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

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As soon as the Earl of Pembroke entered upon his
exalted office, as guardian to the youthful King, he
adopted measures for the special relief and protection
of the persecuted Anglo-Hebrews. Many individuals
amongst them were exonerated from the burdens
which had been previously imposed upon them ; and
numbers were immediately liberated from imprison-
ments, to which, upon various pretences, they had,
under the late King, been condemned. Writs and
letters patent were issued, directed to the principal
burgesses of each of the towns where the Jews resided,
commanding that they should be held secure from
any injuries, both as to their persons and their pro-
perties ; and particularly that they should be guarded
against any violence from the hands of the crusaders.
In addition to these measures, a confirmation of the
charter, which the Anglo-Hebrews had obtained in
the beginning of the late reign, was granted ; by the
terms of which most important privileges were
accorded to them, and their persons and estates were
shielded from violence. At the same time, with the
confirmation of their former charter, the Jews were
further exempted from the jurisdiction of the ecclesi-
astical courts.

Hubert de Burgh who, upon the death of the Earl
of Pembroke, succeeded to the administration of the
government, continued his predecessor's humane
deportment towards the Anglo-Hebrews. During
the fifteen years that those ministers, respectively,
wielded the sceptre of this land, no instances are
recorded of any acts of violence having been com-


mitted against the Jews. On the contrary, we are
informed that many unlooked-for privileges were
lavished upon them.

The protection thus extended to the remnant of
the scattered nation in this land, again inspired them
with confidence ; those who had survived the atro-
cious oppressions of the last reign, began once more to
accumulate wealth ; and numbers of their co-religion-
ists were induced once more to come over from the
continent, and settle in this country.

The clergy, it would seem, took umbrage at the
privileges which the Jews enjoyed, and resolved to
attempt, by an exercise of ecclesiastical authority, to
counteract the effects of the protection which had
been afforded by the measures of the government.
Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, in con-
junction with Hugo de Velles, Bishop of Lincoln,
published a general prohibition, by which all persons
were forbidden to buy anything of the Jews, or sell
them any victuals or necessaries, or to have any com-
munication with them. The primate, moreover,
promulgated at his provincial synod the following
edict :

" That the Jews do not keep Christian servants ;
and let the servants be compelled by ecclesiastical
censure to observe this, and the Jews by canonical
punishments, or by some extraordinary penalty con-
trived by the diocesan. Let them not be permitted
to build any more synagogues, but be looked upon
as debtors to the churches of the parishes where they
reside, as to tithes and offerings.


" To prevent, moreover, the intimacy of Jewish men
and women with Christians of either sex, we charge
by the authority of the General Council, that the
Jews of both sexes wear a linen cloth, two inches
broad and four fingers long, of a different colour
from their own clothes, on their upper garment, before
their breast ; and that they be compelled to do this by
ecclesiastical censure ; and let them not presume to
enter into any Church."

The Jews appealed to the Crown for protection, and
obtained relief. Directions were sent to the sheriffs
of the different counties and cities, to prevent the pro-
hibitions being enforced; and orders were given to
imprison all persons who, by reason of the commands
of the Church, refused to sell provisions to the

When Henry III., at the age of sixteen, in the year
1223, assumed the reins of the government himself,
the conduct of public affairs appeared under a different
aspect. From henceforth the Jews, in place of the
security which they had previously enjoyed, were
subjected to ceaseless violence and arbitrary exactions.
This monarch began by seizing the whole of the pro-
perty of any Jew who admitted the divine character
of the Judaism proclaimed from Calvary, as well as
that from Sinai, and thus joined the Christian Church.
It is a pleasing consideration, that notwithstanding
such cruel anti-Christian conduct, on the part of a
nominal Christian king, there were Anglo-Hebrews
of great celebrity who hazarded everything in obe-


dience to conviction and conscience, and became
Israelites indeed. Those thorough-going Jews I am
not disposed to pity ; they counted the cost of their
confessing the faith, and gloried in the bargain which
they had made. But those Jews who were neither
convinced nor conscious of the incompleteness of their
Judaism are to be pitied by every feeling heart.
Scarcely a year in the long reign of Henry III. was
allowed to pass without heavy taxes, to an enormous
amount, being exacted from the Anglo-Hebrews.
Those taxes were enforced by imprisonment, by
seizure of property, and the persons of wives and
children. Punctuality of payment was secured by
compelling the richest Jews to become securities for
their respective communities, under the above-named

