< Back

Benedict the Gildsman of Winchester

Rev. Michael Adler

<plain_text><page sequence="1">flDiscellames in Ifoonour of I?. fL HMer Benedict the Gildsman of Winchester By the Rev. Michael Adler The medieval gilds of England were both religious confraternities and trade unions and none but a native-born Christian could become a member.1 It is, therefore, remarkable that, in the year 1268, Simon le Draper, the Mayor of Winchester, admitted a Jewish financier into the rights and privileges of the Merchants' gild. The record of this unique act of toleration runs as follows : Know all men that I, Simon le Draper, Mayor of Winchester, with the common counsel and assent of the bailiffs, the citizens and the whole community of the said city have received our beloved and faith? ful friend and special neighbour Benedict the son of Abraham the Jew into the full society of our liberty as our fellow-citizen and fellow gildsman in the Merchants' gild in all things that appertain to the said liberty. . . . (Patent Rolls, 1268, p. 223.) Dr. Gross,2 naturally surprised at this entry, suggests that Bene? dict had become a convert, but all the evidence available contradicts this view. As will be seen later, Simon the Mayor had previously had business relations with the new gildsman. The latter had further won the favour of the Papal Legate, Cardinal Ottoboni Fieschi,3 who 1 Dr. C. Gross, The Gild Merchant, i. p. xviii. J. M. Lambert, Two Thousand Years of Gild Life, p. 99. Furley, Winchester Records, p. 20. Tait, The Medieval English Borough, p. 232. L. Toulmin Smith, English Gilds, p. ciii. Dr. L. Rabinowitz draws my attention to Revue des Etudes Juives, vol. 46, p. 5, where it is recorded that the Jews of Marseilles were admitted to gilds in 1308. Cf. Dr. J. W. Parkes, The Jews in the Medieval Community, p. 204. Roth, A History of the Jews in England, p. 120. 2 op. cit. 3 He held a Convocation in St. Paul's Cathedral, London (1268), but there were no Jewish laws passed. In 1276, he was elected Pope (Adrian V), but died after thirty-five days, before being installed into office. Catholic Encyclopedia, i, p. 159. Encyclopedia Britannica (nth Ed.), i, p. 219. Wilkins, Concilia, ii, p. r. 1</page><page sequence="2">2 MISCELLANIES IX HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER had been sent to England to make peace between Henry III and Earl Simon de Montfort, and was at this time visiting the western city. The Jewish capitalist may have rendered monetary aid to the Italian prelate, and, at the latter's personal request, the King granted to Benedict that for three years he should be " quit of all aids, loans, pledges, demands and callages assessed upon the commonalty of the Jews of England." The amount of this relief was to be arranged by " two lawful Jews."4 Both these acts of kindness on the part of the Mayor and the Car? dinal took place in the same week, and, five days later, four grants of houses in the city were confirmed to Benedict, one by the Mayor himself and three by other Christian neighbours.5 He thus became a landlord on an extensive scale, purchasing also a messuage from Lumbard the son of Solomon in the Jewry (Shorten Street) as well as one in the centre of York, in Coney Street, from Roesia, the widow of Master Aaron. The exact reasons for these tokens of friendliness and his rise to a position of civic importance are unknown, but they clearly indicate that our gildsman was a prominent personality, and even outstripped his business rival, Benedict6 the son of Licoricia,7 the last-named being herself the most noted woman money-lender of the period. Our Benedict appeared to take no part in Jewish affairs whilst Licoricia's son was one of the Jewish Chirographers and also held the high office of Escheator of Jewish property.8 The election of the son of Abraham to be a freeman of the city is striking testimony to the general attitude of the people of Winchester 4 Patent Rolls, 1268, p. 223. The same concession had been made (ibid. p. 204) by request of the Cardinal for another wealthy financier, Master Elias, the son of Master Moses of London, who was a brother of Hagin the Arch-Presbyter (1257 1273). See my Jews of Medieval England (J.M.E.), p. 157. 5 ibid., p. 226. Cp. Charter Rolls, 1279, p. 220. 6 Transactions, x, p. 203. The two Benedicts of Winchester are frequently con? fused for each other, especially in Indexes and Rolls. In some entries both names occur; see Rigg, Plea Rolls of Exchequer of Jews, ii, pp. 131, 152, where the gilds man sold a debt to the chirographer (1274). Jenkinson, ibid., iii, p. 16 (1275). 7 J.M.E., p. 39. Her second husband was David of Oxford. 8 Stokes, Studies in Anglo-Jewish History, p. 46.