only Yiddish speaking bird in the world!”

The couple were married in 1964 living in both London and Canvey. Unfortunately Lily found herself a widow again in 1969, she then sold the property in Canvey and moved to Clapton where she died in 1974.

Raoul remembers “my Aunt Lily worked  in the Kiosk  of the amusment arcade (the slot machines) on the front.”

c1960. Raoul Schneiderman aged about 3 with his parents Abraham and Blanche in the garden at Meynell Avenue. Blanche was Lily’s sister

Raoul’s father Abraham Schneiderman would drive his family down to Canvey to visit Willy and Lily on a Sunday afternoon. They turned left into Meynell Avenue and Raoul remembers “the house was some way down”. Records we have found so far say it was no 7 Meynell. Does anyone know if the numbers have been changed or is it just a trick of Roauls childhood memory. Raoul says “ I distinctly remember a one floor Bungalow with a “double front”. It has space on both sides. My father could leave his car on the left side.”

c1960. Raoul and his Aunt Lily in the garden at Meynell Avenue

Also remembered is “Mr and Mrs Abrahams also migrants from Russia. He built his own house in Canvey a rather ramshackle affaire.” Raoul also asked about the Manus family, in particular an Edie Manus and we were able to work out that Edie was born in the local area in 1948 to Freda Shifren and Moss Manus who married in Hackney in 1946.

We believe Freda to be the younger sister of Willy Shifren. Raoul would love Edie to contact him. So if you are out there Edie please make a comment below or if you prefer email me jan@canveyisland.org and I will pass on your details.

c1960. Raoul and his cousin Fiona

Click on the picture in the gallery to see an enlargement.

Comments about this page

  • There was/is one of those houses above at the east end of Maynell Ave until very recently ~ derelict and for sale.

    By David Bullock (08/07/2012)
  • Thanks, Jan, another piece of interesting research. I have a vague memory of Mr Shiffren living in Handel Rd and my Dad, Aubrey going there either for a haircut or delivering bread. Maybe it was both!

    By Graham Stevens (09/07/2012)
  • The houses shown in the pictures would have been in Grafton Road, looking north from the Shifren’s home. Also found the Shifren residence was number 15 in a later phone book so the numbers definitely changed at some point.

    The electricity poles seen in the pictures above ran between the houses in Grafton Road and Meynell at the bottom of the gardens and they are still there today.

    By Janet Penn (09/07/2012)
  • POSTSCRIPT:Since Janet wrote this article I have made contact with Eddie who now lives in East Anglia.He left Canvey, aged 16, in about 1964. My memories were confirmed by Eddie, Including the Yiddish Speaking Budgie Owned by Mrs Rosenberg!!.He has sent me a wonderful photo of the Shifren’s barber shop taken in 1940 in which Willy, his parents and 5 of my aunts appear. I found out that my uncle Willy Shifren lost his legs due to infection caused by an Insect bite. So sad!!! This happened after he came to Canvey. As to the location of My aunt’s Bungelow this seems to be no.15 Meynell Ave but the original building was long ago replaced by 15 a & 15 b. Can someone help? Thanks again to Janet Penn for helping me discover some long forgotten memories and revive a small piece of Canvey’s history.

    By Raoul Schneiderman (01/08/2012)
  • I remember Mr.and Mrs. Rosenberg, they had a ladies and gents tailoring shop at the top of the Winter Garden next door to what is now the carpet shop. They later moved to another shop just past the original Tower Stores. I remember visiting their house, and later the bungalow they moved to which was in a turning opposite the King Canute Pub, though I do not remember the number.

    Also the Budgie which spoke Yiddish, in fact she had 2 budgies, a female called Jean, and a male named Jimmy. When we were at the house one day she asked Jimmy what his name was to which he replied ‘Jimmy Rosenberg’, when she then asked him what he called her husband his answer was ‘Georgie Blockhead’, apparently Mrs. Rosenberg had caught her husband cutting bread without using the breadboard, and told him he was a blockhead, which the budgie picked up. I just burst out laughing.

    The one thing that always stands out for me, is the memory of Mr.Rosenberg making me a winter coat out of a remanant of Harris Tweed material, which I must have worn for about 4 winters, he had relined the coat

    By Pam Winborne (17/08/2012)
  • I also remember Mr & Mrs. Abrahams, they had a bungalow in the Winter garden, I remember my father telling me that he had dug the foundations out and then proceeded to build the bungalow mixing and laying the cement with his hands as he nothing else to use, he also somehow got hold of a load of old house doors and put them between two layers of cement. He also dug a hole outside the front door which he lined with cement, made a lid with a handle and could keep milk and butter in this for a week or more without it going off. First refrigerator.

    When he had completed this work, the local authority came along and told him that because he had not sort planning permission he would have to pull this down, he refused to do so telling them that if this was the case they would have to do the job themselves apparently he won the right to keep the property and I believe he and his wife lived there until they died.

    By Pam Winborne (17/08/2012)
  • As a small child my mother took me to the Abrahams’ house. Mr Abrahams was understandably very proud of his handywork the house he had built with his very own hands. He asked me what I thought of it. Not yet having developed the art of diplomacy I told him exactly what I thought. I don’t like your house!! Mr Abrahams was very upset and my mum rather embarrased.

    By Raoul schneiderman (18/08/2012)
  • the house numbers in Meynell Avenue did change. My Aunt and Uncle lived down the bottom on the left hand side. Number changed from 45 to 47. Not sure when this was but many years ago.


    Mr and Mrs Rosenburg lived in Maurice Road next to Fortuna Stores around 1950s. Mr Rosenburg used to run a tailoring business from there. Not sure if thus is the same person mentioned above.

    By Joan liddiard (18/01/2016)

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