In the year 1232, the king having taxed the anti-
Christian Jews to the amount of 18,000 marks, and
having robbed the Christian Jews of their all. his ma-
jesty was moved, it is said, by the wailing and gnash-
ing of teeth, which the purgatorial fire wrung from
his tormented sire the most cruel oppressor of his
Jewish subjects determined on establishing a home
for those Jews who sacrificed everything to their con-
victions of the divine character of the New Testa-
ment, where they had board, lodgings, and the means
of instruction.* Be it known, however, that the king
was no loser by the establishment- -the house itself
was, on some pretext, taken from a Jew, John Her-
berton by name and he took care to indemnify him-
* See Appendix GK


self more than enough by the exorbitant imposts
which he put upon the Jewish community from time
to time. In these days, when the spoils of the old
times are being restored to the representatives of the
spoiled, and when Hebrew-Christians are being daily
added to the Church, it would be but an honest act to
restore the property, under trustees, to the represen-
tatives of the Anglo-Hebrew Christians of former

The Jews of East Anglia were at that time exceed-
ingly rich, and suffered proportionately whenever the
king was in need of money. As an illustration, let
me name the year 1235 the year in which Henry
spent a great deal on his sister Isabella's marriage to
the Emperor of Germany, as well as on his own contem-
plated marriage with Eleanor of Provence. Seven of
the most opulent Jews of Norwich were accused of
circumcising a little boy of that city. The accused
were brought before the king himself, whilst he was
celebrating his nativity at Westminster. The poor
Jews were condemned to be drawn and hanged, and,
of course, their property to be confiscated ; and thus
were the king's wants supplied for that time. That
charge, of circumcising little Gentile boys, against the
Jews, became a source of lucrative income to the
needy Church and State of that period. One of the
most famous mock trials of that reign took place in
1240, when a very rich Jew of the city of Norwich,
Jacob by name, was accused of stealing a small Gen-
* See Appendix H.


tile boy from his parents and circumcising him. I
cannot enter here into a detailed account of that
cause celebre.* Sufficient to say, that after the case for
the prosecution had ominously broken down, notwith-
standing the hard perjury of certain witnesses, four
very opulent Jews were condemned to be dragged by
horses' tails, and then hanged. The populace who,
as usual, waited for an opportunity to rob and plunder,
set fire to the houses of the Jews, and reduced them
to ashes. So barefaced were those murderers and
robbers, that when the sheriff of Norfolk ventured to
interfere on behalf of the sufferers, they complained
to the king of the sheriff's interposition.

In the very next year the Anglo-Hebrew communi-
ties throughout the kingdom were startled by writs to
elect a certain number out of their respective congre-
gations, to meet the king at a Parliament at Wor-
cester, iii order, as the writs ran, " to treat with the
king both concerning his own and their benefit."
Many of the oppressed people began to entertain
sanguine hopes that the king was about to pass a
"gracious and generous" measure in their behalf;
but to their dismay they soon found that the bill
which the king proposed was "severe and sweeping,"
in other words, it was a bill of "pains and penalties."
The purport of his majesty's most gracious preamble
was that the king wanted money, and that of the bill
that the Jews must raise him twenty thousand marks.
That convention is called by the chroniclers of the
time Parliamentum Judaicum. East Anglia furnished
* See Appendix I.


nine representatives to that singular Parliament ;
namely, Cambridge six, Isaac ben Samuel, Jacob ben
Deusestra, Aaron ben Isaac Blund, Josce de Wilton,
Dyaye ben Rabbi, Levi ben Solomon ; and Norwich
three, Henne Jurninius ben Jacob, Deucreseben Dyaya
de Manecroft, and Dure de Resing. The other Jewish
communities in East Anglia must have dwindled
away by this, both as regards numbers and wealth,
and were not in a position to send deputies to that
extraordinary Parliament. A melancholy monotony,
as regards the Anglo-Hebrews, pervaded the fifty
years' English history after that Parliament, when the
sacred unmixed race were finally banished from this
then inhospitable country, by the mixed races who
subjugated it. The history of the Anglo-Hebrews,
during the last jubilee of their residence in Britain,
may be summed up in three words robbery, torture,
and murder; varied now and then in the ferocious
barbarity of the inhuman robbers and murderers.

