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Vestiges of the historic Anglo-Hebrews in East Anglia. With appendices and an apropos essay online

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anywhere of any misdemeanor, or misconduct, on the
part of the Anglo-Hebrews, previous to the Norman
conquest, nor during the reign of the first three
Norman Kings in this country.

Soon after the Norman conqueror had established
his rule in this land, the British synagogues received a
large accession of Continental Jews, and those of
East Anglia among the rest. During the Conqueror's
lifetime, there is every reason to believe the Jews
were permitted to enjoy the sunshine of prosperity, to
thrive in their various avocations peaceably and
quietly. The King took them under his special
care,* but did nothing which would gender jealousies
and hostilities between his subjects who professed to

* The wording of the charter is pretty much the same as that
of Edward the Confessor. See note on preceding page.


follow the law, and those who professed to have been
converted to the Gospel.

William Ilufus seemed disposed to patronise his
Hebrew subjects even more than his sire did; but
his patronage proved the germ of a prolific harvest
of misery and wretchedness to the proteges. Being
of an irreligious turn of mind, William II. moreover
betrayed a bias for making sport of religion by setting
his Jewish and Christian subjects to play at theologi-
cal polemics. He thus aroused the most passionate
animosities of the combatants towards each other.
Not long after his accession to the throne of England,
he surprised the Church and the Synagogue by sum-
moning to the metropolis the Bishops of the former,
and the Rabbis of the latter, for the express purpose of
discussing the evidences and merits of their respective
creeds. He took his favourite oath by St. Luke's
face that if the Jews got the better in the dispute,
he would embrace Judaism himself. At the con-
clusion as is generally the case in public theological
controversies both parties claimed the victory. The
effect of the dispute was that the heads of the Church
had conceived a Hamanic antipathy towards the Jews,
and the chiefs of the Synagogue began to deport them-
selves with a Mordecai-scorn towards their Christian
neighbours. The bitter feeling became aggravated
by the Jews having induced the King, by bribes, to
force such of their nation as became Israelites indeed,
that is, such as professed the whole of the Jewish
religion ; not only that part which was veiled in
allegory and illustrated by symbol, in the Old Testa-


ment, but also that part which unveiled and revealed
the brightness of its glory in the person of Him who
declared " It is finished." " Jewish Converts," the
Gentiles style such Israelites, " forgetting in the con-
fusion of ideas," as the author of " A Political
Biography " observes, that the Gentiles are the con-
verts, and not the Jews ; the latter are but " the
natural branches graffed into their own olive tree."
Bear with the digression.*

Well, then, to return to the thread of my narrative.
The nominal Jews bribed the king to compel the
" Israelites indeed " to renounce the creed which con-
viction and conscience prompted them to confess ; for
there were then many eminent Jews in this country,
and especially in East Anglia, who became zealous
advocates of the doctrine taught in the New Testa-
ment. William was not above becoming the required
tool to bring about the desired apostacy.'f That

* This looseness of talk, "this confusion of ideas," is owing
its existence to the great ignorance which prevails respecting
the grandest chapter in the history of the world even that
relating to the ushering in of the Christian dispensation. That
wonderful chapter tells us that Jewish believers in Christ were
first called Christians, (Acts xi. 26,) and not Gentile converts to
the Christian religion. The latter eventually monopolised the
name as well as the promises made to the " Israel of God."
(Gal. vi. 16.) The Apostle evidently means, by " Israel of God,"
Jewish followers of Christ Jesus. As for residuary Israel those
who oppose themselves to the " New Covenant " dispensation
" He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David,
He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man
openeth," emphatically and positively denieth them the appella-
tion " Jews/' (Rev. ii. 9 ; iii. 9.)

| See Appendix D.


