Medieval (Pre-1290) Jewish Communities in Northern England

Created: 22 April 2005
Latest revision: 14 December 2011



  • Lancaster





  • Kendal



Counties referred to above are not necessarily the counties in which the towns are now located, but are the historic shires (or counties) in which the relevant towns were situated prior to the reorganization of local government in 1974.  Although in many cases they are the counties in which the towns were situated during the medieval period, this is not necessarily the case.

1 Appearing in capital letters. Towns with archae (official registers of Jewish financial transactions, created after 1194).
5 Towns from which Jews were expelled in 1290. 
6 Towns from which Jews had been excluded prior to 1290.


Newcastle upon Tyne

The most northerly Jewish settlement. Jews believed to have in Silver Street, formerly known as Jew Gate, in the vicinity of the river Tyne.

1234 – In consideration of  the payment of 100 marks, King Henry III granted a "special liberty" to the Freemen of the city that "no Jew should be permitted to dwell among them".

Modern Newcastle Community  



Plaque commemorating the medieval synagogue in Knaresborough
© Murray Freedman 2009

1275 The Jewish Statute' issued by  King Edward 1. This required all Jews in the kingdom to reside only in the towns where archae were held.  1275 is therefore the likely date for the disbandment of whatever community there was in Knaresborough when the residents would have probably have moved to York, the nearest town where archae were kept.

Article on the Knaresborough CommunityKehillat Knaresborough, an essay by Murray Freedman on the Medieval  Jewish Community in Knaresborough (situated close to Harrogate and Leeds), and reproduced with his kind permission.

Jewish Residents of Knaresborough prior to 1290

Modern Harrogate Congregation & Community

Modern Leeds Community


One of the six principal towns of medieval England and one of the twenty-six centres to have an archa.

Chronology of Events

1130 – Earliest records of the existence of a Jewish community in York, although the community had clearly been established some years before.

1177 – Approximate date of acquisition of cemetery, in area now known as Jewbury, the use of which was shared with the Jews of Lincoln and probably Northampton.  Under the reign of King Henry II (1154-1189), the York community grew in wealth and numbers and became one of considerable importance. 

1190 – Cemetery extended.

1190 – The infamous York Massacre, the most tragic incident in the history of English Jewry, took place this year culminating in dreadful tragedy of Friday night, 16 March (the eve of Shabbath Hagodol – the “Great Sabbath” before Passover, and two days before Palm Sunday). 

Many of the local landowners were heavily in debt to the Jews. One of these, Richard Malebysse, on hearing news of the anti-Jewish attacks that had been taken place to the south, led a mob against the Jews, with the ulterior motive of destroying all evidence of the debts.  They murdered a number of Jews and destroyed their homes.  The Jews, numbering over 150, led by Josce, head of the community, and Rabbi Yomtob of Joigny, were granted refuge in Clifford’s Tower by the Warden.  As the situation worsened, the besieged Jews, fearing certain death if captured, chose to kill themselves that Friday night, rather than surrender.  The handful of survivors who did chose not to die with the others were persuaded the following morning to open the gates of the Tower, with a promise of clemency if they converted to Christianity.  However, they were immediately set upon and butchered by the mob.  Some authorities give the number of deaths in the York massacres at as many as 500.

Although King Richard I, who was in France at the time preparing for the Crusades and had only ascended the throne the previously year, ordered that action be taken against the perpetrators of the outrage (largely in light of the heavy loss of revenues to the Crown resulting from the impoverishment of the Jews), the penalties inflicted consisted only of the imposition of fines and, in extreme cases, the confiscation of property (later restored).  There was not a single incident of capital punishment.

Henceforth the tragic fate of medieval English Jewry, in general, and of York, in particular, will have an eternal infamous place in Jewish liturgy, with the recitation of additional lamentational prayer (kinah, plural kinot) on the fast of the Ninth of Av (Tisha b’Av - which commemorates the destruction of both temples and a number of other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish nation), written by Rabbi Menachem ben Jacob of Worms, bewailing the suffering of the martyrs of York.

1194 – In light of the outbreaks of violence that occurred only four years previously, York is conspicuously missing from the list of Jewish communities participating 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.

1200’s – The community is revived, and opens a synagogue in Jubbergate, headed by Aaron, son of Josce.

c.1216 – Right of Jews to live in York expressly confirmed during early part if reign of Henry III.

1290 - Jewish community expelled.

Synagogues Information

The ancient synagogue was on the north side of Jubbergate, close to the castle.

Cemetery Information

The medieval Jewish cemetery, in use from some time after 1177, was rediscovered in the 1970's, when the area was excavated for the construction of a parking garage.  It is located on Jewbury Road, in walking distance from Clifford's Tower, just outside the ancient walls on the eastern side of the city. (See also York Cemetery Information) on IAJGS website.

Medieval Jewish Heritage Sites in York

Clifford's Tower, Tower Street, York, YO1 9SA is a Grade I Listed Building, listed on 14 June 1954 (latest amendment 14 March 1997) (number 1259325). See Historic England listing and description.

Articles on the Medieval York Community

Jewish Encyclopedia article on York by Joseph Jacobs, c-1906.

Jewish Encyclopedia article on Aaron of York by Joseph Jacobs, c-1906.

Jewish Residents of York prior to 1290

Jewish Listed Heritage Sites in Yorkshire


Modern York Community  


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