Medieval (Pre-1290) London Jewish Community

Created: 22 April 2005
Latest revision: 14 December 2011

Plaque commemorating the site of the medieval synagogue in Old Jewry in the City of London
© David Shulman 2008

London was at all times the largest and most important city in medieval England and the place with the largest and most important Jewish community.  The Exchequer of the Jews  was in London and it was also one of the six or seven original centres in which an archa (an official register of Jewish financial transactions) was situated.

Apart from the city itself, there were reportedly Jewish settlements in:

In what was the county of Middlesex, there were settlements in:

Chronology of Events

1128 – First mention of the “Street of the Jews”.

1130 – London Jews falsely accused of killing a sick man and the community, headed by Rabbi Joseph (known as Rubi Gotsce) forced to pay a fine of £2,000 (which “coincidentally” was sufficient to discharge the Crown’s debt to the Jewish financiers.

1158 – Visit of Avraham Ibn Ezra to London.

1177 – Until this date, the only permitted Jewish cemetery was in London, and when a death occurred the corpse had to be transported by wagon to London, sometimes several hundred miles away.  The London cemetery was in Jewin Crescent (Cripplegate) in the City.

1189 – A deputation from the Jewish community came to Westminster Hall to present gifts on the occasion of the coronation of King Richard I on September 3.  They are refused admission and harshly ejected and hooted by the palace guard, which arouses the crowd at the gate into anti-Jewish fervor who begin to throw stones at the Jews.  A false rumour spreads among the crowd that the King had ordered that the Jews be destroyed.  Several member s of the deputation are beaten or trampled to death, and one member, Benedict of York, being forced to consent to being immediately baptized in order to save his life. (Although he was later permitted to return to Judaism, he died of his wound on his way back to York, and his widow and children were burnt to death in their home in the York massacres of the following year.)  This incident sets off a chain of attacks against the London Jewish community, the whole of the Jewry (where many of the London Jews lived) being torched and over 30 Jews being murdered by the mob, including the famous Rabbi Jacob of Orleans, who was on a visit to London.

1194 – As the most important Jewish community in England, London was one of the five towns that sent 20 to 40 contributors to the Northampton Donum, summoned to decide how to raise the levy imposed upon the Jews to pay the ransom for the release of King Richard I., made the largest contribution to the levy.

1220 – Jews of London locked up in the Tower during coronation ceremony of Henry III.

1232 – A magnificent new synagogue (in what is now Threadneedle Street, opposite the Royal Exchange) confiscated and handed to the brethren of St. Anthony.

1239 – Bloody riots in London when a Jew is accused of murder. A number of Jews arrested several executed.

1240 – Jewish books seized and all copies of Talmud burnt.

1244 – Body of a child found in a churchyard at St. Benet’s.  Jews accused of ritual murder and community forced to pay a fine of 60,000 marks to the Treasury.

1262–1266 civil war between Henry III and barons led by Simon de Montfort. London Jewry is sacked.

1278 – 293 Jews hanged in London for allegedly clipping coins.

1290 - Jewish community expelled.

Articles on the Medieval London Community

Jewish Encyclopaedia article on London by Joseph Jacobs, c-1906.

Jewish Residents of London prior to 1290

Bibliography, Local Research Libraries and other sources

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Researched, compiled and formatted for JCR-UK by David Shulman

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