As has been hinted, the Anglo-Hebrews, the oldest
settlers in this island, were ruthlessly banished from
this country in 1290. The expulsion was accom-
panied by atrocities on the part of the banishers
the comparatively new settlers the thoughts of
which make one's blood run cold.

Very scanty indeed are the vestiges of the historic
Anglo-Hebrews in this realm. Antiquarians and
archaeologists have now and then brought to light
some fragments belonging to some monuments of the
ante-expulsion Jews, which though comparatively


trifling in themselves, are yet endowed with solemn
interest to the thoughtful student of Jewish history.
It is difficult now to point out clearly the ancient
Hebrew houses, whether public or private ; for though
Edward I. ordered a strict inventory to be made of all
the Jewish estates, with the design, as he promised,
to convert them all to pious purposes, yet nothing was
more remote from his royal intentions. The inven-
tory was indeed made, and an auction too, but the
proceeds were converted to anything but pious pur-
poses. The English Justinian squandered away the
money in a most reprehensible manner, without a
single penny having been applied to those pious uses
of which the devout king talked. Whole rolls full
of patents relative to Jewish estates are still to be
seen in the archives of the metropolis, which estates,
together with their rents in fee, pensions, and mort-
gages, were all seized by the king. Besides those
Jewish records on parchment, there are some in stone,
namely, a few Christian churches which were formerly
Jewish synagogues ; also some streets and walks,
which are distinguished by the names of Jewry, Jews'
Way, Jews' Walk, Jewin Street, Jews' W'all, Jews'
Mount, &c., &c.

One of the most interesting reliques of the historic
Anglo-Hebrews, in pretty good preservation, is found
in the town of Bury St. Edmund's, namely the present
police station.* It was known by its original

* A considerable portion of the east end of the original build-
ing was cut off about a century ago, to widen a lane or street.
For further particulars, see Appendix J.


possessors and founders as ntMD rhftp , " the Syna-
gogue of Moses." It was, no doubt, a Jewish place of
worship, and so named, either because it was dedicated
to the service of Almighty God, as prescribed by
Israel's deliverer from Egypt, or because the founder
was an Anglo-Hebrew whose name was Moses. The
modern Jewish synagogue at Ramsgate was founded
by a Jewish baronet, well known for his extensive
philanthropy, and goes amongst the Jews by the
name of " Sir Moses' Synagogue."

On examining the one at Bury St. Edmund's, I
found it to correspond, in its architectural details,
with the oldest existing synagogue in Europe, that of
Prague. The rabbi's, or the founder's house prob-
ably the founder was one of the early rabbis of the Bury
St. Edmund's Synagogue was not only contiguous
to it, but communicated with the synagogue. After
a careful survey of the adjoining places, I have come
to the conclusion that the whole of the south side of the
square of the market-place belonged to the synagogue
establishment, and premises; including seminary,
official residences, baptistries, &c., &c. in fact, a sort
of Hebrew abbacy of Bury St. Edmund's. According
to the Jewish ritual males and females have to per-
form, at sundry times, certain ablutions by immersion.
Every synagogue is provided therefore with baptis-
tries, in its immediate vicinity, for that purpose. I
happened to visit the synagogue of Rotterdam in the
course of last year, and four such baptistries were
pointed out to me. On examining the premises ad-

joining the police station at Bury St. Edmund's, I

D 2


found an old well, which was evidently one of the
baptistries, as well as traces of others, plainly vestiges
of their primitive Jewish use.