prince, of unenviable notoriety, added insult to the
injury which he had already inflicted upon the Church,
and thus heaped fuel upon the unholy fire of ani-
mosity which he had already kindled. When a
see, abbacy, or benefice fell vacant, of which he
happened to be the patron, he was in the habit of
retaining it in his own hands until he became ac-
quainted with its revenues, and then selling it to the
highest bidder. The royal simonist used, whenever
the opportunity occurred, to appoint Jews to take care
of the vacant benefices, to farm them, and to manage
the negociations for his benefit. Thus he dealt for five
years with the revenues of the see of Canterbury, after
Lanfranc's death ; and thus he treated for three years
the abbacy of Bury St. Edmund's, after the death of
Baldwin. As far as the historic Anglo-Hebrews were
concerned, William Rufus' reign was most advanta-
geous to their prosperity, in a worldly point of view.
Equally so was the long reign of Henry I. The
Jews are mentioned but seldom in the annals of his
government, the omission may be considered as a sure
token that no evil had befallen them. They strength-
ened their positions in their places of residence in East
Anglia, built synagogues of which Moyses' Hall, at
Bury St. Edmund's, is a fair specimen zealously
preached their version of Judaism, and actually
attempted to proselytise amongst the Gentile converts
to Christianity. The learning and the influence of
the Jewish sages of Norfolk, of this time, are fre-
quently quoted in the Hebrew literature of the middle
ages. The Church found it necessary to send the


most accomplished monks to several towns in which
the Jews were numerously established, for the express
purpose of preaching down Judaism. In East Anglia,
Cambridge and Cottenham are particularly men-
tioned as some of the places to which monks, from
Croyland Abbey, were sent to preach against the Jews.
The latter may have had their zeal provoked by some
benefactions to the Church, on the part of " Israelites
indeed," in different parts of the kingdom. In that of
East Anglia I may mention Manasses whose name
at once reveals his nationality a powerful Norman
Baron, founded a convent for nuns at Redlingfield.
About the same time the old monastery founded by
Fursseus, a holy Scot, at Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth,
into which King Sigibert is said to have retired after
his conversion, became the property a.nd residence of a
Jewish family. None but a family of Israelites indeed
would then have made their abode in that of a
Christian order. The ruins of that monastery were to
be seen about 150 years ago ; there was then an old
road leading to the principal entrance, which went by
the name of "the Jews' Way."*

* A. friend of mine, the Rev. J. J.. Raven, of Yarmouth, who
has lately visited Burgh Castle, in the course of a letter thus
adverts to the above monastery : " The remains of the Priory
now form part of the Rectory out-buildings. There is very little
left the base of a short flint wall, of which the upper part is
later, containing, however, one interesting stone, an arch-stone
of the Norman period, with a double moulding, zigzag and
cable. Now there is no part of the present church to which this
stone can be referred, though there is a great peculiarity about

the chancel, which may lead to some theory It might be

worth while to see whether this moulding exists in Moyses' Hall."


the reign of Stephen, the Jewish troubles in
this country commenced, and the remnant of the scat-
tered and sacred race settled in East Anglia, came in
for a terrible share of those troubles. The bitter re-
vengeful feelings which had been pent up during the
reigns of the first three Norman kings, were now let
loose, and raged with impetuous fury. The Christians
of East Anglia must be credited with the fabrication
of the foulest calumny ever coined against their Jewish
neighbours, which proved most disastrous to the latter.
In the ninth year of that reign, the Jews were, for the
first time, accused of the crime of crucifying a Christian
infant, William by name. The alleged cruel murder
was said to have been perpetrated at Norwich. It
was the inauguration of a long series of such allega
tions, in the various countries where the Jews were
dispersed, against whom, for a time, sympathy had
been permitted to become steeled, and for whose
rights justice had been deprived of balances.

It may not be considered irrelevant if I state here
the various and extraordinary reasons which the
Gentile converts had invented to account for the
flagrant calumny against the Jews. Some asserted
that the scattered nation required Christian blood for
the celebration of the Passover, ignorant of the Jewish
law that a dead body renders a whole neighbourhood
defiled. Others affirmed that the Hebrews required
Christian blood to put it into their unleavened bread
on the above-named festival, forgetful that blood was
strictly prohibited in the law of Moses. It was also
gravely stated that the Israelites used Christian blood


