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The discovery of two medieval mikva'ot in London and a reinterpretation of the Bristol 'mikveh'

Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The discovery of two medieval mikva 9ot in London and a reinterpretation of the Bristol 'mikvehJ IAN BLAIR, JOE HILLABY, ISCA HOWELL, RICHARD SERMON and BRUCE WATSON London's medieval Jewry was a late-eleventh-century offshoot from that of Rouen. In culture and economy the two Jewries remained closely linked until the loss of Normandy in 1204. Josce the Rabbi and his sons Isaac and Abra? ham, who led the community for much of the century, built the magna scola, the principal synagogue, behind the family home at the northeast end of Old Jewry. Here, in the Jewish court, in close proximity to the scola, one would expect to find the mikveh, with other communal facilities such as butchery, baths, ovens and hospitium nearby, the last referred to in a starr of 1266. By the late twelfth century the magnates Isaac of Lincoln and Jurnet of Norwich had mansions on Lothbury, giving direct access to this court.1 The site of the Jewry is first referred to in a St Paul's survey c. 1127, in which lands are described as in vicus judeorum. As with the oldest term used at Rouen, this is a reference to the Jewish quarter or district. Reference to St Olave's shows these to have been on the west of Colechurch Lane, known since 1290 as Old Jewry. The term vicus may well be used in a legal as well as this topographic context. As the customs of the Jewry stated that 'the Jews and all they have are the king's', it lay beyond city jurisdiction of ward courts and Court of Hustings. Against Jews, citizens had to seek justice at a royal court; in the city, that of the constable of the Tower or the Justices of the Jews. Cases between Jews were left to their own jurisdiction. Only from 1194, when the great series of public records begins, can one pin down with preci? sion the parishes and streets which constituted the Jewry. Prior to that there are only the Pipe Rolls of 1130-1 and 1155-6, the chroniclers and other 1 J. Hillaby, 'London: the i?th-eentury Jewry revisited' Trans JHSE XXXII (1992) 100-101; idem, 'The London Jewry: William I to John' Trans JHSE XXXIII (1995) 36-9; idem, 'Beth Miqdash Me 'at: The Synagogues of Medieval England' The Journal of Ecclesiastical History XLIV (1993) 182-98; M. D. Davis, Shetaroth: Hebrew Deeds of English Jews before 1290 (London 1888) no. 54. 15</page><page sequence="2">Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson incidental references. The Jewry was no ghetto. Christians and Jews lived side by side, Christians often predominating.2 The 1170s were the golden age of the London Jewry. Much wealth was invested in housing, but ownership may not mean tenure and tenants could be Christian. Henry IPs exchequer began to target its wealthiest members ?.1180, such as le Brun. 1189-90 saw attacks on London and other Jewries, with massacres at York, Stamford and Lynn. As on death so also in debt, houses escheated to the Crown. John, having drained the Jews of their wealth by his ?40,000 tallage of 1210, then expropriated many London houses. As these appear in royal charters, one can begin to establish the extent of the Jewry ?.1200 (see figures 1 and 2). Its southern boundary was the great Cheapside market; to the north the Guildhall was apparently a magnet. Set? tlement was predominantly in seven streets and five city parishes: Colechurch and Ironmonger Lanes, Milk Street, Wood Street and Catte Street, now Gre sham Street, and at the southern ends of Bassishaw and Colman Street in the parishes of St Olave Old Jewry, St Laurence Jewry, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Magdalene Milk Street and St Michael Wood Street.3 The houses of London's magnates would fit William of Newburgh's description as 'built at very great expense, like nobles' strongholds' and were thus much sought after. The wealthiest lived near the junction of Old Jewry and Lothbury, having access to the great synagogue to the rear. After the great stone house of Josce the Archpresbyter there escheated to the Crown, it was sold on to John Travers, mayor in 1215-16, for almost ?80 and a yearly rent of a hat of peacocks' feathers. In Milk Street the stone house of Benedict the Little and Isaac of Kent went to the earl of Surrey; that of Josce, his son, probably next door, was acquired in 1228 by Andrew Bukerel, mayor in 1229-37; that of Benedict 'Jew', on the west side, was sold to Serlo the Mercer, mayor in 1214 and 1217-22; while one in St Laurence's parish went to the Earl of Sussex.4 The early years of Henry Ill's reign witnessed the Jewry's regeneration. Some escheated houses were repurchased by Jews. Benedict Crespin bought the house of the great Aaron of Lincoln near the Walbrook in Lothbury; and Leo le Blund, who ranked fourth in the 1223 tallage, that of the wealthy Rouen merchant Martin de Vyrle. The second half of the thirteenth century was an era of impoverishment. However, given the Crown's keen financial interests at all times in the Jewry, documentary sources for reconstructing the topography of London's thirteenth-century Jewry are copious. 2 Hillaby 1995 (see n. 1) 4-8. N. Golb, The Jews in Medieval Normandy: A Social and Intellec? tual History (Cambridge 1999) 138-9. 3 Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) 90-6. 4 R. Howlett (ed.) William of Newburgh: Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard IRolls Series 82 (1884) I, 314; Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) 97-100. i6</page><page sequence="3"></page><page sequence="4">???mj?-tkt t^mn^mmmm ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ PUHOinpB Of whjwuwpj Figure 2 The schematic representation of the inner area of parishes, identified in figure 1, within which Jewish settlement is documented, showing churches and other important build? ings. (Source: M. D. Lobel [ed.] The British Atlas of Historic Towns [vol. 3]: the City of London from Prehistoric Times to c. 1520 [Oxford 1989].)