2: Protection from the powerful: how the first English Jews lived

Podcast Two: Protection from the powerful
00:00 / 05:20

Address: On the open pavement by the western (tower and spire) end of St. Lawrence Jewry parish church in Gresham Street, over the road from 30 Gresham Street, EC2V 7QP.

Directions from the previous stop: 

  • If the Barbican Centre is open, take the stairs at the northeast corner of Defoe House down from the balcony level to ground level onto Lakeside Terrace. Enter the Barbican Centre and returning to first floor level, make your way indoors, southwards over the Barbican Water Gardens to St. Giles’ Terrace, down Wood Street, left at Gresham Street to St. Lawrence Jewry.

  • If the Barbican Centre is closed, go back down the stairs at the southwest from the balcony of Defoe House and via Lauderdale Place, head south down Aldersgate Street/A1, take the second exit at the Museum of London roundabout (i.e. straight on), turn left at Gresham Street and carry on until you pass Aldermanbury on your left, at which point St. Lawrence Jewry should be directly in front of you. 

Jew's House, Lincoln

The Jew’s House in Lincoln is now a restaurant but the building dates back to the mid-1100s and like many if not most substantial English houses of this vintage, originally consisted of a dining hall on the first floor with kitchens and storage on the ground floor. The copyright on this image is owned by Richard Croft and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Extract from the original 1215 version of the Magna Carta, translated from Latin to modern English, taken from the British Library website

“(10) If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands. If such a debt falls into the hands of the Crown, it will take nothing except the principal sum specified in the bond.
“(11) If a man dies owing money to Jews, his wife may have her dower and pay nothing towards the debt from it. If he leaves children that are under age, their needs may also be provided for on a scale appropriate to the size of his holding of lands. The debt is to be paid out of the residue, reserving the service due to his feudal lords. Debts owed to persons other than Jews are to be dealt with similarly.”

Source: G.R.C. Davis, Magna Carta (London: British Museum, 1963), pp. 23–33. The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.

Extract from Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry III: Volume 9, 1254-1256. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1931: "Select pleas, starrs, and other records from the rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews, A.D. 1220-1284,” EXCHEQUER OF THE JEWS, A.D. 1253 22-23 (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-close-rolls/hen3/vol9/pp493-497)

Henry, by God's grace, etc. to all his bailiffs and lieges, to whom the present letters may come, greeting : — Know that We have granted to Licoricia, Jewess, of Winchester, that she have full seisin of all the lands, rents and tenements which belonged to Thomas de Charlecote, which she, Licoricia, has as gages, and that she be not thereof disseised until the debts which are due to her upon them be fully paid her, or she be thereof disseised by judgment of the King's Court. In witness whereof We have caused the said letters patent to be made for behoof of the said Licoricia. Witness the King himself at Westminster, on the 28th day of January in the 34th year of his reign.

Source: British History Online: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/