</page><page sequence="3">BENEDICT THE GILDS MAN OF WINCHESTER 3 towards its Jewish residents. In the Coronation riots of 1190, when terrible havoc laid waste the Jewries of London, York and East Anglia, Winchester took no part,9 and, writing two years later, the chronicler Richard of Devizes calls the city '' the Jerusalem of the Jews. . . . Here alone, they enjoy perpetual peace. . . . Here there are clergy of piety and liberality, citizens of civility and good faith. . . ,"10 The outrages committed upon the Jewry in the Barons' Wars of 1264-65 were the work of the de Montfort rebels who like? wise wreaked their fury upon the Christian inhabitants of Win? chester.11 The King, who proudly called himself Henry of Win? chester, having been born in the city, had shown his partiality to his local Jewish subjects when in the year 1261 he issued a decree that, " as he does not wish to make payment too heavy, he granted to his Jews of Winchester to pay as they were able and in sums con? venient" towards the tallage of 1,000 marks that had been levied upon the whole of Anglo-Jewry.12 During the de Montfort rebellion, Henry ordered the appointment of twenty-four citizens to protect the local Jewry.13 Among these wardens was included Simon le Draper who, two years later, became Mayor of the city. Simon had sold a house to Benedict and had also bought a debt of ^105 (^3150 in modern value) from Dyay the son of Benedict le Eveske of London14 some time before he had wel? comed Benedict as a gildsman of the city. The latter first appears on the records in this year15 as a man of substance when he acted as a surety together with the Arch-Presbyter, Hagin the son of Master Moses of Lincoln,16 for one of the principal London money-lenders 9 Jacobs, The ]ews of Angevin England (A. E.), pp. 113, 134. Cf. Roth, op. cit., pp. 22, 103. 10 Chronicles (Rolls Series), p. 435, A.E., p. 150. 11 G. W. Kitchen, Winchester (Historic Town Series), p. 131. Victoria County History, Hampshire, v. p. 32. 12 Close Rolls, 1261, p. 398. is Patent Rolls, 1263, p. 325. 14 ibid., 1267, p. 170. In 1272, Simon was accused of not surrendering this bond when it had been paid (Rigg, i, p. 292). 15 ibid., p. 409. 16 Stokes, p. 33.</page><page sequence="4">4 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER of that time, Aaron Crespin.17 None but a man of wealth could have been accepted to perform so responsible a duty. In the same year, together with his wife Belassez, he brought an action before the King's judges18 claiming an estate of 39 acres together with a park with pasture for 100 rams and 100 mother ewes, four draught horses, six oxen, four cows with calves, two hogs and two sows with their porkers. In 1270,19 a certain John de Drayton sold to Benedict his estate in Sutton Hundred, Hampshire, and in the charter it is de? clared that the property is to be held " by rendering the service due to the chief lords of the fee and a pair of white gloves or one penny at Easter." The Jewish landowner paid the sum of 100 marks and the witnesses to the transaction are the Sheriff of Hampshire and others for the seller, and, for Benedict, the two Christian Chiro? graphers, together with the Jewish Chirographer Deudone the son of Isaac,20 Henry de Derngate and three local citizens. There are few examples of a Jew thus obtaining complete possession of a con? siderable estate and having to render the customary feudal dues. In the year following his installation as a freeman of Winchester, Benedict was the successful plaintiff in an action against one of his debtors, the Prior Vallentine of the Cathedral church of St. Swithun.21 The Prior was a notorious character in the life of the city, being most unpopular with the citizens and always at variance with other local religious bodies.22 Shortly after the outbreak of the Barons' revolt (1264), the citizens rose in arms against the convent of Prior Vallen? tine.23 They slew many monks, seriously damaged the Cathedral and burned down both the gate of the Priory and its adjacent King's gate. After the conflict had been brought to an end by the defeat and death of Earl Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham (1265), 17 Loewe, Starrs and Charters, ii, p. 99. 19 Charter Rolls, 1270, p. 160. 20 The Index of Rigg, ii, has twenty-one entries concerning Deudone and his affairs. 21 Patent Rolls, 1269, p. 400. Kitchin, he. cit., p. 131. 22 Annales de Wintonia (Rolls Series), i, p. 122. Dugdale, Monasticon, i, p. 261. 2a ibid., ii, p. 101; iv, p. 450.