</page><page sequence="5">Medieval mikva 'ot in London and the Bristol imikveh&gt; In 1290, when Edward I expelled the English community, the total value of the twenty-one remaining houses in the London Jewry was ?67 8s 7d, less than John Travers had paid for Benedict's Little's Milk Street mansion in the 1220S.5 Archaeological evidence, on the other hand, has been limited. The Milk and Gresham Street discoveries are therefore of great interest. They add a new dimension to our understanding of the cultural life of the medieval Anglo-Jewry. The Jewish cemetery at Cripplegate, just outside the walled city, was partly excavated in 1949 and 1961 (see figure i).6 Existing basements had extensively disturbed the site, except for a small area between Well Street and St Giles churchyard where a row of seven truncated graves were found. The presence of a few metatarsals in the backfill of the graves confirm that they had been intentionally emptied. In the backfill of one grave the (undated) skeleton of a small dog was discovered which may represent the post-expulsion desecra? tion of the site.7 The clearance of the cemetery was presumably undertaken by Gentiles after the 1290 expulsion, as such an action would have been against the laws and customs of the Jewish community. No tombstones were found during the excavations, but various rebuildings or demolition of parts of the city wall and its gatehouses, between 1516 and 1753, revealed six frag? ments of tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions.8 In 1232 the Domus Con versorum was established for converts from overseas at New Street (now Chancery Lane). In 1337 the chapel was assigned to the Keeper of the Rolls and due course it became partly an office and a record repository. It was demolished in 1895.9 There has been a provisional attempt to identify the medieval Jewish com? munity in London from their material culture.10 Five artefact types - lead tokens, bone counters, coin scales, ceramic hanging lamps and window lou? vers were selected. The first three artefacts relate to money lending or mer 5 Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) 99, 113-14, 122, 127, 132-3; Calendar of Charter Rolls, 1928 (PRO 1903) 79 6 M. Honeybourne, 'The Pre-Expulsion Cemetery of the Jews in London' Trans JHSE 20 (1959-64) 145-59. 7 W. F. Grimes, The Excavation of Roman and Mediaeval London (London 1968) 180-1; J. Shepherd (ed.) Post-War Archaeology in the City of London 1946-/2: A Guide to the Records of Excavations by Professor W. F. Grimes Held by the Museum of London (Museum of London monograph 1998) 85. 8 Honeybourne (see n. 6) 153-4. 9 Its site is now occupied by the old Public Record Office. Part of the thirteenth-century chancel arch has been re-erected in the southeast range of the PRO, see N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London: Cities of London and Westminster (London 1962, second edition) 298. For a description of the chapel's architecture see the $jth Report of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records Appendix - the Rolls Chapel (1896) 19-47. F?r the history of the chapel see C. Trice Martin, 'The Domus Conversorum' Trans JHSE I (1894) 15-24. 10 G. Pepper, 'An Archaeology of the Jewry in London' London Archaeologist 7 (1992) 3-6. 19</page><page sequence="6">Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson cantile activity, while the presence of louvers implies the existence of houses with either stone-built ground storeys or cellars. Comparison of the four excavations within the Jewry with other city sites revealed a marked concen? tration of these artefacts.11 However, while the chosen artefacts are good indicators of mercantile activity, neither they nor the stone houses are, of themselves, evidence of a Jewish presence. The Jews chose to settle in the 'central business district' of London (the Cheapside area), as they wished to play a leading part in commerce along with the Gentile craftsmen, merchants and moneyers. Moreover, as the date of the artefacts was not considered, it is likely that some post-date the expulsion of 1290. One possibility is that the presence of the Jewish community might be identified by the dietary regulations reflected in food waste recovered from rubbish pits,12 assuming that groups of Jewish and Gentile neighbours were not using communal waste facilities. It is likely that many of the larger stone lined cess and rubbish pits used in London during the medieval period were communal. This approach has proved successful in Amsterdam, where the analysis of the faunal assemblage recovered from seventeenth- and eight? eenth-century cess and rubbish pits within the documented area of Jewish settlement showed distinctive characteristics.13 There was either a complete absence or a very low percentage of pig bones, hind limbs of cattle and sheep (also considered not kosher), an absence of calf bones, a high percentage of chicken bones (many kosher chickens had lead seals attached to their legs showing their day of slaughter - normally a Thursday) and a low percentage of fish bones and shell fish, while eel bones were absent. Other aspects of material culture, such a pottery and glass vessels, were identical with finds from non-Jewish areas.14 As the medieval faunal material from the various excavations within the London Jewry has not yet been fully analysed it is not yet known if this material can help identify the presence of the Jewish com? munity. But the possibly is being investigated as part of the ongoing Guildhall Yard post-excavation programme. The discoveries of 1986 and 2001 The word mikveh (plural mikva'ot) is Hebrew for 'a collection of water'. It is a small subterranean bath filled with water collected by natural means, con 11 Ibid. 6. 12 The absence of eel and pig bones and shell fish would be expected, see 'Dietary Laws' in Encyclopaedia Judaic aQtrmdXom 1071) vol. 6, 26-39. 13 F. G. Ijzereef, 'Social Differentiation From Animal Bones Studies' in D. Serjeantson and T. Waldron (eds) Diet and Crafts in Towns; The Evidence of Animal Remains from the Roman to Post-Medieval Periods, BAR Brit Series 199 (1989) 41-53. 14 Ijzereef (see n. 13) 45-8, 53. 