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

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Schuld, von seinen ehemaligen Genossen auf offener Strasse verfolgt
tcurde." " The occasion for it was afforded by a baptized Jew,
who without doubt, [! ! !] through his own fault, was persecuted
in the open street by his former co-religionists."

F. See page 33.

The following three charters are of so remarkable a character,
that I deem them to be worthy of re-production, in their original


Rex omnibus fidelibus suis, et omnibus et Judeeis et Anglis
salutem. Sciatis nos concessisse, et prcesenti charta nostra con-
firmasse, Jacobo Judeeo de Londiniis Presbytero Judseorum,
Presbyteratum omnium Judseorum totius Anglise. Habendum
et tenendum quamdiu vixerit, libere, et quiete honorifice, et
integre ; ita quod nemo ei super hoc molestiam aliquam, aut
gravamen inferre praesumat. Quare volumus et firmiter prseci-
pimus, quod eidem Jacobo quoad vixerit, Presbyteratum Judseo-
rum per totam Angliam, garantetis, manuteneatis, et pacifice
defendatis. Et si quis ei super ea foris facere preesumpserit, id
ei sine dilatione (salva nobis emenda nostra de forisfactura nostra)
emendare faciatis, tanquam Dominico Judseo nostro, quern
specialiter in servitio nostro retinuimus. Prohibemus etiam ne
de aliquo ad se pertinente ponatur in placitum, nisi coram nobis,
aut coram Capitali Justiciario nostro, sicut charta Regis Richardi
fratris nostri testatur.

Teste S. Baethoniens, Episcopo, &c., Dat. per manum Huberti


Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi, Cancellarii nostri, apud Rotho-
magum 12 die Julii an. Reg. nostr. primo.


Johannes Dei Gratia, &c. Omnibus fidelibus suis ad quos
literse praesentes pervenerint tarn ultra mare quam citra. Man-
dans vobis et praecipiens, quatenus per quascunque villas et loca
Jacobus Presbyter Judaeorum, dilectus et familiaris noster tran-
sierit, ipsum salvo, et libere, cum omnibus ad ipsum pertinentibus,
transire et conduci faciatis ; nea ipsi aliquod impedimentum,
molestiam, aut gravamen fieri sustineatis, plus quam nobis ipsis
et si quis ei, in aliquo, forisfacere prsesumpserit, id ei sine
dilatione, emendari faciatis.

Teste Willelmo di Marisco, &c. Dat. per manum Hu. Cantuar.
Arcbiep. Cancellarii nostri apud Rothomagum 31. die Julii anno
Reg. nostr. primo.


"Johannes Dei gratia, &c. Sciatis nos consessisse omnibus
Judaeis Anglise et Normaniae, libere et honorifice habere re-
sidentiam in terra nostra et omnia ilia de nobis tenenda quse
tenuerunt de Rege Henrico, avo patris nostri ; et omnia ilia quse
modo ration abiliter tenent in terris et feodis, et vadiis et akatis
suis : et quod habeant omnes libertates, et consuetudines suas,
sicut eas babuerunt tempore prsedicti regis H. avi patris nostri,
melius et quietius et honorabilius. Et si querela orta fuerit
inter Christanum et Judaoum, ille qui alium appelaverit ad
querelam suam dirationandam, habeat Testes, scilicet legitimum
Christianum et Judaeum. Et si Judaeus de querela sua breve
habeurit, breve suum erit ei testis. Et si Christianus habeurit
querelam adversus Judaeum, sit Judicata per pares Judaei. Et
cum Judseus obierit, non detineatur corpus suum super terram,
sed habeat haeres suus pecuniam suam et debita sua, ita quod
non inde disturbetur, si habeurit haeredem qui pro ipso res-
pondeat, et rectum faciat de debitis suis et de forisfacto suo.
Et liceat Judaeis omnia quao eis apportata fuerint, sine occasione
accipere et emere, exceptis illis quae de ecclesiao sunt et panno
sanguinolento. Et si Judaeus ab aliquo appellatus fuerit sine
teste, de illo appellatu erit quietus solo Sacramento suo super li-