</page><page sequence="5">BENEDICT THE GILDSMAN OF WINCHESTER 5 Simon le Draper, newly appointed Mayor, on behalf of the city authorities, accused Valien tine of " malice or connivance " with the King's enemies, but an agreement was finally made between the parties (which document is preserved in the city archives24) to the effect that the clergy should rebuild the two ruined gates. The Prior was compelled to resign, but later he was restored to his office by Cardinal Ottoboni,25 who excommunicated the monks of the neigh? bouring Abbey of Hyde. When Nicholas of Ely26 was appointed Bishop (1268), he dismissed Vallentine " not indeed without cause, as it is said." The editor of the monkish Annals of Winchester des? cribes him as a very worthless man,27 and this character was revealed in the charges of " depredations and trespasses " committed by the Prior and his convent against the gildsman and his wife.28 King Henry sent one of his principal judges, Roger de Clifford,29 a famous Crusader, to try the case, with a jury. The turbulent ecclesiastic pleaded guilty and admitted that he also owed the sum of X100 to Benedict. He was ordered to pay the Jew in four instalments on penalty of distraint of his lands and goods. Following upon this trial, and " because of a matter of contention between some of the King's citizens and Benedict the son of Abraham, Jew of that city," as once before, the King directed the Mayor to form a commission of twenty-four citizens,30 among them being the Judeophile Henry de Derngate,31 who were to watch over the welfare of the local Jewry 24 Town Charters. Winchester Corporation Documents. Drawer 2, No. 5. 25 Annales de Wintonia i, p. 105. 26 Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xvii, p. 344. Foss, Bibliographical Dictionary of the Judges of England, p. 233. Cassan, Lives of the Bishops of Win? chester, p. 174. Kitchen, loc. cit. 27 ibid., preface, p. xxv. 28 See note 21. 29 Foss, op. cit., p. 169. D.N.B., vol. xi, p. 72. 30 Patent Rolls, 1270, p. 417. 31 He was frequently a witness in Jewish transactions. He formed one of the jury to investigate the murder of Licoricia the financier in 1277. (Jenkinson, iii. p. 293.) In 127g he was arrested " for having bought goods of Jews hanged for tres? passes of the coinage of the realm, to wit, clothes, furs, booty of Christians and Jews, copper lamps and girdles of silk in order to sell them." (Patent Rolls, p. 320.) In 1281 he was fined icoo marks for having in his possession a quantity of the goods of the condemned Benedict the Chirographer. (Fine Rolls, p. 144.) See Miscellanies, "&gt; P- 57 B</page><page sequence="6">6 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER " that none do them harm on pain of life and limbs, and to safeguard their lands, houses, rents and possessions." At the same time a warning was given to the civic wardens that, " under the pretext of the royal mandate, they were not to intermeddle in any pleas, plaints or other things touching the said Jews which belong to the constabulary and castle of Winchester and have been accustomed so to belong." The concluding words of the royal writ may contain some reflection upon the admission of a Jew to the Merchants' gild, for the King had evidendy no intention of relaxing his authority over his Jewish subjects. Shordy afterwards, Benedict was made to feel the power of the King when he was deprived of certain houses in the suburb of Dern gate32 which were then presented to the newly ordained Bishop Nicholas. From the wording of the writ, it appears that the original owner had been remiss in selling the property to the Jew. More serious trouble threatened him when he was accused of extracting a deed from the archa (the official registry of bonds) without the per? mission of the necessary authorities.33 He succeeded in appeasing the royal wrath by paying a fine of twelve bezants (modern value ,?36) into the Wardrobe, which was the personal treasury of the King. This reference to the archa indicates that, although he had become a member of the gild of Merchants, who, like Simon le Draper, especially traded in wool, he added money-lending on a large scale to his dealings in houses and lands, and was not engaged in the wool business until compelled to do so at a later date. He owned houses in some of the principal streets of the city,34 Shorten Street (now Jewry Street), Alwaren Street (north part of Jewry Street), Wonegar Street (Middle Brook Street), Cyp Street (High Street), and Calpe Street (St. Thomas Street). Among his clients were knights like Sir William de Lisle, Sir John de Mohun, Sir Hugh de Norreys, Sir Adam de Gurdon and also the Abbot and convent of Beaulieu in the 32 Patent Rolls, 1270, p. 499. 33 Close Rolls, 1271, p. 341. 34 Charter Rolls, 1279, p. 220. Patent Rolls, 1268, p. 226. Cp. Victoria County History, Hampshire, v, p. 1.