20</page><page sequence="7">Medieval mikva Jot in London and the Bristol ' mikveh' taining a minimum of 40 seah (c. 750 litres) of spring or rain water, which can be collected in cisterns and allowed to flow into it. Drawn water from a well cannot be used to fill a mikveh, but may be added to one which already contains 40 seah of natural water.15 People immerse themselves in a mikveh to achieve spiritual cleanliness or purity in various ritual contexts. For this reason mikva'ot are often attached to synagogues (see discussion section).16 People can become ritually unclean through contact with the dead, with defil? ing objects or, in the case of women, through menstruation and childbirth.17 A mikveh is a uniquely Jewish institution, and such is its importance that the Jewish law requires a community to build one before it constructs a syn? agogue. During 1985-6 archaeological investigations were undertaken at Guildhall House, 81-7 Gresham Street, to the south of the Guildhall (see figure 2).18 The excavations revealed the truncated chalk-rubble foundations of two twelfth-century buildings fronting onto Catte (Gresham) Street.19 Due to the degree of truncation caused by the construction of post-medieval basements it is not certain if either of the medieval buildings possessed cellars. Adjacent to one of the foundations was a truncated stone-lined structure. Initially this feature, excavated during March 1986, was interpreted as a subterranean strong-room.20 However, there is no documentary evidence for the construc? tion or use of such features in London during the medieval period. Research in 1990 first suggested that this structure should be re-interpreted as a mikveh,21 an interpretation subsequently accepted by Pepper in his account of the London Jewry.22 During the excavations at 1-6 Milk Street, during October 2001, a second truncated mikveh was uncovered (see figure 2).23 The discovery caused tre? mendous excitement in the Jewish communities in London and further afield.24 Thanks to funding from the Bevis Marks Synagogue Trust the 15 Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem 1971) vol. n, col. 1538. 16 Ibid. 1534-44 17 According to Jewish law a woman should bathe in a rnikveh seven days after menstruation ceases. 18 National grid ref. TQ3249 8131, site code GDH85. 19 For a plan of these foundations see N. Bateman, Gladiators at the Guildhall: The Story of London 's Roman Amphitheatre and Medieval Guildhall (Museum of London Archaeology Ser? vice 2000) 64. 20 Unpublished Museum of London Archive Report, GDH85, group 32. 21 R. Sermon, 'The Guildhall House "Strong Room" or Ritual Bath?' Department of Urban Archaeology Newsletter, September 1990, pp. 12-14. 22 Pepper (see n. 10) 4-5. 23 National grid ref. TQ3237 8126, site code GHToo, summary forthcoming in 2002 'Excava? tion Roundup' in London Archaeologist. 24 Articles appeared in The Times, Daily Telegraph and Guardian on 25 October 2001, and in The Jewish Chronicle on 26 October 2001. The Jewish Historical Society of England organized a meeting on 13 December 2001 to discuss the discovery. 21</page><page sequence="8">Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, he a Howe II, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson mikveh has been dismantled, and it is proposed to rebuild it in a suitable setting.25 The Gresham Street mikveh The structural remains of the Gresham Street mikveh consist of a rectangular arrangement of two courses of high-quality, squared greensand ashlar blocks (size varies from 80 X 150 X 220 mm to 300 X 300 X 250 mm), bonded with grey-yellow lime mortar, set within a slightly larger construction pit (see figure 3). While it is certain that the mikveh was intended to be subterranean, its original depth (to be discussed later) and the height of the associated floors are not known, due to modern truncation (mentioned above). The internal dimensions of the masonry were 1.65 X 1.15 m and the internal depth was 56 cm. Between the back of the ashlar lining and the construction pit was a mass of rubble packing (see figure 3). A sherd of a London-type-ware serving jug (date range 1080-1200), recovered from the packing, dates the construction of the mikveh to the twelfth century. Within the internal area of the masonry there was a compact layer of pebbly sand. Along the western internal face this deposit was sealed by a spread of rubble which served as a base for greensand blocks arranged on two levels to form stairs, which provided access to the structure (see Plate 1). Assuming that the structure was originally 1.20 m deep, there would have been an additional five steps. The upper step comprised four squared blocks and the lower one three. In the spaces between some blocks were found the remains of three lengths of decayed wood, which indicate the presence of wooden treads o.. top of the uneven steps. Abutting the steps a single layer of reused greensand blocks of varying size formed a floor, measuring 1.05 X 1.15 m (see figure 3). The roughly horizontal surface formed was at a lower level than that of the lowest step. The blocks were laid in a continuous bed of lime mortar, which also filled the gaps between the blocks. From the recorded remains, and assuming the rough greensand-block floor was part of the functioning mikveh, the capacity of the mikveh would have been a minimum of 640 litres. Clearly, much of the structure did not survive its disuse, so our understanding of it is incomplete. There is no evidence for how the structure could have been made watertight. There were no traces of mortar on the internal faces of the masonry to suggest the presence of internal render or a stone-slab lining and flooring to seal the structure. Possibly the original mortar has degraded back to sand and the internal lining and flooring 25 Personal communication from David Nunes Vaz, Secretary of the Bevis Marks Synagogue Trust. 22</page><page sequence="9">N Figure 3 Plan and cross-section of the Gresham Street mikveh. The arrow shows Ordnance Survey grid north. were removed at the same time as the upper portion of masonry. To have functioned as a mikveh it must originally have been watertight, as leakage would have invalidated its usage.26 The disuse of the mikveh is represented by the removal or robbing of the upper portion of the masonry lining - reducing it to its present height. The 26 Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem 1971) vol. 11, col. 1536. 23</page><page sequence="10">^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ T*n Plate i Photograph of the Gresham Street mikveh looking northeast, with the floor removed showing the full extent of the ashlar lining. The scale is 500 mm long (photo MoL GDH85 archive). space created by the stone robbing was backfilled with soil, containing thir? teenth-century pottery. Documentary evidence confirms that there was Jewish occupation within the Basinghall Street area. In 1256 a synagogue within the street, which had been converted into the chapel of St Mary, was granted to John, son of Geoffrey.27 In 1280 Sir Robert de Clifford the elder sold this property to the mayor and commonalty for 300 marks (^20o).28 The east side of this property fronted onto Basinghall Street, while to its west was land already owned by the City authorities. To the north was the property of William son of Richard the tailor and further land owned by the City. However, to the south (along Catte Street) were three Jewish properties owned by Aaron son of Vives plus the widows of Peitevin le Fort and Leo Preciose, and a fourth property owned by Sir Matthew de Columbaris.29 In 1293 the City authorities sold this prop? erty to John de Bauquell, except for a garden and chamber which had been 27 Calendar of Close Rolls 1254-1256, 369-70. 