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A Further Paper on Moyse's Hall

Rev. Hermann Gollancz

<plain_text><page sequence="1">A FURTHER PAPER ON MOYSE'S HALL. By the Bev. HERMANN GOLLANCZ, M.A. When, in the course of my paper entitled " A Ramble in East Anglia," read before the members of this Society in May last, I referred to Moyse's Hall at Bury St. Edmunds, my object at the time was simply to give a description of the building with illustrations, and little beyond. Such a description would certainly have been incomplete without some incidental reference to the local tradition that Moyse's Hall was a " Jew's House " or " Synagogue," dating from the eleventh or twelfth century. In not more than one or two sentences did I even refer to the tradition, however much I may have betrayed a leaning in favour of the tradition: for it was not the object of my paper, to prove or disprove the Jewish connection of Moyse's Hall. Since I read my paper, however, the subject has assumed a new aspect: the tradition has been attacked, and this by no less a person than Mr. Haes, one of the Hon. Secretaries, and a most valuable mem? ber, of this Society. I do not know how far his objections have commended them? selves to you, but as for myself and many others interested in the question, I may at once say that his theory appears more ingenious than convincing. Practically I have been left alone to defend the old position; and if, owing to circumstances which will appear later on, I am unable to produce any record in which the statement appears in so many words, that Moyse's Hall was the property of such and such a Jew, I yet feel it devolves upon me to reply to some or most of the statements put forth by our friendly opponent, in his attempt to dislodge and destroy the memories which have clustered around the name of Moyse's Hall. For reasons into which I need not enter now, I personally should have preferred if this discussion, as to the authenticity of the connection 25</page><page sequence="2">26 A FURTHER PAPER ON MOYSE'S HALL. of Moyse's Hall with Jews, had been undertaken quite independently of the financial consideration, which has of late been introduced into the question of its preservation. There is very little doubt as to the date of this building: it is acknowledged to be of the eleventh or twelfth century. The square headed window on the south side has often been a difficulty in the way of arriving at so early a date; but I think that Mr. John Aden Repton, F.S.A., an eminent authority, who devoted half his life to the study of windows specially, has set the matter at rest. In his paper before the Winchester Meeting (1845), and reproduced in the Journal of the British Archseological Association (p. 455), he remarks : "It is not easy to say when the square-headed windows were first introduced. ... It is, however, curious to find a square-headed icindoio as early as King Stephen or Henry II, as in the Jeioish Synagogue at St. Edmund's Bury. The window is inserted under a Roman arch, and from the contour of the munnion and the joints of the stones, there cannot be the least doubt that the square-headed window is of the same date as the Roman arch itself." T. Hudson Turner in his " Domestic Architecture of the Twelfth Century" (1851, p. 12), also states: " Moyse's Hall at Bury St. Edmunds supplies a good example of the external and internal details of windows of this date:" " There is an early instance of the square headed window in Moyse's Hall, where it occurs divided by a mullion under a semicircular arch.'7 As regards the interior, I still maintain that Moyse's Hall bears a striking resemblance to that of the Synagogue at Worms of the eleventh century, of which I have a print here. And I am not sure whether, if you compare the exterior view of Moyse's Hall (as shown in this ancient print) with this exterior view of the Worms Synagogue, you will think them so very dissimilar. We are asked, Would the Jews of the time be so foolish as to thrust their place of worship so prominently before town and Abbey as the position of Moyse's Hall occupies ? By town, of course, Mr. Haes means the "Beast" and "Corn Markets." Now, in the first place, it has to be proved how long this plot has been the market, and whether Moyse's Hall did not exist before the markets were held there. But whether it did or did not, my theory is,</page><page sequence="3">A FURTHER PAPER ON MOYSE'S HALL. 27 that if (as it has been held by some, e.g. Dr. Margoliouth) Moyse's Hall is but the remains of "a sort of Hebrew Abbey of Bury?that the whole side of the market-place belonged to the synagogue establish? ment, including a seminary, official residences, baptistries, &amp;c. : " if