The synagogue proper consisted of the ground floor ;
the centre was occupied by the nft'Q/'Bimah," a square
raised platform where the law was read on Sabbaths,
feasts, festivals, Mondays, and Thursdays ; the east
end was dedicated as the ark, in which the scrolls of
the Pentateuch were deposited, in front of which was
a raised platform, for the Aaronites to stand upon on
certain grand festivals, when it is their office to pro-
nounce the sacerdotal benediction, as prescribed in
Numb. vi. 2326. From that platform was also
delivered an occasional discourse. In front stood the
nine-branched candlestick, for the celebration of
"the Feast of Dedication."* There was a niche by the
side of the ark, in which was placed a lamp, ever burn-
ing, in accordance with Levit. xxiv. 1 4. The west
end, below the "Bimah" was apportioned to stran-

* A festive anniversary, under the name of nD3n , or " Dedica-
tion," has been ordained in the house of Israel, by Judas
Maccabeeus, to commemorate the inauguration of the Temple
which was restored by him. To the present time, throughout
the Jewish world, this festival is observed for eight days, be-
ginning with the 25th of the ninth month ; which generally
falls about the end of December. The great feature of
the commemoration is the ceremonial of lighting lamps or
candles in the following manner, immediately after sunset, for
eight successive evenings : The first night one lamp or candle
is lighted ; the second night two ; the third night three ; and so
on, till the eighth night. In most synagogues there is a nine-
branched candlestick for the purpose, the ninth light, or lamp,
serving as the illuminator of the respective one, two, three, &c.


gers and mourners; the rest was occupied by the regu-
lar male members of the congregation. Beyond the
west end arches there must have been an ante-room, or
portico, which contained the laver, the different alms'
chests, &c. Over the portico there must have been a
latticed gallery, to ascend which a staircase would be
required, for the female members of the community.
The floors of the synagogues of Orthodox Jews were
considerably below the level of ordinary houses, to
which the worshippers descended by a flight of steps,
conformably to Psalm cxxx., which begins with
the words, " Out of the depths have I cried unto
Thee, O Lord !" The synagogue under review must
have been very deep ; it evidently had no windows.
Be it remembered that the historic Anglo-Hebrews had
been often prohibited, under severe pains and penalties,
making their supplications audible, lest the sensitive
ears of the Gentile Christians of those days should
be irritated. This synagogue must have been illumin-
ated by day, as well as by night, by artificial light.

There ought to be also traces of a tower, from
whence the moon, at a certain age, was monthly
apostrophised in the form of a short service. In the
places where the Jews are numerous, that monthly
service is solemnised out of doors, when the moon is
between seven and fifteen days old. *

* Since the above was written, my attention has been directed
to Mr. Hudson Turner's "Domestic Architecture of the Middle
Ages," and Mr. Tymms' " Hand-book of Bury St. Edmund's,"
which works indirectly confirm the opinions I have formed from
personal observations. See Appendix J.


In connection with this archaeological specimen in
stone, I have to bring under your notice another
one in bronze, which I believe to have been one of the
vessels which once belonged to the synagogue of Bury
St. Edmund's. I regret very much that it is out of my
power to exhibit the relic itself, but I venture to
hope that Lady Pigot's drawing of it, enlarged from
a small pen and ink sketch preserved amongst the
MSS. in the British Museum,* and my humble des-
cription of it, will give some idea of its character
and probable use. I ought to tell you that her
ladyship's drawing is considerably larger than the
original vessel was ; the latter measured eight quarts.

About two hundred years ago, as a fisherman was
dragging a brook in the county of Suffolk, probably
the Lark, he nearly broke his net by some heavy cap-
ture. On landing it, he discovered that he had fished
up a curious vessel, upon three legs, which had on its
outside cincture certain characters which were Greek
to him. Let me in the first place state the reason why
I think that the vessel was found in the immediate
vicinity of Bury St. Edmund's. When the fisherman
secured his prize, he sold it immediately to the Rev.
Dr. John Covell, then Master of Christ's College,
Cambridge. Now, Dr. Covell was a native of Horn-
ingsheath, or Horringer, and educated in the Gram-
mar School of Bury St. Edmund's. He often visited the
places in which he was born and bred, whenever vaca-
tionfrom his various duties afforded him an opportunity
to do so. I do not think that I am wrong in sup-
* See Frontispiece.


posing that the vessel was found and bought on one
of the doctor's visits to this neighbourhood.