28 It should be stressed that the precise spatial relationship of many of the properties discussed here with their modern successors is uncertain. 29 Calendar of Patent Rolls 12/2-1281, 381. Patent Roll, 8 Edward I, PRO 66/99, m- J3&gt; 1- ?5-6\ 24</page><page sequence="11">Medieval mikva 'ot in London and the Bristol 'mikveh' sold to Aaron son of Vives. John already owned adjoining properties to the north and south of this plot.30 By the late thirteenth century this enlarged property was known as 'Bakkewellehalle' and was used as a market for selling woollen cloth. Later its name was corrupted to 'Blackewell hall' (see figure 2). In conclusion, it is clear that by 1280 three of the four properties situated along the north side of Catte Street (later Gresham Street), to the east of St Lawrence's church, were occupied by Jews (see figure 2). However, more detailed research is needed to establish the full history of the property latterly known as 81-7 Gresham Street. Aaron son of Vives, a leading member of the Jewish community, owned a house on the south side of Catte Street in 1280 (opposite the church of St Lawrence Jewry) which was chosen as the site of a new synagogue (see figure 2).31 During the redevel? opment of the site of the synagogue at 30 Gresham Street in i960 no trace of any medieval foundations were recorded,32 and construction of a double basement ensured no archaeological deposits remained when it was redeveloped during 2001.33 Previous research had erroneously located this synagogue to the north side of Catte Street, within the vicinity of 81-7 Gre? sham Street.34 The Milk Street mikveh The remains of the Milk Street mikveh were more substantial than those at the Gresham Street site, and the overall appearance and form of the structure contrasts markedly with the rectangular plan of the mikveh discovered in 1986. The mikveh was substantially built, using high-quality squared green? sand ashlar blocks bonded with lime mortar, set within a construction pit. The stone has been provisionally identified as Reigate stone, from the Creta? ceous greensand beds of Surrey. It should be possible to determine the ori? ginal depth of the mikveh, and the relative level of the contemporary floor surfaces in the associated building that overlaid it, once the excavation records of the earlier 1976-7 excavation are integrated at a later phase of the analysis programme. The mikveh was aligned roughly north-south and was seen in plan and elevation to consist of a minimum of seven steps leading down from the north into an enclosed apsidal ended chamber (see figure 4). The overall internal dimensions of the structure measured 3.00 x 1.20 m, and the maximum 30 Calendar of Charter Rolls 1257-1300, 434. 31 Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) 146-51; Hillaby 1993 (see n. 1) 190-8. 32 J. Schofield (ed.) Archaeology in the City of London 1907-91: a Guide to Records of Excavations by the Museum of London (Museum of London monograph 1998) 57. 33 Site code GHToo. 34 J. Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England (London 1893) 234-6. 25</page><page sequence="12">N , f)i yJ&lt;. &gt;. ** *vj f i ? Tounuauons construction jf^/ /*# ? 1 OOnstniCtiOf) ^^^jf j^^^^^&amp;^^^^^^^^Zf^r I sW\ oncRBann x ? / position of Figure 4 Plan and cross-section of the Milk Street mikveh. The arrow shows Ordnance Survey grid north.</page><page sequence="13">Medieval mikva 'ot in London and the Bristol 'mikveh internal depth was 1.45 m. The apsidal end of the mikveh measured 1.20 X 1.20 m, although most of the ashlar blocks at this end of the structure had been robbed to the level of its lowest course. The highest survival of the lining was along its east side, where a staggered profile of six regular courses of ashlar survived to a level of 11.65 m above sea level. The individual blocks of stone varied in size from 0.20 x 0.15 m up to 0.45 X 0.25 m, and in order to compensate for slight variations in the height of adjoining stones, pieces of peg tile had been selectively used as levelling material. The stonework of the open apsidal 'bath' was particularly finely carved, with very narrow and tight-fitting joints between the individual ashlar blocks, presumably to make the structure watertight (see figure 4). There was no evidence to suggest that the bath had ever been rendered internally, and it is likely that such a coating was never required. The base of the mikveh was founded directly onto natural brickearth and no clear evidence was found to indicate the nature of its original floor. Given the high standard of the remain? der of the structure and the slipperiness of brickearth when wet, it is incon? ceivable that the bath would not originally have had a stone or tile floor, which was later robbed. The gap between the back of the lining and the construction cut was packed with a mixed silty-mortar-and-rubble fill. The fill contained the base of a mid-thirteenth-century London-ware baluster jug. The uppermost four steps leading down into the mikveh had been substan? tially robbed, although their original profile could be discerned where they had been broken off in the face of the east wall. Only the bottom three steps remained in situ, probably by virtue of having been utilized as the base for a later east-west aligned blocking wall (see below). Each of the lower steps was composed of between three and five squared blocks of greensand ashlar, with slightly uneven and pitted surfaces possibly caused by wear during the func? tioning life of the mikveh (see Plate 2). There was no evidence to suggest that the steps had originally had wooden treads, as appears to have been the case in the Gresham Street example. The packing fill behind one of the steps contained a small assemblage of mid-thirteenth-century London- and Kings? ton-ware pottery, contemporary with that from the construction fill (see above), and provides a construction date for the mikveh. Because of the relatively low level of truncation of the Gresham Street mikveh it was possible to give only a minimum volume of water that the structure could have held, which is less than the 40 seah (c. 750 litres) required under Jewish law (see above). By contrast, the much higher level of survival of the Milk Street mikveh has enabled a much more concise calcula? tion of the capacity to be made. In order to contain the requisite amount of water it would have been necessary to fill the mikveh to a depth of 0.49 m, which would put the surface of the water 40 mm above the second-lowest step (Step 6). It is clear that this minimum depth of water would have been 27</page><page sequence="14">^^^^^^^^^^^ ^ ' ^ Plate 2 Photograph of the Milk Street mikveh looking north, with the blocking removed, show? ing the full extent of the ashlar lining (photo MoLAS GHToo archive).