Dover in the second half of the 19th century was a place of significant expansion. Fortified against the threat of French invasion, it saw a 600% population increase over the span of 100 years; industries grew and railroads were built. By 1835 a Jewish community resided in the area, necessitating the construction of a Synagogue in 1861.1 Coinciding with the expansion of the town, the Jewish community oversaw the founding of a number of Jewish educational institutions. Around the time of David Baron’s conversion to Christianity, the Mildmay Mission to the Jews was expanding its activities in Kent.

David Baron was born in 1855, the last of seven children, to Orthodox Jewish parents in the town of Suwałki in modern day Poland. Having received a robust religious education in which he excelled, the teenaged Baron was to accompany one of his brothers to America but ultimately came to be in Hull, England. It was there in early 1877, aged 22, that he encountered Christianity for the first time and ultimately converted 17 months later.2

Baron’s conversion to Protestant Christianity occurred under the guidance of the Rev John Wilkinson, one of the chief evangelists of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews. Wilkinson, who would go on to baptise Baron and facilitate his theological education, was part of the growing Anglo-American movement that felt an impetus to evangelise Jewish people with the message of Christianity. Born in Lincolnshire, he first began involved with Christian-Jewish proselytism in 1851 in Grimsby, whereupon he joined the Committee of the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews in London.3 After his non-conformist ordination in 1855 and years of work across England, Wilkinson resigned his membership of the Society in 1876 and founded the Mildmay Mission to the Jews.4 Through this endeavour, which spanned the length and breadth of Britain, he would meet Baron, introduced by a mutual acquaintance.

David Baron joined the Mildmay Mission in 1881 after two years of theological study. He married Fanny Kingsford, the third daughter of the late Alfred Kingsford of Dover, in Eythorne in 1883.5 Early the previous year, the Dover Chronicle records an appeal by several men in Dover to provide help for Jews in Russia, Baron’s homeland, for at that time Poland was part of the Russian Empire. This was a time of increased persecution of Jews in Pogroms. An address on the subject was to be given by the Rabbi of the Dover synagogue.6 During Baron’s time as a missionary he made and organised many trips to Russia and Eastern Europe, and during these early years in the 1880s he made a special effort to reconcile with his estranged Father; community links with Russia in Dover clearly run deep.

The years following 1883 saw an expansion of activities in Kent by the still young Mildmay Mission. By this time Baron was a prominent figure in the group, and his family connections with the area through Fanny may be supposed to have been an influence. This is supported by the fact that Baron’s two years of evangelism in Scotland ended in 1883, coinciding both with his marriage and with the increase of activity in Kent.7 The Dover Chronicle reports a sale of work to raise funds for the Mission in 1884, taking place in the Maison Dieu Hall.8

Baron’s mentor Rev Wilkinson often headed up the mission activity in Kent. In July of 1888 he made at least two addresses to supporters and the public. On both occasions Foresters Hall in Ramsgate was used as a venue. The size of the location, a two-story building constructed in 1811 and used as a community site down to the present day, shows the growth of the Mildmay Mission in Kent during this time. It is evident that Baron, Wilkinson and their associates felt that increasing their efforts in the area was worthwhile. The mission had 100 000 copies of the New Testament printed including for distribution abroad in Russia, bearing further witness to the trans-national reach of the mission driven by Baron and the community in Kent.9

By 1891 Baron had begun to spend more time abroad on long missionary journeys accompanied by his wife, particularly to Eastern Europe and Palestine. His association with Kent became less, followed soon after by his severance from the Mildmay Mission in order to found the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel. Although the Mildmay Mission continued to expand, activities in Kent diminished as increased emphasis was put on reaching the Jewish emigrants moving to Palestine.


  1. Dover synagogue (2021) JewishGen. Available at: https://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/community/dr/index.htm 

  2. Fromow, George (1943). David Baron and the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel. London: Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel 

  3. Samuel Hinds Wilkinson (1908). The Life of John Wilkinson, the Jewish Missionary. Morgan & Scott. pp. 15-16 

  4. Samuel Hinds Wilkinson (1908)._ The Life of John Wilkinson, the Jewish Missionary_. Morgan & Scott. pp. 118-121 

  5. Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald (1883) ‘BIRTHS, MARRIAGES, DEATHS. 4 August. Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000338/18730208/048/0004 (Accessed: 08 May 2023). 

  6. The Dover Chronicle (1882) ‘The Persecuted Jews’, 18 February. Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0004083/18820218/047/0005 

  7. The Dover Chronicle (1884) ‘The Lord In Waiting’, 12 July. Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0004083/18840712/056/0005 

  8. The Dover Chronicle (1884) ‘The Lord In Waiting’, 12 July. Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0004083/18840712/056/0005 

  9. Isle of Thanet Gazette (1888) ‘Keble’s Gazette’, 21 July. Available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0004717/18880721/005/0005