"then the LORD your God will restore your fortune and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you." Deuteronomy 30:3

The Jews in England - 1066 to 1290.

Hereford, England - home of a Jewish community before 1290

Hereford, England - home of a Jewish community before 1290

See Hereford history (re the Middle Ages Jewish Community)

This history  is taken mainly from the work of Joe Hillaby,  from "The Jews of Britain" by Pamela Fletcher-Jones, from "The Anguish of the Jews" by E H Flannery (See Books) and the BBC Radio 4 series, "Jewish Journey" .  

 During the reigns of Henry III and Edward I, the clerks of the Exchequer of the Jews at Westminster produced a mass of records, in which the lives and tribulations of the Jewries can be traced in detail which is surprising for the time.

Although a few Jews came from Roman times onwards, the majority came to England, from Rouen in France, with William the Conqueror in 1066. The first English "Street of the Jews" was recorded in London in 1128 and by 1229, 17 towns had a Jewry.

Until the time of Stephen (1135-54) the Jews had prospered. He sought to protect them but he also sought to tax them - up to one fourth of their liquid assets.

At the coronation of Richard the Lion Hearted in 1189, Jews bearing handsome gifts were refused entry by officials and pelted by mobs. The story circulated that the king wished them exterminated and many Jews were killed in riots and their stately homes were burned. Richard punished the ringleaders and sought to prevent further outrages and protect his financial interest in "his Jews".   When Richard left for the third crusade in 1190 a series of terrible massacres wiped out several Jewish communities. The York riot was the worst. Before following Richard to the crusades, warriors, many of whom were heavily in debt to the Jews, plundered the possessions of the Jews. The Jews fled to the castle and were besieged by the warriors. When the Jews realised they were doomed they took their own lives. The few surviving when the tower was stormed were slaughtered. The attackers then went to the cathedral and burned the records of their financial obligations to their victims.

King John (1167- 1216) imprisoned all Jews, tortured many and extorted 60,000 silver marks. In 1194 English Jewry was called to Northampton to allocate a Tallage of 5000 marks their contribution to ransom of Richard I. Also in 1194 "The Exchequer of the Jews" was set up to control money lending activities.  Every Jewish moneylender had to swear an oath on the Torah scrolls that he would register all his bonds.  The church forbade money lending for interest so the Jews were needed as they did not have such a prohibition.  Although many Jews became wealthy through money-lending, their legal status was one of rightlessness".   "The Jew can have nothing of his own, for whatever he acquires, he acquires not for himself but for the king".   In 1210 John arrested all wealthy Jews and demanded a ransom for their release.   Roger of Wendover recorded the story of one "Jew of Bristol" who refused to pay his ransom.   The king ordered his torturers to pull out one of his molar teeth every day until he paid the 1000 marks.   He stood it for seven days, but paid the ransom when they started on his eighth tooth.

Henry III (1207-1272) taxed the Jews until many sought to leave England.

In 1218 the Council "informed what great profit might arise from the Jews if they are kindly dealt with". Prominent people were responsible for their security from molestation, "especially from the Crusaders".   In March 1218 the Royal Council, under pressure from Papal legate ordered that all adult Jews wear the cloth "badge of shame". It was a yellow felt or taffeta shape representing the two tablets of the Law, 2 fingers wide by 4 long.  In 1275 it was increased to 6x3. These were troubled times as the church was becoming increasingly Anti-Semitic and Crusaders were questioning going off to the "Holy Land" to kill infidels when they had Jews at home to deal with first.   Jews were suspect because they were not under the rigid control the church exercised over the natives, and because they were conspicuously different and separate in dress, lifestyle, customs, language, and education (locals were illiterate and innumerate). Their business was a source of resentment to those who owed them money.

When Edward was crowned in 1272 the Jews were too poor to be needed and in 1275 his "Act concerning Jews" prohibited them from money lending.