</page><page sequence="15">Medieval mikva yot in London and the Bristol 'mikvefr insufficient for complete immersion and that more water would have had to be added. Based on the assumption that the mikveh would have been filled to a depth of at least 0.80-1.15 m, bringing the water level to Steps 4 and 2 would have required a volume of 1480 litres and 2520 litres of water respect? ively. The upper levels of the mikveh had been removed by modern intrusions, leaving no indication as to how the water was originally fed into the structure, although it is clear that the bath would have to be laboriously emptied by hand. At some later date the mikveh was modified by the addition of a crudely built east-west internal blocking wall composed largely of irregular blocks of reused greensand, with the top of the masonry recorded at 10.99 m above sea level (see plate 3). The wall was built directly onto the lowest three steps (Steps 5-7) and was butted against the walls flanking the stairs. Although the addition of this wall effectively closed off the open end of the apsidal bath from the stairway, it is uncertain if it was a deliberate modification to deepen the bath during the functioning life of the mikveh. If this were a remodelling of the structure, it would have created a 0.80 m-deep self-contained immer? sion pool, capable of holding 998 litres of water. The benefits of such a modi Plate 3 Photograph of the masonry blocking the lower steps of the Milk Street mikveh, view looking south-east (photo MoLAS GHToo archive). 29</page><page sequence="16">Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson fixation are clear if one considers that to fill the mikveh to a similar depth, would previously have required an extra 480 litres of water. An alternative although perhaps less likely explanation for the original function of the blocking wall is that it constitutes the foundation to a wall of a later building which was built over the mikveh after the structure had been abandoned following the expulsion of 1290. The disuse and partial dismantling of the mikveh was indicated by a number of mortar-and-rubble-based deposits which filled the lower levels of the apsidal end of the structure and part of the stairwell, partially sealing the later blocking wall. The robbing fills all contained pottery dated 1280-1350, and it is likely that the mikveh had been filled at some point in the very late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. The 1976-7 excavations at 1-6 Milk Street revealed the stone foundations of a number of twelfth- and thirteenth-century stone-built cellared properties fronting onto the west side of Milk Street.35 To the rear of these properties were various cess and rubbish pits and wells, presumably situated within gardens or yards. The most imposing structure discovered was a rectangular twelfth-century stone undercroft. In 1276 this property belonged to Bonam icus Jew of York, and in 1290 to his son Jacob.36 In 1290 the property where the mikveh was discovered was occupied by a Jew, Moses Crespin, who had inherited it from his father Jacob (who had died c. 1244). After the expulsion it passed to Martin Ferraunt. During the fourteenth century or later this property was rebuilt, and one of the new cellar walls sealed the remains of the mikveh?1 The Crespin family were lead? ing London financiers during the early thirteenth century, so they would certainly have been rich enough to pay for the construction of a private mikveh, although they were less wealthy during the second half of the cen? tury.38 The property to the south of the one owned by the Crespin family was occupied by the Jewish financier Leo le Blund from c. 1226 until his death in 1259, when it passed to one of his sons, Aaron III le Blund.39 Discussion - the national context Archaeological evidence confirms that both structures were subterranean, lined with high-quality greensand ashlar masonry and entered by stairs. The 35 J. Schofield, P. Allen and C. Taylor, 'Medieval Buildings and Property Development in the Area of Cheapside', Trans London and Middlesex Archaeological Society 41 (1990) 12-25. 36 Ibid. 140, building 6; Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) table 8, 127. 37 Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) 127; Schofield et al (see n. 35) 145, building 10 is the cellar of fourteenth-century or later date. 38 Hillaby (see n. 2) 128-30. 39 Schofield (see n. 32) 142; Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) 118-19. 30</page><page sequence="17">Medieval mikva 'ot in London and the Bristol 'mikveW Gresham Street example was built during the twelfth century and partly dismantled during the thirteenth, while that in Milk Street was built during the mid-thirteenth century and partly dismantled during the very late thir? teenth or early fourteenth. The design of these structures is quite different from contemporary stone-lined cess pits, which tend to be larger, lined with chalk rubble and never have stairs.40 The close jointing of the ashlar lining of the Milk Street example strongly suggests that it was intended to hold water, while the presence of steps indicates it served as a bath. Those who bothered to bathe in medieval London generally used local streams or wooden tubs, not purpose-built subterranean stone-lined structures. To the best of our knowledge these two structures are unique in medieval London. Docu? mentary evidence (discussed earlier) confirms that both structures were loc? ated within the London Jewry (see figure 2), and that the Milk Street prop? erty was occupied by a wealthy Jewish family during the thirteenth century. While the evidence for the Gresham Street property has not yet been fully researched, it