this was the case, then it is to my mind just what we might expect in those times, viz., that, for obvious reasons, the Jews, or rather the wealthy Jews, would not be allowed to go too far out of sight of the Abbey and its jurisdiction. I agree that Moyse's Hall was a very important building in this town, but not too important to have been possessed by one of the Jews of the day, from whom the officers of the Abbey were continually borrowing money. If there had been no rich Jews in Bury, it is self evident that the Abbey could not have borrowed from them; and if they were rich enough to lend, they were certainly rich enough either to build or possess such a stone edifice as Moyse's Hall. Perhaps the Jews came into possession of it in the manner accounted for by Tovey in his Anglia Judaica (1738), which, as he tells us, he compiled "from all our Historians, both Printed and Manuscript, as also from the Becords in the Tower and other Publick Repositories." On p. 246, speaking of the Jews, he remarks : " As for any of their schools or synagogues, or public places of habitation, there are not the least footsteps of them left at this day: except at Bury in Suffolk, where, in early times, a Monastery was built by Fursaeus the Scot: which, falling into decay, was, according to tradition, afterwards pur? chased and repaired by the Jews, and became the chief place of their residence in that country. To which tradition an old way leading to the entrance of the Monastery, called the Jewes Way, gives some colour of truth." But Mr. Haes asks in effect, Were any local Jews creditors of the Abbey 1 I refer him to the Chronicles of Jocelin (who was almost a contemporary), where he will see that the monastery of St. Edmund was under a load of debt and in the hands of Jewish money-lenders. Three Jews are there mentioned by name : Isaac, son of Babbi Joce, Benedict of Norwich, and Jurnet; but, from the state of feeling against the Jews recorded at the time, there must have been many more. Whether these three were local Jews I will not attempt to determine. In his Name-List of English Jews of the Twelfth Century (Jews of</page><page sequence="4">28 A FURTHER PAPER ON MOYSE'S HALL. Angevin England), Mr. Jacobs gives six, or at least five, additional names as local Jews. And this brings me to the next point, as to the number of Jews in Bury before their expulsion in 1190. "Is not sixty," Mr. Haes asks, "a fair proportion?" and con? tinues to press his argument : " Is it not a fair question to ask, if it were probable that such a small congregation at such a stormy period would have built such an edifice ?" Sixty, a fair proportion! when, according to Diceto, in a murderous attack on a Palm Sunday, fifty seven Jews perished, and yet there were sufficient left to warrant their expulsion by Abbot Samson. Is it likely that he would have troubled about banishing the Jews if there were only about three left 1 1 believe that the investigations of Mr. B. L. Abrahams on this subject may put a different complexion upon the general question, as to the number of Jews resident in England at the time of their expulsion, which has in all probability been under-estimated : and Bury will also come in for a larger share. Now as to the question, Why have no synagogues been discovered in other parts of England 1 For the simple reason, I answer, because, where they were not demolished, they were converted into churches; and it is not impossible that Moyse's Hall, curiously enough, escaped the fate of both demolition and conversion. A characteristic piece of information in this connection comes to us again from Tovey : for on p. 88, speaking of the times of Henry III. (1216-1272), he states: " Whereas, during the sunshine of the king's favour, they had erected a very stately synagogue at London, which surpassed in magnificence all the Christian churches ? the people, animated by the late taxation, petitioned the king to take it from them, and have it consecrated, which accordingly he complied with: causing it to be dedicated to our Blessed Lady, and bestowing it on the Brethren of St. Anthony of Vienna, together with other buildings adjoining. From whom afterwards it was called St. Anthony's Hospital, and in process of time became annexed to Windsor College. The Arms of which old House was Sable, a Pigg Clarinee, Argent: possibly to signify that it had left its Jewish masters." " But their greatest grievance was the loss of their chief synagogue at London, taken from them upon complaint of the Friers Penitents. . . . Having but a small dark chapel belonging to their Friery, thought the Jews' fine synagogue, which stood next to it, would be more con</page><page sequence="5">A FURTHER PAPER ON MOYSE'S HALL. 29 venient for them; and therefore, after the example of their brethren of St. Anthony, begged it of the king: and furnished him with that reason for granting it: as he did by this instrument."