brum suum, et de appellatu illarum rerum quse ad coronam nos-
tram pertinent, similiter quietus erit solo Sacramento suo super
Eotulum suum. Et si inter Christianum et Judseum fuerit dis-
sentio de accomodatione alicujus peeunise, Judeeus probabit
catallum suum et Christianus lucrum. Et Liceat Judees quiete
vendere vadium, postquam certum erit, eum illud unum annum,
et unum diem tenuisse. Et Judsei non intrabunt inplacitum,
nisi eoram nobis, aut coram illis qui turres nostras custodierint,
in quorum ballivis Judsei manserint. Et ubicunque Judsei
fuerint, liceat eis ire ubicunque voluerint, cum omnibus catallis
eorum, sicut res nostrse proprise ; et nulli liceat eas retinere, neque
hoc eis prohibere. Et prsecipimus quod ipsi quieti sint per totam
Angliam et Normaniam de omnibus consuetudinibus et Theolo-
niis et modiatione vini sicut nostrum proprium catallum. Et man-
damus vobis et prsecipimus quod eos custodiatis, et defendatis,
et manu teneatis, et prohibemus nequis contra chartam istam de
hiis supredictis eos in placitum ponat super forisfacturam
nostram; sicut cnarta Eegi H. patris nostri rationabiliter
testatur. Teste T. Humf. filio Petri Com. Essex. Willielmi de
Meerscal. Com. de Pembr. Henr. de Bohun Com. de Hereford.
Robert de Turnham, "Willielmo Brywer, &c. Dat. per manum
S. Well. Archidiac. apud Marleberg, decimo dei Aprilis Anno
Eegni nostri secundo. Charta 2 John, n 49.

The above gracious charter might well have been considered a
fabrication, had the following one not been added soon.

Judsei Anglise dant Domino Eegi M. M. M. M. marc, pro Cartis
suis conformandis, et missse fuerunt Cartse Gaufrido filio Petri et
Stephano de Pertico, ut eas faciant legi eoram se, et eoram Dom.
Londoniensi et Norwicensi Episcopis, et cum acceperit securi-
tatem de illis quatuor mille marcis reddendis, tune eis illas cartas
eoram prsedictis liberet oblata 2 ~Fo. M. 3.

G. See page 38.

This was the first royal interest taken in the conversion of the
Jews. Individual cases of interest in the spiritual welfare of the
house of Jacob were to be met with in earlier times than those of
Henry III., even in John's time. In 1213, Richard, the then
Prior of Bermondsey, built a house for the reception of Hebrew


Christians, which he called " The Hospital for Converts." A
much earlier institution for the same purpose was founded at
Oxford, and flourished for a considerable time.

Whilst scarcely a vestige of those institutions which were
organised by private individuals can now be traced, the vestiges
of the royal one stand out to the present day, in bold relief, and
seem to demand examination as to the legitimacy of the transfer
which has been inflicted upon the Domus Conversorum. A brief
sketch of the vicissitudes of the institution up to the present time
may not be altogether uninteresting.

The royal idea seemed to have found favour with some of the
prelates of that period. Ten years after the idea was carried out,
the then Bishop of Winchester endowed it with one hundred pounds,
a considerable benefaction, as money was then valued. In the
year 1248, a very rich Jew of London, Constantino Ahef by name,
had the misfortune to be convicted of felony, whereby he
forfeited all his houses, lands, tenements, &c., to the crown.
The king bestowed the forfeitures upon his best establishment.

When Edward I. succeeded to the throne, he ordered that every
Jew who made an avowal of THE FAITH, and possessed more
property than he absolutely required for the maintenance of him-
self and family, should hand over the surplus to the fund of the
House of Converts. The same king also made over to that institu-
tion all the fines to which the Jews might be subjected for the
seven years following his accession. He also granted to the said
"House" the poll-tax which was levied on the Israelites, and
all deodands that might come to the crown from similar sources.
The establishment was put on a more business-like footing. He
remodelled the management thereof, and insisted upon proper
accounts being kept of all the revenues belonging to the House,
as well as of the outlays in its behalf. Those accounts were
periodically to be rendered to the royal exchequer. Should a
balance be realised, the same was to be applied towards the im-
provement of the fabric, and towards the promotion of further
means for the service of God.