is clear that several properties within the immediate vicinity were occupied by Jews. It is on the basis of this evidence that we put forward the interpretation that both these structures are medieval mikva 'ot. Neither structure was deep enough to fill with ground water, so they were presumably supplied with roof water from cisterns at a higher level (of which there was no trace due to the level of post-medieval truncation). The southern mikveh at Masada, for instance, was supplied with water from an adjoining cistern via a pipe.41 Interestingly, both structures were apparently located within private houses - not synagogues. This raises the question whether wealthy Jews for reasons of piety or status constructed private mikva'ot so as to be able to bathe in privacy, much as they worshipped in private synagogues created by converting suitable rooms within their homes. In 1275 a property on the eastern corner of Catte Street and Ironmonger Lane belonging to Cok son the archpresbyter Hagin was described as containing 'a synagogue which is still in his, Cok's houses'.42 Many communal synagogues may have developed from such private facilities. In 1282 the Franciscan archbishop John Pecham wrote to Gravesend, bishop of London, that he understood, quite certainly 'to the mockery and great scandal of the Christian religion', that almost all the important London Jews had their own synagogues.43 Pecham's belief certainly implies the existence of a number of private synagogues in thirteenth-century London. Schoneid et al (see n. 35) 173-6. 41 Y. Yadin, Masada (New York 1966) 164-7. 42 Hillaby 1993 (see n. 1) 196. 43 Hillaby 1993 (see n. 1) 195-6. 3i</page><page sequence="18">A Bristol bet tohorah? In 1987 members of the Bristol Temple Local History Group, drawn by the tradition of a Jewish ritual bath existing inside the former fire-engine house at 33 Jacob's Well Road, Bristol, removed a concrete wall to reveal a spring? head with a Jewish inscription. Initially the structure was dated to the elev? enth century, but this date cannot be substantiated for reasons outlined later.44 As those who participated in the Society's visit to the site on 20 October 1991 will recall, the structure consists of a small rock-cut chamber entered via a low rectangular arch and two stone steps. This chamber fills with spring water, despite being at ground level, because it is situated within the base of a steep sided valley.45 On the lintel over the entrance is a partly visible damaged inscription in Hebrew. It has been suggested that the inscription includes the word zochalim, the plural of zochal meaning to flow, and that the full text may have been mayim zochalim, a term found in the Mishnah (Mikva'ot 1:8) meaning 'flowing water'. This would have been designed to reassure users that the water in the chamber was pure.46 Following a recent re-examination of the inscription by the authors this interpretation has been called into question. The inscription occurs towards the right-hand side of the lintel, leaving little space before it to the right for the word mayim, of which no trace could be observed. Of the five Hebrew letters of the word zochalim (read from right to left), the final two letters (yod and mem-sophit) could not be identified, this part of the stone surface having been hacked to provide a key for modern plaster or render (see figure 5). The third letter {lamed) could not be identified either, although some of the later damage did superficially resemble the Hebrew letter. The first two letters {zayin and chet) are the best preserved, the chet being clearly recognizable. However, the shape of the zayin, assuming the previous identification is cor? rect, is rather unusual, with the top of the letter being off-centre. Given these doubts about the reading of the inscription, we should perhaps consider other alternatives such as mayim tehorim, 'pure waters' (Ezekiel 36:25), or mayim chayim, 'living waters' {Leviticus 15:13 and Numbers 19:17). Interestingly, the latter of these alternatives refers to the type of water required to cleanse a person after touching a corpse. It could be suggested that the doubtful zayin in the Bristol inscription is more likely to be the remnants of a mem-sophit, the final letter of the word mayim. The next letter, 44 T. Noble and T. Gardiner, 'Brief History of Jacob's Well' Bristol Templar (Spring 1989) 8-10. 45 R. R. Emanuel and M. W. Ponsford, 'Jacob's Well, Bristol, Britain's Only Known Medieval Jewish Ritual Bath (Mikvehf Trans Bristol and Glous. Archaeol Soc. 122 (1994) 73-86; but see reservations inj. Hillaby, 'The Worcester Jewry, 1158-1290' Trans Worcs. Archaeol. Soc. 3S XII (1990) 96. 46 Emanuel and Ponsford (see n. 45) 75. 32</page><page sequence="19">Figure 5 The Hebrew inscription on the lintel of the Jacob's Well, Bristol, Bet Tohorah (drawing by Richard Sermon). chet, is the first letter of the word chay im. However we must exercise caution. Given that only one of the Hebrew letters {chet) can be read with a high degree of confidence, the precise meaning of the inscription is likely to remain a mystery. Nevertheless, this one letter is unlike any contemporary Latin one, providing evidence that this is a Jewish monument. Largely on the basis of this inscription the chamber has been interpreted as a medieval mikveh, which, along with the two examples from London, would make it England's third example of this type of monument. It is worth noting that the current height of the steps relative to the lintel and the very low height of the actual chamber roof means that access to the Jacob's Well chamber for bathing is now very restricted, but arrangements could have been different in the medieval period. Interestingly, this structure was situated very close to the medieval Jewish cemetery, known as 'the Jews' Acre', which was established after 1177 when Henry II granted provincial Jewries the right to establish cemeteries outside city walls. Previously all the provincial dead were taken to the London bet lolam, 'house of eternity'.47 When the Bristol Jewry was established is uncer? tain. It was not in the earliest list of ten provincial Jewries which paid a Donum in 1159, but in 1194 it ranked twelfth among twenty, paying 1 percent of the whole; Gloucester, as the fourth, paid 6.5 per cent.48 As this chamber 47 J. F. Nicholls and J. Taylor, Bristol Past and Present 1 (Bristol 1881) 61; M. Holmes, 'St Bartholomew's Hospital, Bristol: Some New Material' Trans Bristol Glouc. Archaeol. Soc. 74 (1955) 184; W. Stubbs (ed.) Roger ofHowden: Chronicle RS 51 (1868-71) II, 137. 