?(P. 192.) But Mr. Haes would find his strongest argument in the name Moyse, and says that the Hall was built by, or for, or named after a certain Moyse, a Suffolk man; and that the name Moyse became corrupted into Moses, and on this corruption the tradition took root. In other words, Mr. Haes' chief contention for the lateness of the tradition seems to be, that because 1685 is the earliest date in which the form "Moses (not Moyse) Hall" occurs, therefore the tradition that it had some connection with Jews can be pushed no further back. I say it matters little whether Moys or Moyse is a Suffolk name or not; the name Moyse and Moses were interchangeable; and if I am told that in the ancient deeds i (Moses" always occurs as "Mosse," I reply that not alone do we find the spelling Moyses and Moises as literary forms, but even in the Bolls and Records of the 6th of King Richard to the accession of King John do we meet with the form Moyses and Moises as undoubtedly the equivalent for "Moses." A glance at the Index (638) to the Calendar of Patent Bolls of Edivard I. (1281-1292) will show us the further variants of this name, viz., Moses, Mosseus, Moceus, and Mossey. It is inexplicable to me, why we should leave the straight path, and say, that because Moys or some name like it is borne by Suffolk folk, therefore the name for the Hall, Moyses, which beyond doubt is another form of Moses in early English, is derived not from a Jew named Moses, but from a non-Jew named Moys, afterwards corrupted into Moses. Until stronger evidence be forthcoming, I prefer to attach myself to those who hold by the tradition which has been in vogue, I do not pretend to say how long: to such men as Tovey, Dugdale, Gillingwater, Yates, Repton, Margoliouth and others. My suggestion is, that this Hall at Bury was named after some important Jew named Moses, living not necessarily at Bury itself, but perhaps in some town nearer or farther away. That Halls in those early times were named after Jews, and that the owners of properties did not always live in the places in which their property was situated, I can prove very easily.</page><page sequence="6">30 A FURTHE? PAPER ON MOYSE's HALL. As to the former point, that Halls were named after Jews, the following note, headed "Jews in Oxford, and Halls named after them" (reprinted in Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, vol. viii. p. 144), will, I think suffice. "About the year 1075, the Jews began to come much to Oxford. After they were settled, they procured a great many houses, particularly in the Parish of St. Martin, St. Edward, and St. Aldate, and heaped up vast wealth. Their dwellings in St. Edward's and St. Aldate's were so considerable as to be stiled the Old and New Jewry; and in St. Aldate's parish they had a Synagogue, where they had masters, and taught the Hebrew tongue, to the great advantage of the University; as there were scholars that afterwards taught in Jewish houses, stiled from thence Lombard Hall, Mossy Hall, Jacob Hall, &amp;c, having their names, without doubt, from Jews to whom they had formerly belonged." In Norwich too, according to Blomefield (vol. iii. p. 28, and iv. p. 184), we have an Abraham's Hall (the words being "Jews dwelling in a place called Abraham's Hall"). The "Musick-House" is sup? posed to be a corruption of Moses' House. In the time of William Rufus it belonged to Moses the Jew : he left it to his son Abraham, and he to his son Isaac, after whom it was called Isaac's Hall. After these testimonies, what is there, I ask, so unreasonable in the supposition that Bury St. Edmunds, where Jews once resided, also contained a " Moses Hall" ? And now as to the second point, that the owners of properties need not always have lived in the town in which their property was situated. Until I can find in the Becords a person named Moses, a resident of Bury (which I regret to say I have not yet been able to discover), I must content myself with putting the ownership of Moyse's Hall in the hands of some other Moses, living near to Bury or at some distance from it. And when I say I regret that I have been unable to find a Moses nearer home, I should add that I am not surprised; because the earliest deeds extant which I have been able to consult, referring to Jewish owners of property escheated to the Crown, date but from the 19th and 20th of Edward I. (i.e. 1291-2?one or two years after their expulsion), whereas the Jews were expelled from Bury just 100 years before this, viz., in 1190. The records for the twelfth century are not at all complete.