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Book Notes: The London Eyre of 1242, Helen M. Chew and Martin Weinbaum (eds.)

V. D. Lipman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">MEDIEVAL LONDON The London Eyre of 1242. Ed. by Helen M. Chew and Martin Weinbaum. London Record Society VI (1970). Pp. xxxii+175. Index. This is the oldest London document of its kind still extant. It records the pleas before the sessions of Royal Justices sitting at the Tower of London to hear Crown Pleas for the City of London. Unlike the ordinary eyre, the sessions at the Tower did not deal with civil cases, and the contents deal mainly with criminal or financial matters, but include some documents of constitutional importance for the powers of the City. This roll is a copy, presumably made for the use of City officials, from the original records of the sessions at the Tower held from 17 April to early June 1244, and from those of an inquiry into purprestures (illegal encroach? ments, e.g., upon the highways) held at St. Martin-le-Grand from 13 to 24 January 1246. The heading states that there had been no pleas of the City of London for 18 years and the earlier parts of the roll consist of reports on cases originating from 1226 onwards. The Justices of the Tower in 1244 were William of York (senior Justice of the court coram rege, later King's Bench), Jeremy of Gaxton (a justice of the same court), and Henry of Bath (sometime justice of the King' Court, in 1244 Sheriff of Yorkshire). The purpresture com? missioners were William of York and John fitz Geoffrey (Justiciar of Ireland, who had been a justice coram rege). Jeremy of Caxton, it will be recalled, was one of the six assessors appoin? ted on 10 March 1241 to assess the tallage of 20,000 marks (Cal. Pat. R. 1232-47, p. 247. See also V. D. Lipman, Jews of Medieval Norwich, p. 260). While the roll contains a number of points of medieval Jewish interest, these are bound to be limited for the reason given in entry 277. 'The city answers that escheats of the Jews are not their business but that of the Constable of the Tower of London and the Justices of the Jews, because the Jews belonged to the King, nor has anything to do with them ever belonged to the City; and therefore the Constable of the Tower and the Justices of the Jews are bound to answer the King for these lands and tenements.' Entry 329 (which deals with inquiries about 'the chattels of Jews killed, and their pledges and chattels and debts and who has them') says the same; and adds 'even if a Jew is killed in the City, the Sheriff [i.e. the City Sheriff] may not attach his chattels and likewise if a Chris? tian is killed by anyone in the house of a Jew, the Sheriff may not attach the Jew or his chattels'. References are therefore mainly incidental. For instance, there is a reference to one John Minnor, whose groom Peter in 1232 killed a servant of the prominent London Jew, Benedict Crispin (entry 79), and another servant named John Lichefot, who in 1237 shot a Jew and Jewess, unnamed, with arrows but did not kill them; he fled to a church (for sanctuary), acknowledged the deed and abjured the realm (entry 117). Entry 130 records a case in more detail: 'William, son of Bernard, and Richard his servant went on Tuesday 14 June 1239 to the house of Joce the Jew, and there killed him and Henna his wife, and fled,' William was arrested later for theft of a silver cup and hanged, Richard was out</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes 219 lawed and Miles Le Especer, who was with those in the fight [presumably when the arrest took place] and was badly wounded, fled to a church and died there. However, retribution struck them because of the subsequent theft of a cup, not because of the murder of the Jews: 'no attachment was made because this hap? pened in the Jewry, and the right to make attachments there belongs not to the sheriffs [of the City], but solely to the Constable of the Tower.' On Tuesday 23 August 1239, another Jewess named Henna, wife of Jacob son of Furia [presumably the Jacob son of Fluria, a subordinate official of the Exchequer of the Jews in the mid-thirteenth century?see references in V. D. Lipman, Jews of Medieval Norwich, s.v.], went after lunch into the house of Alfred de Pyncebrok, parmenter, and was never seen again. As Alfred was at the fair at King's