48 Pipe Rolls 1159, 3, 12,17, 24, 28, 35, 35,46, 53, 65, PRO ?101/249/2;). Hillaby, 'Testimony from the Margin: The Gloucester Jewry and its Neighbours' Trans JfHSE (the present volume) tables 1 and 2. 33</page><page sequence="20">Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson was on the opposite side of the medieval city from the Jewry, whether at the earlier Quay Street or the later Wine Street sites, the distance and the nature of the terrain between these areas and Jacob's Well Road (at least 1600m) would have precluded its use as mikveh by members of the local Jewry - particularly the women - who would have been vulnerable to attack or harass? ment on their monthly journeys there. However, the close proximity of the chamber to the Jewish cemetery strongly suggests that it was a bet tohorah, or cleansing house, and not a mikveh. Tohorah, meaning 'cleansing' or 'purification', the ceremony of wash? ing of the dead before burial, involves undressing, rubbing and washing the body (normally on a laving stone), paring the finger and toenails and cutting the hair. Nine kav of water (20.5 litres) is poured over the body, or it is washed in flowing spring water and the naked body is then wrapped in a shroud. Next the laving stone is washed and the officiants cleanse their hand with salt.49 If this re-interpretation of the Jacob's Well Road chamber as a bet tohorah is correct, it means that it is only known surviving medieval example of this type of structure in England. The documentary evidence from both the London and provincial Jewries indicates that burial in accordance with Jewish law and tradition was a com? munal responsibility under the leadership of its senior members. Thus in 1250 Henry III granted that the Master of the Laws could impose a her em on any London Jew who failed to fulfil his promise of financial support for the maintenance of the cemetery.50 There is a reference to a bet tohorah at York in 1290, while at Winchester in 1290 the (marble?) laving stone was valued at 4 shillings.51 Discussion - the wider context Among the early mikva 'ot of the Roman period discovered in Israel, the two at Masada are the most renowned. Other early double-chamber types have been found at Jericho. An outstanding discovery at Jerusalem in 1978 was a mikveh suite consisting of an entrance chamber with plain mosaic floor, a stepped mikveh and adjacent a small pool (osar) which provided the purifying water, and a small bath. Another mikveh was excavated at Meiron in Upper 49 Bodies could be washed in a mikveh, but this practice was strongly opposed by leading rabbis as it discouraged women from using the it: Encyclopaedia Judaic a (i 971) vol. 15, cols 1188-9. 50 PRO E101/249/30/4; Hillaby 1992 (see n. 1) 1. 51 B. Dobson, 'The Decline and Expulsion of the Medieval Jews of York' Tram JHSE 26 (1979) 47 quoting PRO E1017249/27 nos 4 and 5. For the ten Jewish cemeteries in 1290 see BL Lansdowne MS 826 ff. 43-59, transcribed in H. Playford and J. Caley (eds) Rotulorum originalium... abbreviation Record Commission (London 1805-10) I: 73-6, translated and arranged systematically by B. L. Abrahams, 'Condition of the Jews of England at the ... Expulsion in 1290' Trans JHSE 2 (1896) 76-105. 34</page><page sequence="21">Medieval mikva fot in London and the Bristol 'mikveh' Galilee in 1975. Seven steps cut into the bedrock led into a ritual bath with a beautifully plastered wall in excellent condition. A short distance away, at Kherbet Shema, the rock-cut mikveh was found a metre below the northeast corner of the third-century synagogue.52 Claims for mikva ot close to early diaspora synagogues, as at Sardis, Ostia and Plovdiv, cannot be sustained. For Rutgers they do not form any part of the standard repertoire of buildings associated with such synagogues. There is thus a considerable chronological and geographical hiatus between those of ancient Israel, and those of medieval Europe.53 The earliest evidence of medieval mikva 'ot is from the three great Rhenish Jewries of Cologne, Speyer and Worms. Although sited within the Jewish court, adjacent to the synagogue and communal facilities such as butchery, bakehouse, oven and hospitium, they represent a radical departure from the earlier tradition in both size and design. Outstanding as monumental architec? ture and feats of engineering, they are of two types. The first is at Cologne. When the Jewish quarter, adjacent to the Rathaus, was excavated in 1956, a single shaft was found providing ventilation and some light, as well as access by a staircase which descends down the four sides of the shaft. A fifth set of steps leads into the mikveh. Recent research shows this to have been a hybrid, incorporating earlier elements from rebuildings after the 700 earthquake and the Viking raids of 881. The last stage is now dated by Sven Sch?tte to some fifteen years after the attack by the crusaders and mob in 1096. Other mikv'aot of this type are found at Friedberg in Hesse (1260) (see figure 6) and Ander? nach, on the Rhine near Coblenz (fourteenth century).54 The second, more complex, plan is found at Speyer and Worms where there is also a vertical ventilation and light shaft, but access is by a separate stairway which leads diagonally from ground level to the mikveh (see figure 7). In May 1096 crusaders attacked the Jewish court and synagogue at Speyer, but few lives were lost. The mikveh is dated from sculptural detail to c. 1110 52 J. Sch?nberger, Mikvaot (Jerusalem 1974) in Hebrew; Y. Yadin, Masada (London 1966) 164-7; E. Netzer, Ancient Ritual Baths in Jericho (Jerusalem 1982); L. I. Levine (ed.) Ancient Synagogues Revealed (Jerusalem 1981) 27, 32; Israel Exploration Journal 29 (1979) 123; 25 (1975) 175; 22 (1972) 175; E. M. Myers, Ancient Synagogue Excavations at Kherbet Shema, Upper Galilee, 1970-72 (Durham, N. Ca. 1976 ). 53 D. G. Mitten, The Synagogue of Sardis (New York 1965); M. F. Squarciapino, 'La Sinagoga de Ostia' Bolletino d'Arte S4 46 (1961) 326-37; idem, 'The Synagogue at Ostia' Archaeology 41 (1963) 194-203; L. V. Rutgers, 'Diaspora Synagogues: Synagogue Archaeology in the Greco-Roman World', in S. Fine (ed.) Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World (New York 1996) 74-5. 54 0. Doppelfeld, 'Die Ausgrabungen im K?lner Juden viertel' in Z. Asaria (ed.) Die Juden in K?ln (Cologne 1959) 92 et seq; M. Gechter, S. Sch?tte, 'Urspr?nge und Voraussetzungen der Rathausumgebung', in W. Greis and U. Krings (eds) Das historische Rathaus und seine Umgebung, Stadtspuren, Denkm?ler in K?ln 26 (2000); R. Krautheimer, Mittelalterlicher Synagogen (Berlin 1027) 187-8, 210-21. 