Jewish communities throughout Europe suffered from blood libels stories of Christian children being murdered in Jewish rituals.           Blood Libel

The Expulsion

In 1290, Edward I sent secret orders to the sheriff that all Jews, with their wives, children and chattels, were, on pain of death, to quit the realm by 1 November, the feast of All Saints. The sheriff was to ensure that they suffered no injury, harm, damage or grievance in their departure. The penalty for any Jew who remained behind after that was death. In October (a month before the deadline) 16,000 had left for France and Belgium. Many did not arrive (some were tricked by a ships captain, into leaving the ship when it ran aground in the Thames Estuary.   They were then left to drown with the rising tide.)

Paris was the goal of the wealthiest, but in February 1291 Philip the Fair expelled all English Jews from his lands except those profitable to the French crown .   It is not known what became of Hereford's Jews.

The Expulsion was announced on 18th April, which, that year, fell on the 9th of Av,  on the Jewish calendar.   The 9th of Av is Tisha BaAv,  a day of fasting,  since it was also the date of the destruction of 1st and 2nd Temples.                 (see Jewish Feasts or holidays )


Major acts against the Jews of England, and the corresponding, recent acts of repentance.



1144    NORWICH - Blood libel - ritual murder accusation - Repentance 1994 

1168    GLOUCESTER - Blood libel 

1181    BURY ST EDMUNDS-Blood libel - Repentance 1994 

1188    Saladin Tithe for Crusade- 1/4 Jewish Property 1/10 Others' 

1189    LONDON - Coronation of Richard Lionheart (September 3rd) - No Jews or women admitted to Westminster Hall - Several Jews beaten or trampled to death - Riots: 30 dead including the Rabbi Jacob of Orleans 

1190    LYNN - "pogrom" - Jews exterminated - Repentance 1998 

        STAMFORD-Crusaders killed Jews  - Repentance 1998 

        YORK - over 150 Jews died in Clifford's Tower - Repentance 1990 

        BURY ST EDMUNDS - Palm Sunday 57 Jews massacred - Repentance 1995 

        DARTMOUTH - European fleet assembled : 3rd Crusade - Repentance 1998 

1194     Richard captured : Jews apportion tax for ransom at Northampton  

1210-13    BRISTOL - heavy tax on Jews : defaulters imprisoned in Castle - Repentance 1997 

1215   Civil War- LONDON : Jewry demolished - Magna Carta discriminates against Jews 

1218    Jewish badge to be worn (Royal decree) 

1222    Jews forbidden to build new synagogues 

 1231   LEICESTER-Jews expelled (Simon deMontfort) - Repentance 1996 

1233     Statute of April 4th expels/imprisons all Jews unless they serve the King 

1234    NEWCASTLE-Jews expelled - Repentance 1996 

1236    SOUTHAMPTON-Jews expelled - Repentance 1998 

1237    NORTHAMPTONSHIRE-Jews expelled - Repentance 1995 

1240    WORCESTER-Parliament of Jews to share out tax of 1/3 - Repentance 1996 

1242    BERKHAMSTED - Jews expelled 

1255    Jews mortgaed to Richard of CORNWALL : slavery in mines - Repentance 1998 

        LINCOLN-Blood libel - Repentance 1998 

1263    LONDON - 400 Jews massacred (Palm Sunday) 

1278    WINCHESTER-Jewry plundered - Repentance 1998 

1274    Jews taxed 1/3 of property, again 

1275    "Statutum de Judeismo"  - money lending at interest forbidden 

        BRISTOL Jewry burned - Repentance 1997 


1277    NORTHAMPTON-Jews dragged to death by cart horses - Repentance 1991 

1278    LONDON - 680 Jews imprisoned in Tower : 290 hanged 

1286    EXETER Synod enforced all limitations against Jews - Repentance 1994 

1290     LONDON - Expulsion of Jews decreed by king in council (July 18th - ninth of Av) All Jews to leave England before Feast of All Saints - November 1st


You might like to research the history of the nearest Jewish community to your home, like Hereford in England.


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