</page><page sequence="7">BENEDICT THE GILDSMAN OF WINCHESTER J New Forest.35 Gurdon36 had been a prominent supporter of Earl Simon of Leicester, celebrated for his strength and daring, and, after the death of his leader, he refused to surrender. As one of the " Dis? inherited," for several years he commanded a band of marauders who infested the roads in Hampshire and Surrey. It was not until Prince Edward himself challenged and overcame him in single combat that Gurdon was allowed to live peaceably in Winchester where he made the acquaintance of Benedict. The Knight sold a house in the High Street to the Jew and also borrowed money from him. He had been a witness to the purchase of the Sutton estate, above mentioned, in 1270. A well-known Christian financier of the period, for there were many non-Jewish money-lenders, was William de Sommerfeld, who was both a banker and the robe-maker of Queen Eleanor. He tran? sacted business with Benedict and many other Jews in different parts of the country.37 In 1278, he bought seven houses in Canterbury which had been sold by order of the King after their Jewish owners had been executed on the charge of coin-clipping.38 After the Expul? sion, de Sommerfeld received the former Canterbury Synagogue as a gift from his royal patroness. When Benedict sold a debt of ?ioo to his neighbour Benedict the Chirographer (see note 6), the latter disposed of the bond to de Sommerfeld. A woman named Rosamund Froyle had originally borrowed this money from Benedict the gilds man, and, having quarrelled with him, she broke into his house and stole money and other valuables. In 1274, the gildsman was involved in a dispute with a fellow citizen, Alderman Walter le Parcheminer (parchment-maker) who had unlawfully distrained Benedict for " customs and services which he is not bound or wont to render him," but the matter was amicably settled.39 The same year, Benedict's particular friends Simon and Henry de Derngate and twenty-two other citizens were charged with 35 Rigg, ?, p. 281 (1275), Jenkinson, iii, p. 75 (1276), p. 144. 36 Jenkinson, iii, p. 70. Milman, History of Winchester, p. 202. D.N.B., vol. xxiii, p. 352. 37 Rigg&gt; ?&gt; P- J52 (I274)- ibid., pp. 215, 250. J.M.E., pp. 55, 87. 38 Public Record Office, Chancery Misc., 9, 50 (unprinted). 39 Rigg, ?, P- I41</page><page sequence="8">8 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER " trying to deprive the other citizens of their rights "; and, six months later, Simon was taken as a prisoner to Westminster to stand his trial for " his divers trespasses."40 It is not quite clear what had really occurred to cause these arrests. The accused men appear to have been the wardens appointed to protect the Jews and they may have exceeded their authority, to the annoyance of the King. Four years previously41 Simon had been honoured by a royal gift of 38 tuns of wine, and it is therefore not surprising to learn that he was allowed to return from London to his native city unhurt, for mention is later made of permission again being given to him to deal in wool with merchants of Flanders.42 The Statute De Judaismo of 127543, which prohibited money-lend? ing, must have seriously affected Benedict's capitalist activities, like those of all other Jews, and, two years later, a royal decree authorised the gildsman " to trade in the realm in accordance with the Statute provided by the Council and that his debtors be distrained by the justices for the custody of the Jews." 44 This special order is testi? mony that Benedict had not entirely lost the royal favour, and he was even able to lend money as before. In the year 1279, Benedict's property was confiscated " by judg? ment of the King's court " and his houses were given away to various citizens.45 It is possible that he had been involved in the charge of coin-clipping in the previous year which resulted in so many Jews being executed, 293 being hanged in London alone.46 This sad fate certainly overtook his namesake the son of Licoricia, of whose exten? sive property a complete inventory is extant.47 But whatever may have been his end, he has achieved fame by being the only Jew in pre-ExpuIsion days to be highly honoured by his Christian neighbours, whilst the men of the city of Winchester stand out as the one com? munity of the Kingdom that showed its liberality of spirit in this exceptional way. 40 Close Rolls, 1274, p. 128. 1275, p. 163. 41 Patent Rolls, 1270, p. 402. 42 Close Rolls, 1278, p. 496. 43 J.M.E., p. 95. Roth, op. cit., p. 70. 44 Patent Rolls, 1277, p. 215. 45 Charter Rolls, p. 220. 46 Miscellanies, ii, p. 57. 47 p. 59.</page></plain_text>