After the expulsion of the Jews, in 1 290, the usefulness of the
Institution gradually declined, and the fabric fell into compara-
tive decay. A report to the same effect was made in 1310,


which, brought about a thorough repair of the house, the
chapel, cloisters, and tenements, but it unfortunately also
paved the way for the future misappropriation of the pro-
perty, and the diverting it from the object of the charity, which
the royal founder had in view. The "Wardenship of the " Domus
Conversorum " was annexed to the Mastership of the Rolls. It
is true that when the conjunction of the functions took place, it
was stated that no transfer of the revenues of the institution was
contemplated, but rather " to secure the care and preservation of
the House of Converts, with its edifices, chapel, enclosure, and
recent buildings ;" but the spoliation eventually followed for all

It is a fact well worthy of notice, that there were
some Hebrew-Christians in this country between the periods
of the banishment and return of the Jewish people. There
is no consecutive chronicle of them during that period, but
detached accounts are now and then met with which warrant
the affirmation. For instance, in the thirtieth year of Edward
III., we read of one John de Castell, who was admitted into the
" Domus Conversorum " by the following writ : " The king to
his beloved chaplain, Henry de Ingleby, the guardian of our
House of Converts, in our city, London, sends greeting. Because
we wish that John of Castell a convert from the Jewish religion,
who lately came into our kingdom of England may have such
support in our said house, from our alms, as others of the same
sort have had in the same house before his time. We command
you to admit the same John into our house, and that you cause
him to have from that house the prescribed allowance for one
convert. The king being witness at Westminster, on the first of
July." We also read of a Jew, William Pierce by name, who
was converted to Christianity in the fifth year of Richard II., and
had a daily allowance of twopence from the funds of the " Domus
Conversorum." In the following reign of Henry IV., we read of
a Jewess, Elizabeth, the daughter of a famous Rabbi Moses, who,
having embraced Christianity, had a pension allowed her from
that fund, of "one penny a day above the usual allowance."
The endowment was recognised and made available as late as the
year 1 686, when two Hebrew Christians received pensions out of


the property. It is somewhat suggestive, that notwithstanding
that a goodly number of the house of Israel were added to the
Church in this country during the eighteenth century, no instance
is on record that claims were made on the endowment on the part
of the Jewish believers. It shows that the members of the
synagogue who had joined the Church were men of considerable
wealth. It is also curious to find that in 1738 the royal
exchequer granted out of the endowment, an annual allowance
of five hundred pounds, for maintenance of " converts from
Popery." The crowning achievement of misappropriation was
effected in the first year of the reign of Her Most Gracious
Majesty, when an Act of Parliament (1 Viet. c. 46) was passed,
which converted the whole of the Hebrew- Christian estates into
Crown property. It is a very puzzling act, and might afford
ingenious Chancery lawyers a grand theatre for the exhibition of
legal skill. The preamble of the bill states that the Bolls' estate
was formerly " the site of the House or Hospital of Converts,
or Converted Jews," and that the hereditaments thereto belong-
ing had been granted by Edward III. to the Bolls' Office. The
fact, however, is that Edward III. only assigned those estates to
that office IN TRUST for carrying out the object of the endow-

I never can pass through Fleet-street without casting a wistful
glance towards the archway which leads to the chapel which
originally belonged to the " Domus Conversorum." Very often
indeed have I loitered about the sanctuary itself, with a yearn-
ing heart that it might be restored to its original object. It has
still its ancient and strong walls of flint and cement, in the same
style of building as the white tower of the Tower of London ; an
upper portion of it having fallen in ancient times, has been
replaced by modern brickwork. This stands in the Rolls' Court,
and the chapel is still in use for divine service, for the benefit of
lawyers and others in the neighbourhood.


H. See page 39.

Some thirty years ago a statement of the particulars contained
in the preceding Appendix was drawn up and submitted to a
London solicitor, but he gave his opinion that it was then too
late to agitate the subject, as the Act of Parliament had settled
it for ever. Eecent repeals of Acts of Parliament by other Acts
of Parliament would seem to lead one to believe that if it were
too late then to agitate, it is not too late now. All honour is due
to the Eev. W. Gray, the worthy Principal of the flourishing
Domus Conversorum, Palestine Place, Bethnal Green, for having
had the courage to initiate a new agitation. He has kindly
permitted me to make use of the following reply which he
received from Mr. J. S. Brewer, of the Public Record Office,
to a letter which he had addressed to that gentleman on the
subject :


24th May, 1869.

DEA.R SIR, The Bolls' Estate was originally given for the
conversion of the Jews, as early as the reign of Edward I., but
as the cause did not prosper, it was converted to its present pur-
poses by Edward III. Even if it had not been so, all the
property was given up to the Government in the life of the late
Lord Langdale. And the Treasury now pay 5000 a year to the
Master of the Eolls, with the allowance of 600 a year for a
house, and 220 a year for the Eolls' Chapel, including the
salaries of Eeader, Preacher, and Organist, and all other
expenses. I am afraid, therefore, that the hope of receiving the
endowment to which you refer in your letter to me, is not very
cheering. Tour proper course would be to submit the case to the
Lords of the Treasury.