</page><page sequence="7">A FURTHER PAPER ON MOYSE'S HALL. 31 When, therefore, Mr. Haes asserts, that the earliest reference to Moyse Hall which he has been able to find is in 1328, in which year a band of outlaws hastened thither and breakfasted in the Hall, I fail to see how this date or statement affects the question as to its original use or possessor. This incident is about 140 years after the expulsion of the Jews from Bury. What associations or sacredness would a Jew's house or synagogue, from which the owners had been driven 140 years before, have had for a band of outlaws, or, for the matter of that, even for the townspeople generally 1 There is to my mind, therefore, nothing remarkable in the fact, nor can any inference be drawn as to its original use from the fact, that a company of revellers enjoyed a meal there on a certain day in the fourteenth century. I should have been more surprised had I been told that they halted to pray there, or that they said " Grace " after their meal. What, however, I have been able to find is this: that among "the houses and tenements once belonging to Jews, but forfeited to the Crown in the 19th &amp; 20th of Edw. I., after their expulsion," many a name "Moses" occurs as the name of father or son, residing in some town or county in England. And more than this; in several of the entries we find the phrase employed in speaking of the tene? ments, "que fuit scola Judeorum." I repeat, the probable reason why no reference can be found to Bury, and consequently to Moyse's Hall, is because these Bolls of Edward I. contain but the entry of property belonging to persons expelled a year or two before, and not one hundred years before. We have, for example, an entry concerning " the tenements with appurtenances in Oxford in the Parish of St. Aldate, which belonged to Moses, son of Jacob of London : and the house with its appurten? ances which was the Scola of the Jews .... and concerning those in the parish of St. Martin, which once belonged to Bonefei, son of Lombard of Crikelade the Jew." We have a Moses of Sudbury, a Jew, having property in Nottingham; and a Moses of Clare, a Jew, having property in Sudbury.1 1 I do not here mean to determine whether "of London," "of Sudbury," " of Clare " = " resident of " or not.</page><page sequence="8">32 A FURTHER PAPER ON MOYSE'S HALL. In the absence, therefore, of any specific entry referring to Moyse's Hall, all we can do at present is to fix the ownership by analogy, and to say that it is quite within the limits of possibility that Moyse's or Moses Hall, if it did not belong to a wealthy Jew of Bury itself, might have belonged to a wealthy Moses residing in some other town through? out the country. I have as yet not touched upon the subject of the credibility of tradition in general, nor do I intend to dwell upon the theme at any length. But I would in conclusion ask : Is tradition to count for nothing ? Is it to be so easily discredited and destroyed 1 And especially for us Jews : if tradition is not to be taken account of, where shall we find ourselves landed, or?stranded 1 And as regards the subject of our paper in particular: if Jews and antiquaries, influenced by weak arguments, show themselves callous in the matter of the preservation of Moyse's Hall, and the venerable structure be once destroyed, regret will come too late, and self-reproach will be unavailing, when at some future time it shall be discovered, that what is now being doubted was all along a fact beyond dispute. I heartily concur in the concluding words of a letter addressed to me a few days ago by the Mayor of Bury: "If tradition is to be swept awTay in such a ruthless manner as far as Moyse's Hall is concerned, why not with regard to other subjects of still more import? ance ? We should all have to commence our education again in a more prosaic manner than in the past." Whether meant as such or not, there seems to me to be a sharp rebuke contained in these words. Tradition also commands a certain amount of respect, and it must stand as truth until it has conclusively been proved to be false. Dis? cussion is right and necessary; and as in all other matters, so in the question before us to-night. I take it that our only object is to search after the truth?the very raison d'etre of a Historical Society; and therefore, as far as I am concerned, however unpleasant it may be to give up a cherished illusion, I shall be ready to yield to the opinion of others as soon as the arguments they have to adduce shall be suffi? ciently cogent to convince me. Until now such arguments have not appeared.</page></plain_text>

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