for personal deodorization. Others seasoned the
charge with a spice of sensational romance Forsooth,
the Jews wanted Christian blood to make love potions.
Others maintained that with Christian blood the Jews
stopped the bleeding of their infant sons, induced by
the administration of the Abrahamic covenant seal.
Some mysteriously stated that Christian blood was
used at the celebration of Jewish weddings. Others
vehemently asserted that the Jewish priests were
obliged to have their hands tinged with it when they
pronounced the Aaronic benediction in the syna-
gogues. Others again asserted that the members of
the synagogue used Christian blood to make their
sacrifices acceptable. The most common story, how-
ever, was that Christian blood was used for the
purpose of anointing dying Jews; that at the point of
death, the rabbi anointed his departing brother, and
secretly whispered into his ear the following words :
" If the Messiah, on whom the Christians believe, be
the promised true Messiah, may the blood of this
innocent murdered Christian help thee to eternal life."
Pierius Valerianus assures us " that the Jews purchase
at a dear rate the blood of Christians, in order to raise
devils, and that by making it boil, they obtained answers
to all their questions " Such was the profound know*
ledge, of Jews and Judaism, which the Christians of
East Anglia possessed in bygone days. Something
akin to the knowledge which the ignorant peasantry of
Spain possess of the English now-a-day, who have
lately accused a British Consul of eating their children,
which accusation nearly cost the Englishman his life.


During the reign of Henry II., it transpired that
the ecclesiastics were already debtors to the Jews, and
they therefore began to charge their creditors with
usury, which was on all occasions held up, by the
clergy, as a crime of the greatest magnitude. Had the
ecclesiastics been really impressed by this belief, they
should not, for the sake of moral consistency, have
resorted to such sinners when they wanted money.
Yet we learn that bishops, abbots, and monks of those
days, pledged with the Jews the sacred vessels of their
churches. In the records of this reign, we find it
stated in connection with the Abbey of Bury St.
Edmund's, amongst other things, that Isaac, the son of
Rabbi Jocee, held a security for three hundred pounds.
Benedict, the Jew of Norwich, held a security for
eight hundred and fourscore pounds, which debt ori-
ginated in a loan for rebuilding the parlour of the
Abbacy, which was destroyed by fire. Another Jew,
Jurnet by name, held security for sixty pounds. We
also have it recorded, that a Jew of Bury St. Edmund's,
Sancto by name I wish that name to be borne in
mind was fined five marks for taking, as security for
a loan, from the monks of that place, certain vessels
dedicated to the service of the altar. Another Jew of
Suffolk. Bennet by name Bennet was a common
Jewish name, I have never yet met a man of that
name, who was not marked with strong characteristic
Jewish features was fined twenty pounds for taking
some consecrated vestments as security. A curious
story is related by Brompton, a monkish chronicler
of the twelfth century, respecting William de Water-


ville, Abbot of Peterborough. That dignitary was
deposed for having entered the abbey, at the head of
a band of armed men, and having taken thence the arm
of St. Oswald, the martyr, in order to pawn it to the
Jews.* One of the claims advanced by Henry II.
against Archbishop Thomas a Becket, was in reference
to a sum of 500, for which that prince had been se-
curity for the primate to a Jew.

It is a faithful picture of the English of those days,
" that when churchmen and laymen, prince and prior,
knight and priest, come knocking at Isaac's door, they
borrow not his shekels with these uncivil terms. It is
then, Friend Isaac, will you pleasure us in this matter,
and our day shall be truly kept, so God save me and

* It is problematical whether the Jews would have advanced
much upon that withered arm, but in the eyes of the members
of the abbacy it was of great value, on account of its healing
virtues. At the dissolution of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmund's,
these relics, which the monks had in great esteem, were found,
viz. : the sacred remains of King Edmund, enshrined ; the same
king's shirt, entire ; certain drops of St. Stephen's blood, which
were shed out of his body when he was stoned ; some of the
coals on which St. Lawrence was broiled ; certain parings of the
flesh of divers holy virgins ; a sinew of St. Edmund in a box ;
several skulls of ancient saints and martyrs among which was that
of St. Petronill, which the people believed would cure all the dis-
eases of the head by applying it to the aching part ; St. Edmund's
sword, and St. Thomas of Canterbury's boots ; St. Botolph's
bones in a coffin, which the monks made the people believe
would procure rain when carried in procession in a time of
drought ; certain wax candles, which being carried lighted round
their corn-fields in seed-time, no darnel, tares, or any noisome
weeds would grow among the corn that year ; with many others
which, by the relation of the monks, would work wonderful effects.