Yours truly,
(Signed) J. S. BEEWEE.


With all due deference to Mr. Brewer's opinion, I should
venture to suggest to the large body of Hebrew Christians
in London, to petition, petition, petition, until even a Parliament
which " feared not God nor regarded man" restored that property
to its original purpose, spiritual and temporal.

I. See page 40.

The Monkish historians tell us that it proved a case of such
difficulty that the posted was thought proper to be returned to
parliament. Parliament could not decide. Indeed, the strange-
ness of the accusation would have puzzled any body of men to
decide. Four years were allowed to elapse before the charge was
brought, and the principal witness was a little boy of about nine
years of age, who stated that when he was about five years old he
was playing in a certain street; the Jews allured him into the house
of one Jacob, where they kept him a day and night, and then
blindfolded him, and circumcised him. Yet strange to say, with
his eyes blinded, and amidst the confusion of so painful an
operation, the youthful boy was able to notice several minute
particulars, which he narrated, but which certainly never had
any existence, inasmuch as the particulars he related to have
taken place after the circumcision have no connexion with that
rite. In addition to the boy's unlikely story, there were no
symptoms of any kind that witness had ever gone under such an
operation. Under such circumstances, and with such unsatis-
factory evidence, the poor Jews would doubtless have been
honourably acquitted, but as this calumny originated, in all
probability, with the ecclesiastics, they could not brook dis-
appointment, and contrived therefore to become accusers, wit-
nesses, and judges themselves.

The bishops accordingly insisted upon the matter being tried in
their courts, and as soon as the charge was dismissed by parlia-
ment, as incapable of being proved satisfactorily, the profess-

F 2


ing ministers of Christianity, who stated that the boy was circum-
cised in derision and contumely of their Lord and Master,
determined to take the law into their own hands. They main-
tained that such questions belonged exclusively to the jurisdic-
tion of the church, and that the state had no right to interfere.
Baptism and circumcision, they argued, being matters of faith,
the ministers of that faith had, therefore, alone the right of
deciding cases of that kind. The poor Jews were therefore once
more dragged before a judge and jury, who were most inimical
to them, whose avaricious affections were set on their hard-earned
riches. One can easily guess the result of the judgment-seat,
and the fate of the unfortunate Norwich Jews.

William Ealegh, Bishop of Norwich, acted as judge : the arch-
deacon and the priests as witnesses, who deposed on oath that
they saw the boy immediately after he was circumcised, and that
there were then all the signs that such an operation had been
performed upon him. Why and wherefore the archdeacon and
priests kept it so long, the judge did neither ask nor care. How
it came to pass that the signs had, in the short space of four
years, totally disappeared, the judge did not investigate. A
certain Maude also deposed, in confirmation of the charge, that
after the boy had been taken home, the Jews called upon her to
warn her against giving him any swine's flesh to eat. The
Jews in Great Britain, pp. 231 4.

J. See page 42.

Mr. Hudson Turner, in his "Domestic Architecture of the
Middle Ages," and after him Mr. Samuel Tymms, gives the
following account of Moyses' Hall:

The police station, or Moyses' Hall, called also the " Jews'
House," or the " Jews' Synagogue." A singular specimen of a
dwelling-house of the end of the eleventh or beginning of the
twelfth century, and one of the most interesting remains in the


In plan, the building is nearly square, measuring in round
numbers about fifty feet either way. The ground floor is
vaulted and divided into three alleys, by ranges of three arches
of stone, springing from either round or square pillars, having
Norman capital bases. The arch-ribs of the western alley are
semicircular ; in the others they are early pointed. The western
division differs from the others, too, in being of greater width ;
the space between pillar and pillar being about sixteen feet,
while in the others it is less than eleven feet. These differences
in form and size, coupled with the fact that the western range
has been in comparatively modern times dissevered from the
others, and made to form part of the adjoining inn, have led
some to suppose that they must have originally belonged to
distinct though conjoined tenements ; but this notion was satis-
factorily set aside a few years since by the discovery of the
original staircase to the upper floor, in the first arch between the
western and middle alleys, with its perfect well, lighted by two
email apertures, one pointed and the other square, and having a
doorway into each alley. On the west side the vaulting was,
within the memory of persons still living, eight feet deeper than at
present, and the descent was by a small staircase from the
present staircase. It appears originally to have had no windows
on the ground floor.

