Abraham Dudkin: A Russian Businessman in Brighton

Abraham Dudkin was born in Nizhny, Novgorod Russia which was known as the fur capital of the world. Born on 10 November 1876, he was the first child of Mira and Mosar Dudkin. Abraham’s father was a Rabbi. Mira and Mosar had at least fourteen children.

Photo sourced from https://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/DudkinModernStudios.htm. Original photo provided courtesy of Jonathan & Bettina Walker.

In 1898, Abraham emigrated to London. It is unclear if he emigrated alone or with family at this time. Abraham established a life for himself in London as a Tailor’s Assistant in the East End. Within a few years, Dudkin had set up a furrier business. Here, his connections to Novgorod and family members who still lived in Russia were particularly useful. In London, he met Rachel Hanchen Plaut. Rachel was born in 1885 in Wehrda, Germany. The couple married in Stoke Newington, London on 8 March 1908.

Shortly after their marriage, Abraham and Rachel moved to Brighton in Sussex in 1909. Their new address was 91 Upper North Street. In Brighton, Dudkin established a fur business named ‘Alfred Dudkin & Co’ which was located at 185 Western Road. This relocation and business venture was perhaps inspired by the birth of the first Dudkin child. Lewis Stanley Dudkin (known as Stanley) was born on 24 November 1909.

Personalised greeting card produced by Dudkin. Depicts Abraham and his son Lewis. The message reads ‘Yours in Many Moods.’ Photo sourced from https://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/DudkinModernStudios.htm. Original photo provided courtesy of Jonathan & Bettina Walker.

Business appeared to be successful for Abraham, who now sometimes went by the Anglicised name ‘Alfred.’ The 1911 census lists the Dudkin’s are employing a live-in domestic servant. The 1911 census also lists Blanche Dudkin. This is Abraham’s younger sister who travelled to England in 1910.

1911 Census Sourced from Ancestry

His sister, Bluma (b. 1892 – 1974) emigrated to England 1911 and then to Los Angeles USA in 1918. His brother Mordecai (b. 1881 – 1965) also emigrated to England and worked alongside Abraham in the photographic studios. There is no record of either brother being in the military.

To expand the family’s business portfolio, Abraham bought a photographic studio in 1912. This studio was named ‘The Sticky Back and Post Card Studio’ at 54 North Street. Dudkin later renamed the business to ‘Modern Studios.’

Dudkin Modern Studio Commercial Road, Portsmouth 1918

There is evidence a studio in Portsmouth was also taken over by Abraham. At some point, Abraham’s brother joined the family in Brighton. Mordecai, who was born in 1881, worked alongside Abraham in the photographic studios. 

A closely detailed account of the photographic stores owned by Dudkin can be found here. There is also information about the Dudkin photographic studios online with photographs and family tree information courtesy of the Walker family on Ancestry.

Shortly after, on 6 June 1913, Abraham and Rachel’s second child was born. Their daughter was named Minnie Rosa Dudkin.

Image shows the Dudkin family including Abraham, Rachel, Lewis and Minnie. Photo sourced from https://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/DudkinModernStudios.htm. Original image provided courtesy of Jonathan & Bettina Walker.

At this point, Abraham had a well established life in Brighton. It was perhaps his growing family and successful business ventures which encouraged him to get his naturalisation certificate in 1916. This meant Abraham was no longer a foreign national living in the UK. He was now a British citizen.

Naturalisation Certificate Sourced from Ancestry.org

Although Abraham became naturalized in January 1916, he was
nearly 40 when conscription for married men under 41 was introduced in May 1916. He may have been too old to fight by the time he was called up, or possibly he was judged medically unfit.

Dudkin joined the Freemasons in 1916 – the South Down Lodge. Dudkin’s son Lewis filmed his family at local events, weddings and trips abroad from the 1930s to 1980s and his collection is held at Screen Archive South East (Collection ID 768. Reference Code BH 051125).

The screen archives report ‘The films include cruises and visits to Europe across the 1930s, trips to Holland and Belgium in 1937, a tour of the USA in 1939 and a visit to Israel in 1963.’ This goes to show the prosperity of the family which resulted from Abraham’s business ventures.

Rachel (also known as Ray) died in 1928. Following this, Abraham threw himself into work for the Brighton and Hove Jewish Welfare Board. In around 1930 he became President of the board, where he raised funds for the community.

Dudkin’s daughter Minnie emigrated to America in 1939 and settled in Los Angeles, California.

Abraham lived in Brighton until his death in 1949. His burial place is not known. Subsequently, his son Lewis continued the family fur business. He lived a long life dying age 95 in 2005.