35</page><page sequence="22">^u^vbdtI anwcnamDer j^^^J jj - ? ? sntBcnarnosr ^^^M^r *' HIE J^^H^^H^^B^^BBHI^l^p Figure 6 Plan and cross-section of the Friedberg mikveh (source: R. Krautheimer, Mittelalter lische Synagogen [Berlin 1927] 187).</page><page sequence="23"></page><page sequence="24">Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson 20, since masonry and workmanship indicate that it was the work of craftsmen whose 'very impressive' campaign on the cathedral vaults, begun in 1082, was completed in 1106. A stone stairway with a barrel vault (A) leads to a waiting room or antechamber with a high vault springing from four decorated corbels (B) . On the left an arched opening gives access to a small changing alcove (C) . Straight ahead, a large rectangular opening with central mullion (D) gives a view into the vertical shaft and the mikveh below, with a wide stone bench underneath. To the right a series of steps down a semicircular passage gives access to the mikveh. The masonry of the walls to some 3-4 feet above water level differs from the rest, suggesting the reconstruction of an earlier mikveh destroyed at the time of the crusaders' attack.55 At Worms a Hebrew inscription gives the date 1185-6. It is of the same design as Speyer, but smaller, although considerably later. At Offenburg in Baden the thirteenth- or early-fourteenth-century mikveh is of the same plan, but with a straight diagonal shaft. At the bottom, six further steps from the waiting room give access to the 2 m-square bath area, with a circular pool 1 m in diameter. The internal area of the Speyer bath is some 3.3 X 3.4 m (see figure 7), but at Worms it is 2.75 m square. In each the area covered by the full depth of water is considerably less, due to the steps above and below water level. At Speyer the effective area is thus reduced by about half, at Worms even more. This may well be significant in assessing the London evidence. A later mikveh at Offenburg in Baden is of a similar plan, but has a straight diagonal shaft.56 The other basic type of medieval ritual bath, the cellar mikveh, became increasingly common in Germany during the late medieval period. They did not occupy a prominent position in the Jewish court, but, as the name implies, were located under one of the houses of the Judengasse. These cellar mikva fot vary greatly in size and form. Into some examples people descended by steps, usually of stone but sometimes of wood, while others had steps leading into a small barrel-vaulted chamber. Nevertheless, they have to be categorized not by size, but according to access; if this was from the street they were public; if from within the house they were private. In this respect one is reminded of the thirteenth-century takkanah (ordinance) which dealt with the concept of a public synagogue: 'If one lends a [building] for use as a [synagogue] to a community and one difference arises between him [the owner] and another 55 Krautheimer (see n. 53) 145-50; F. Hildenbrand, Das Romanische Judenbad in alten Synagog? enhofe zu Speyer am Rhein (Speyer 1920); K. J. Conant, Carolingian and Romanesque Architec? ture, 800-1200 (2nd ed., London 1966) 131. 56 Krautheimer (see n. 53) 163-5, 217-18; O. B?cher, Die alte Synagoge zu Worms (Worms i960) 46-51; F. Reuter, Warmaisia: 1000 Jahre Juden in Worms (Worms 1984) 39-41. 38</page><page sequence="25">Medieval mikva yot in London and the Bristol 'mikveh member of the community he may not forbid its use to any individual unless he forbids it to all'.57 Probably the closest in size and plan to the London mikva 'ot is that found at Rothenburg ob der Tauber in 1985. In c. 1400 the Jews of Rothenburg were moved to new district created by extending the town walls. After the completion of a new synagogue, built with financial support from the civic authorities, a cellar mikveh was built under 10 Neue Judengasse, a house dated to c. 1409. Five steps, 1.10 m long and 0.95 m wide, gave access to the pool. Each step is single stone block some 50 cm wide and 20 cm deep. These steps occupy the eastern half of the northern side of the pool. The original water level is indicated by an overflow drain built into the western lining wall, its base almost level with the top of the third step. Water from the drain flowed into the nearby street. The pool gained extra depth (50 cm) by being cut into the underlying rock. The significant difference between the Rothen? burg and London mikva 'ot is that in the former, the steps provided public access from the Neue Judengasse, while in the latter access was internal.58 Acknowledgements The excavations at 81-7 Gresham Street were sponsored by the Corporation of London and were carried out by the Department of Urban Archaeology of the Museum of London. The ongoing programme of post-excavation study of the site is being undertaken by the Museum of London Archaeology Ser? vice (MoLAS), sponsored by the Corporation of London. It will form part of the publication of the medieval sequence from the Guildhall Art Gallery excavation. The excavations at 20-30 Gresham Street and adjoining properties, includ? ing 1-6 Milk Street, were sponsored by Land Securities pic, and carried out by MoLAS in collaboration with AOC Archaeology Group. The Milk Street Mikveh was excavated by Catherine Edwards of MoLAS, and the site photography undertaken by Andy Chopping and Maggie Cox of MoLAS. The dismantling was undertaken by Liz Barham, Conservator with Museum of London Specialist Services (MoLSS) Archaeological Conserva? tion, and the finds processing and stone cleaning by Graham Kenlin of MoLSS. The graphics for this article were produced by Sophie Lamb of 57 L. Finkelstein, Jewish Self-Government in the Middle Ages (New York 1963) 130, n. 1. 58 H. K?nzl, 'A Recently Discovered Miqweh in Rothenburg o.d. T: Preliminary Report' Jewish Art 14 (Jerusalem 1988) 28-34. For private and communal synagogues see Hillaby 1993 (see n. 1) 192-4. 39</page><page sequence="26">Ian Blair, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon and Bruce Watson MoLAS. Thanks to Peter Rowsome of MoLAS for his editorial comments on the draft text. Thanks are due to Dr Robert Spain for providing the volumetric measurements. Thanks also to the proprietors for allowing the authors access to 33 Jacob's Well Road, Bristol on 12 February 2002. 40</page></plain_text>