kind Isaac, if ever you served a man, show yourself a
friend in this need. And when the day comes and I
ask my own, then what hear I, but the curse of Egypt
on your tribe, and all that may stir up the rude and
uncivil populace against poor strangers."*

The king and the priests, however, very often
adopted a different mode from borrowing, when they
stood in need of money. For instance, in the year
1179, when both the royal exchequer and the treasury
of the Abbacy of Bury St. Edmund's were at their
lowest ebb, from natural causes, the Jews of that town
were all of a sudden charged with the unnatural crime
of crucifying a boy, Robert by name, which device
proved an important revenue both to the king and the
abbot. The former took advantage of the supposed
crime, and banished the wealthiest Jews of Bury St.
Edmund's out of the country ; and, as a matter of
course, confiscated their properties. Those Jews he
allowed to remain in the place, he fined very heavily.
The abbot and the monks, on the other hand, caused
a body of a child to be interred, as that of a martyred
saint, with great ceremony and every mark of respect ;
the shrine was declared capable of producing super-
natural effects, and it speedily became renowned for
the miracles it wrought. Persons from all parts, led
either by curiosity or credulity, visited the shrine.
The offerings which were made on the occasion proved
a most yielding mine of wealth.

The inauguration of the reign of Richard I. was the
* Sir Walter Sr-ott.


ushering in of a new series of spoliations and murders,
by British Christians, of Anglo-Hebrews ; and the poor
Jews who lived in East Anglia suffered as much as
those who resided in any other place in this kingdom,
except York. In the spring of 1190, when Richard
had passed over to the continent, to join the king of
France in the crusade to Palestine, and whilst the
soldiers of the cross were preparing to follow him,
" the people," using the word s of a quaint old histo-
rian of Suffolk, " almost with one accord, through the
whole nation, as if they had been summoned by a bell,
fell upon the Jews, and slew many of them ; and
among other places such as inhabited Bury St.
Edmund's were set upon, March 17, 1190, and many
of them were slain, and the residue that escaped
through the procurement of the abbot, named
Sampson, were expelled the town.

Neither Jocelin of Brakelond, the contemporary
monkish chronicler, nor his recent translator and
editor, Mr. T. E. Tomlins, seem to me to have
apprehended the real motives of Abbot Sampson,
on the occasion. I believe those motives were of
a humane and Christian character. The Jews and
the heads of the Abbacy of Bury St. Edmund's had
hitherto lived on very amicable terms. Brakelond,
who was a thorough hater of his Saviour's kinsfolk,
thus once introduced the latter into his chronicles.
" The Jews, I say, to whom the sacrist [William] was
said to be a father and protector, whose protection
they indeed enjoyed, having free ingress and egress,
and going all over the monastery, rambling about the


altars and by the shrine, while high mass was being
celebrated. Moreover, their monies were kept safe in
our treasury, under the care of the sacrist, and what
was still more improper, their wives with their little
ones, were lodged in our pitancery in time of war."
Now, Abbot Sampson was a just and upright man of
a different spirit from his pupil and biographer he
was determined therefore to secure the right of pro-
tecting the Jews of his town, " he alleging that what-
soever is within the town of St. Edmund, or within the
liberties thereof, of right belongeth to St. Edmund.
Therefore the Jews ought to become the men of St.
Edmund's." The king naturally demurred to the
claim ; by acquiescing he would not only have es-
tablished a precedent upon which all the other monas-
teries, where the Jews resided, would have been ready
to act, but he would have lost his great gold-mine.
The demand was therefore negatived. Sampson, who
evidently took no pleasure in the sport of persecuting
the Jews under his very eyes, demanded permission to
expel them altogether from his town. The license was
readily granted to the determined abbot. He took
care, however, that the exiles " had all their chattels,
and the value of their houses and lands." That no evil
might befall them on their way to the divers towns
where they were going to, armed forces were ordered
to protect them. It was also provided, that " if the
Jews should come to the great pleas of the abbot to
demand their debts from their debtors, on such oc-
casions they might for two days and two nights lodge
within the town, and on the third day bo permitted to


depart without injury." So far, there is no evidence
of malevolent hostility on the part of that abbot
towards the Jews of Bury St. Edmund's. Was
Sampson the name bewrayeth him a descendant of
those Hebrews who professed the whole of the Jewish
religion an " Israelite indeed ?"*