Lynn, Jacob accused Isabel, Alfred's wife, who was in the house at the time, together with Agnes and Maud, maidservants, and Peter of Shaftesbury. The roll's subsequent concern is, however, with what happened when Alfred returned from Lynn. He was put in prison by the Sheriff of London, John de Coudres, on the ground that he refused to give a pledge and threatened the sheriff with a knife. In the court, Alfred was able to vindicate himself, since the judges held that, since he had been away at the time of Henna's dis? appearance, it was unreasonable to suspect him, and that he had been wrongly imprisoned; he recovered damages from the sheriff, who was nearly imprisoned himself (entries 131, 160, 345). There are a few references to property which had at one time been in Jewish hands. A messuage, formerly of Martin de Virly, which the King gave to Berner Rouen, who sold it to Leo the Jew, is variously reported as worth 5 marks or 40s. a year (208, 246, 303). Another house in St. Martin's Lane, which was held by Adrian Eswy, was first reported to have belonged to Joce the Jew. It should therefore have been, but was not, presented by the Mayor and Aldermen at the Eyre; because if he had died when it was in his ownership, it should have passed to the Crown. But it was subsequently shown that Joce had sold it before his death, as confirmed by the starr of Joce and his daughter Floria. It was later stated that it was found that Joce had never owned it at all (entries 219, 312). Finally, we are told of a messuage in Iron? monger Lane (in the Jewish area) owned by Joce, son of David, who at the beginning of the civil war handed it over by collusion to Ralph Eswy 'that he might vouch for him against the barons'. But Ralph never gave it back, so that the Jew could never recover it. But Ralph did not benefit in the end, because it was taken by the King (296). The purprestures also show Jewish names among the records of encroachments (which were noted by perambulation), especially around Ironmonger Lane in the Jewry. Slema the widow, sister of Elias Episcopus [Cohen], built 3 pentices to Ironmonger Lane causing a nuisance (entry 398). As she was dead by 1246, her son Peytevin, as her heir, was fined a mark, according to the Pipe Roll for 30 Henry III (p. xxviii). [Slema was the sister of the Arch-Presbyter Elias le Eveske. See Stokes, Studies, pp. 12-14.] Other offenders in Ironmonger Lane were Moses the Jew (a pentice); Joce of Canterbury (a pentice); Isaac of Paris; Jacob of Warwick (fined 40s.); Belassez (J mark); Elias; Joce of Oxford. In the Ward of John Fitz Alan [? Coleman St.], the magnate Benedict Crispin blocked up a lane between the King's highway and Colechurch and 'the street called Lothbury' (entry 406). He also blocked up a lane next to the chapel of St Mary Coneyhope, which cost him a gold mark (entries 406, 408). Leo the Jew found that two solars cost him half a gold mark (411). 'Josce The Jew has a step to his cellar, to the nuisance (ad nocumentum). Let it be amended' (entry 413). Elias Episcopus was fined 5 marks (which seems high) for having two posts before his door. Possibly the relative amount of the fine was due to the posts being on the King's Highway (414). [Elias Episcopus is Elias le Eveske, then Arch-Presbyter. He was Arch-Presbyter 1243-1257. See Stokes, Studies, p. 30.] Diaia, son-in-law of Elias (not necessarily Elias Episcopus) paid 2 marks for a licence that his two solars (another version</page><page sequence="3">220 Book Notes says 'cellars', which is the other extremity of the house) should not be demolished. There are also some interesting references to non-Jewish usurers, rather shadowy figures, since the impression is generally given by English historians that only Jews were usurers. There were questions in the articles of the Eyre about Christian usurers. The City officers denied knowledge of any dead ones (263). Of live ones, 'They say they know of none, unless of some in parts overseas' (231). 'They know of no Christian usurers, unless they be Roman or Sienese, or of a like country' (327). However, there is no mention of Geoffrey Busey, a usurer (212), and of Goda le Gablere, who repented of her usury, lived 20 years after, returned to many what she had taken in usury, and lived as a nun in the house of St. Mary of Southwark (314). V. D. LlPMAN</page></plain_text>