The acquisition proved a very perplexing study to
the Master of Christ's College. He knew sufficient
of the Hebrew alphabet to be aware that the inscrip-
tion on the cincture of his purchase was not Greek.
For all that, the inscription was a most inexplicable
philological problem to the purchaser. His own
University seemed, at that time, destitute of a single
Hebrew scholar who could help him to a solution of
his problem. I find among the MSS. in the British
Museum two letters addressed to Dr. Covell, evidently
in answer to queries about that very vessel ; one by
the then Marquis of Northampton, who was a dabbler
in Hebrew antiquities, and another by a Mr. Isaac
Abendana, a learned Jew of Oxford. But as the doc-
tor would not trust the vessel out of his keeping, and
as his delineation of it, and its inscription, was far
from lucid, his correspondents' conjectures were
anything but enlightening. With them I will not
trespass upon the attention of my indulgent audience
at present ; their proper positions are as footnotes
or appendices.*

At the doctor's death, in 1722, the vessel was pur-
chased by the then Earl of Oxford. His lordship
did according to the light which he possessed the
proper thing ; he sent the vessel to Oxford, in order
to have the inscription deciphered and explained
by Mr. John Gagnier, the Professor of Oriental

* See Appendix K.


Languages in that University.* We are indebted
to that Orientalist for a tolerable copy of the letters
of the inscription, but we owe him nothing either
for his grouping, or for the explanation of the
same; they only serve, as circumstantial evidence, to
prove how little knowledge of eastern languages was
then required from a Gentile Professor of Oriental
Literature. I am pleased to think that there are
several Hebrew scholars amongst my hearers,-]- 1 shall
therefore read the inscription, in the first instance, in
the original. For the large diagram of the inscription,
I am also indebted to Lady Pigot's skill in Hebrew
caligraphy. It consists, as you must perceive, of the
names concerned, the principal personage being des-
cribed in two rhymed couplets, one short and one long,
and closes with a line which explains the object of
the vessel

it an

rrr Tpn


rn nron

* Mr. Gagnier was a Frenchman, which may account for his
ingeniously improvising the name of a town, in default of knowing
the meaning of certain Hebrew words. (See Appendix L.)

f Lord Arthur Hervey, the present Bishop of Bath and Wells,


Of which the following is a literal translation:
" The offerer is Joseph, the son of Rabbi Yechiel
Sancto, (the memory of a righteous man, who is holy,
is to be blessed,) who answered and questioned the
congregation as he thought proper. That he may
behold the face of Ariel, with the writing DATH
YEKUTHIEL. And may righteousness deliver from

I must trouble you with a few annotations ere I
make the purport of the inscription intelligible.
First about Rabbi Yechiel Sancto. >np, or Sancto,
was evidently a family surname, and of old standing
at Bury St. Edmund's. It will be remembered that
in an earlier part of this paper, an individual of
that name was mentioned as having been fined
for taking the sacred vessels of the abbey as
security for a loan.* Rabbi Yechiel is a well-known
name in the Talmudical literature of the middle ages,
and frequently quoted in the addenda to the Talmud,
termed TOSEPHOTH. The Rabbi Yechiel named in
the inscription, I consider to have been one of the
later rabbis of the synagogue of Bury St. Edmund's,
as the first couplet,

"Who answered and questioned
The congregation as he thought proper,"

evidently implies. This rabbi was the author of a
work on the Pentateuch, under the title of DATH

occupied the chair when the paper was read, and there were,
besides, several other Hebrew Scholars amongst the audience.

* See p. 27.


YEKUTHIEL, or " the Law of Yekuthiel " Yekuthiel
being a name by which Moses is known in Rabbinical
writings. With the MS. of that work the author was
determined to undertake a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to
submit it to the Masters of his people in the Holy
City not an uncommon occurrence in the middle
ages which I clearly discern in the second couplet,

" That he may behold the face of Ariel,*
With the writing of Dath Yekuthiel."f

That is, that the pious pilgrim may enjoy a safe

* Ariel is a term used for Jerusalem. See Isaiah xxix. 1.

f The words bsiro and bsTHp s occur in a couplet, being
part of a poem recited in the synagogue, on the Festival of the
Law, called min nnatP. The couplet runs thus :

rat? m

" Yah rested from work as He deemed proper,
And sanctified the seventh day, as [it is recorded] in the
writing of Yekuthiel.

A work under the title of bs^mp" 1 m, the burden of which
was an exposition of the 613 precepts, supposed to be inculcated
in the Pentateuch, was actually published in 1696, (by a strange
coincidence, the very year in which the vessel was discovered,) at
Zolkiew, by Siiskind ben Solomon Yekuthiel. Whether the pub-

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