On the upper, over the eastern vaultings, are two good transi-
tion Norman windows, each of two lights, square headed and
plain, under a round arch, with moulding and shafts in the
jambs, having capitals of almost early English character. It is
a good example of the external and internal details of windows
of this date.

It will be observed that internally the masonry is not carried up
all the way to the sill of the window ; by this arrangement a
bench of stone is formed on each side of it. The other part of
the house has a perpendicular window, which may have replaced
a Norman one.

The sculpture under this window, representing the wolf guard-
ing the crowned head of St. Edmund, is worthy of notice. The
upper part has been too much altered to enable us to make out
exactly what it originally was ; it may have been a tower, of


which the upper part is destroyed, or it may have contained a

The fireplace is in the wall of partition on the first floor, and
not towards the street, as in the Jews' house at Lincoln; but this
fireplace is not part of the original work, though it probably re-
placed an older one. The principal entrance to the house would
appear to have been on the east side. The present east wall is
no part of the genuine building, but was erected in 1806. That
tradition should have assigned the name of the "Jews' House "
to this building, and also to the two tenements of the Norman
period at Lincoln, is a fact not without significance, and worthy
of attention. Being the wealthiest members of the communit},
it is not unlikely that the Jews constructed substantial habita-
tions, as much for the security of their persons and property as
from any other motive.

It is certain that in all early deeds relative to the transfer of
tenements once held by Jews, those tenements are usually
described as built of stone. It was not till the thirteenth century
that the Israelites were subjected to that long- continued system
of oppression and exaction which terminated in their expulsion
from the country by Edward I., in the year 1290. That expul-
sion was accomplished in a manner so sudden and violent, that
the memory of it was likely to be strongly impressed on the
popular mind, and, indeed, to remain so impressed in any place
where substantial monuments of their former residence still
survived. This house is mentioned in the will of Andreus Scar-
bot, 1474, as the " ten. Auquet ' Eegis, vocat' Moyse Hall." It
was the residence in 1514 of Eichard Kyng, a benefactor to the

The Guildhall feoffees bought the hall about 1614, and con-
verted it into a workhouse and house of correction. In 1721 it
was a hospital or workhouse for thirty boys and girls, who were
clothed in blue, faced with yellow ; but on the consolidation of
the two parishes for the government of the poor, in 1740, the
hospital was removed to the workhouse.

The building is now used as a police station. In 1858 it was
repaired from designs by GK GK Scott, Esq., principally by
subscription. The changes rendered necessary in the outside


repairs, have been carried out in a style more in harmony with
that of the ancient building ; the low-pitched gable having been
replaced by one of greater elevation, and the Italian turret which
crowned its summit, has given place to a plain square substan-
tial one of oak, covered with shingles, and terminated by a vane
adopted from the former one.

Warton, in his " History of English Poetry," speaks of a
magnificent stone synagogue extant, at Bury St. Edmund's, in
his day.

K. See page 47.

The then Marquis of Northampton, in the course of a letter to
Dr. Covell, dated " Castle Ashby, August 26, 1696," thus alludes
to the vessel : "The Rabbinical porridge-pot is a great mystery.
I can conceive it nothing but what is carried about in the
synagogues in imitation of the pot of manna,* whose form is not
very different from the description of this, as may be seen on the
shekel, one of which, if I remember, you have by you, and
several are exhibited in Walton's Prolog, to the Polyglott. I
guess this because " [Here follows a maudlin attempt to explain
the transcript of the inscription, which neither the copyist nor the
marquis could read. The latter then proceeds,] " To me the
whole result of this groping in the dark seems to be this, that
the dedicator had made a visit to the Holy City, (the merit of
which is as much amongst them [the Jews] as the Papists to
Loretto, or the Mahommedans to Mecca,) and upon his return de-
dicated this vessel to his church. How far I am from the mark

* The above item of information will astonish the Jews ; it will be so new
to them, like many other Gentile interpretations of Jewish customs and


I can't tell ; but this is all the light I can gain, at this distance,
from the thing itself," &c., &c.

The following is an extract from Isaac Abendana's letter to Dr.
Covell, dated " Oxon, October 9th, 1696:" "As to the picture
of the pot, it is a hard matter to conjecture with any certainty
without some farther circumstances that may clear it. First,

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