The Jews of Cambridge, Norwich, and Lynn,
suffered similar outrages of rapine and murder. It
must be owned that the Jews of Lynn were them-
selves the authors of their sufferings then. A
member of their own community saw cogent reasons
to admit the second part of the Jewish faith, namely,
the full development of that religion as revealed in
the New Testament. The unbelievers in that part of
their religion saw proper to take vengeance upon the
believer. They waylaid him, and one day, as he
passed through a certain street, they were determined
to get him into their power. He made his escape to

* His personal appearance, as well as his character, seems to
favour the supposition. Jocelin of Brakelond describes him "of
middle stature, having an oval face, a prominent nose, thick lips,
clear and very piercing eyes, ears of nicest sense of hearing, lofty
eyebrows .... having a few grey hairs in his reddish beard,
with a few grey in a black head of hair, which somewhat curled

a man remarkably temperate, never slothful, well able

and willing to ride or walk till old age came upon him and mo-
derated such inclination." Respecting the abbot's kinsmen, the
same chronicler says, "He had not, or assumed not to have had any
relative within the third degree. But I have heard him state, that
he had relations who were noble and gentle, whom he never would
in any wise recognise as relations; for, as he said, they would be
more a burden than an honour to him, if they should happen to
find out their relationship."


a neighbouring church, to which he was pursued by
some of the Jewish persecutors. Whereupon some
sailors belonging to a ship lying in the harbour raised
a cry that the unbelievers intended to put the believer
to death. The sailors were joined by the townspeople,
under the plea of saving the life of the persecuted
one, drove the persecutors to their houses, and then
followed themselves, murdered the would-be mur-
derers, carried off whatever valuables they could find,
and then set fire to the rifled houses. The sailors,
enriched by the spoil, embarked immediately on
board their vessel, set sail, and got clear off. *

It was aptly said of the Anglo-Hebrews of those days,
by a French historian, that they were used as sponges^
allowed for a time to absorb a large amount of wealth,
which, when filled, were wrung out into the coffers of
the crown. As an illustration of the pertinency of
the simile may be adduced the first few years of King
John's reign. As soon as that monarch succeeded
to the throne he began by giving all sorts of encou-
ragement to the devoted race ; he not only permitted
the exiles to return to the towns and homes from
which they were banished, and granted charters in
their- favour, f but he also threw out baits for foreign
Jews, in order to lure them to take up their residence
in this country. The synagogues in East Anglia
that of Bury St. Edmund's included were re-opened.
Again three times a day morning, noon, and even-
ing were they attended by Jewish worshippers.
* See Appendix E. f See Appendix F.


But as soon as his majesty perceived that his human
sponges were sufficiently filled out, he began to wring
them with a fierce tenacity, with a cruel grasp, with
a murderous grip, that only John was capable of.
Many a Jew was tortured to death, in order to dis-
cover his supposed riches ; whilst many more were
thrown into dungeons for the same purpose.

That sovereign's Gentile subjects must also have
felt severely the effects of that remorseless pressure,
as may be inferred from the 12th and 13th clauses in
the Magna Charta which instrument, by the bye,
was drawn up at Bury St. Edmund's they are the
following : " If any one have borrowed anything of
the Jews, more or less, and died before the debt be
satisfied, there shall no interest be paid for that debt,
so long as the heir is under age, of whomsoever he
will hold ; and if the debt fall into our hands, we
will take only the chattel mentioned in the charter or
instrument. If any one shall be indebted to the
Jews, his wife shall have her dower, and pay nothing
for the debt ; and if the deceased leave children
under age, they shall have necessaries provided for
them according to the tenements of the deceased,
and out of the residue the debts shall be paid, saving
however the service of the Lord."

On the death of John, the Jews experienced an
interval of respite from persecution, on the part of the
state. Happily, the government of the country, dur-
ing the minority of Henry III, fell successively into
the hands of men of distinguished ability and virtue.

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