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The Domus Conversorum

C. Trice Martin

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Receipt by William Convers of Leicester of 6j. 8d. as Alms from the King. Dated at London, 7 March 2 Henry IV. [140?]. .r-^.(&amp;??Ag*r- l/^y^^rSt^ Receipt by Nathaniel Menda, stranger, of 45$. 7Jrf., for an annuity heretofore givei out of the Exchequer. Dated 6 Feb. 1608, [160$J. Also an attestation of being still alive, by Thomas Radcliff, Notary Public, and Edward Bayley. DOMUS CONVERSORUM DOCUMENTS.</page><page sequence="2">Receipt by William Convers of Leicester of 6s. 8d. as Alms from the King. Dated at London, 7 March 2 Henry IV. [140?]. by Nathaniel Menda, stranger, of 45$. 7^., for an annuity heretofore given to him of the Exchequer. Dated 6 Feb. 1608, [i?ofj. Also an attestation of Menda g still alive, by Thomas Radcliff, Notary Public, and Edward Bayley. DOMUS CONVERSORUM DOCUMENTS.</page><page sequence="3">THE DOMUS CONVERSORUM. ? By C. TRICE MARTIN, F.S.A. I HiVE brought with me this evening a few photographs connected with the Old Hospital for Converted Jews in London, but I do not intend to read you a long paper or give you a detailed history of the House. The fact is that my friend, Mr. William Hardy, has recently read a very elaborate paper on the subject before the Society of Antiquaries, and has also published the substance of it in a Magazine, and there is no need for me to repeat what he has written. I shall be contented if I tell you enough to make you feel some interest in the photo? graphs. You all know, I daresay, that King Henry III. founded this Hospital for Converts in Chancery Lane, which was then called " the Street called New Street, in the Suburbs of London, running between the Old Temple and the New." The first Temple or House of the Knights Templars was founded in Holborn, and was removed to its present site in Fleet Street in 1185. Soon after the foundation of the Hospital, Matthew Paris, the Monk of St. Albans, who spent his life in writing a history of England, tells us (iii. 262) that " Henry III. built a decent church, fit for a conventual congregation, with other buildings adjoining, at his own expense, in the place where he had established a House of Converts, for the ransom of his soul and that of his father, King John, and all their ancestors, in the 17th year of his reign, that is to say, in London, not far from the Old Temple, To this house converted Jews retired, leaving their Jewish blindness, and had a home and a safe refuge for their whole lives, living under an honourable rule, with sufficient sustenance without servile work or the profits of usury. So it happened that in a short time a large number were collected there.</page><page sequence="4">St Alban's Abbey, from the IIS. at Corpus Christi Coll. A ????? II II lit :_ ? 1</page><page sequence="5">the domus conversobum. 17 And now, being baptised and instructed in the Christian law, they live a praiseworthy life under a Governor specially appointed." In one of the manuscripts of this history of Matthew Paris, now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, of which part is supposed to Church for Converted Jews, from a MS. of Matthew Paris (Brit. Mus. MS. Boy., 14 C. vii.). be written by his own hand, there is a drawing of a church in the margin, intended as an illustration of this passage. I have brought with me a coloured facsimile of this drawing and also an enlarged copy of it. It is a question whether this is really a picture of the Chapel itself or whether it is merely a typical church drawn in the margin to call attention to the passage, without any idea of representing the actual building, just as a crowned head might be put in the margin opposite a passage referring to a king, without any intention of its being a portrait. I have here also a drawing of the only other picture of a church in the volume. It represents part of St. Albans Abbey, to illustrate the dream of an enemy of the Abbey, Sir Falkes de Breaute, who dreamed that a stone fell from one of the towers and crushed him. He told his wife vol. i. c</page><page sequence="6">18 THE DOMUS CONVERSOBUM. of it in the morning, and she, after the manner of her time, attributed the dream rather as a Divine monition than as a symptom of dyspepsia, and advised him to seek absolution for his misdeeds at the Abbey, which he did. The two drawings, you will see, are similar in character, considering that one only represents part of a church, and the other the whole ; and they appear to me to be equally imaginary. Another manuscript of Matthew Paris, in the British Museum (Royal M.S., 14 C, vii.), has a drawing of the chapel, slightly different Sketch of the Bolls Chapel in its present state. to that of which I have shown you a copy, but it has no better claims to be an authentic representation. The Rolls Chapel has been left to get out of repair more than once, and has been considerably modernised, so that but little of the original structure remains except the walls. It was thoroughly repaired by the well-known architect, Colin Campbell, who built the Rolls House between the years 1717 and 1724. The flint facing of the walls is even later than this, so that the only part of the original wall now visible is that on the south side. A house called the Rolls Chapel Office, built in 1784, adjoined the chapel on that side, and the flint facing was evidently added after it was built. It has been suggested that this was the work of George Gwilt the elder, but I do not know that there is any evidence for this.</page><page sequence="7">THE DOM?S CONVERSORUM. 19 The edge of the flint shows where the house stoQd. There would have been no need to remove it if it had existed previously. + E3 &gt; Hi Church for Converted Jews, from a MS. of Matthew Paris, in the Library of Corpus Christi Coll., Cambridge. It was only when this house was recently pulled down to make way for the new front of the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane, that this piece of old wall was laid bare. The little tower at the south-east corner of the Chapel is far too insignificant to be represented by the tower in Matthew Paris's picture, and there is no trace of, or, indeed, room for any window corresponding to the rose window and upper lights in his picture. It might have been concealed by the plaster which covers the top of the tower, but this is not likely. There are two mere slits for windows in the tower?one on the east side, of which the stone architrave is renewed, but the other, on the west side, which was covered by the Rolls Chapel Office, still possesses its original stone-work. The former window can be seen in one of the photographs, c 2</page><page sequence="8">20 THE DOM?S CONVERSORUM. The west door of the present chapel is round like that in Paris's picture, but whether it is the original door is very doubtful. At all events there is now no side door as in the picture. The picture also gives a chancel, which probably never existed. There was no need for a chancel in the chapels of colleges and hospitals. The present east end is no doubt Campbell's work. His declared account sent into the Audit Office states that he was employed " to repair and improve the Chapel of the Rolls," but it gives no details of his work on the Chapel. The two rows of windows in the picture have left no trace on the recently laid bare south side. The filled-up window next the tower, which belongs to the Decorated period, may have been inserted, if not earlier, when William de Burstall was Master of the Rolls and Keeper of the House of Converts, from 1371 to 1381, as the Chapel was then in a bad state and had to be repaired. The window further west is similar in shape to the east and other windows, which are no doubt Campbell's work, or even later. Inigo Jones is said to have had some hand in its restoration, but it is difficult to say what is his work. At all events, in 1708 the doors and windows were still Gothic. As to the interior, there is no trace of great antiquity. The roof is modern Gothic. The chapel possesses, however, three tombs, which are well worth seeing. The earliest is that of John Yong, who was Master of the Rolls from 1508 to 1516. The monument consists of a painted effigy of the deceased, lying on a stone sarcophagus, dressed in a scarlet robe, with black tippet and black cap, like that worn by Stephen Gardiner in his portrait by Holbein, the ancestor of our " mortarboard." The face of the deceased gives a wonderful impression of the solemnity, the majesty of death, without putting forward its horror. The faces of Christ and the two angels over the corpse are inferior, if not in execution, at least in conception and effect. The artist was Piero Torregiani, the sculptor of the effigy of Henry VII. in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey. He it was, as Benvenuto Cellini tells us, who broke Michelangelo Buonarrotti's nose for chaffing him while drawing in the chapel of the Carmine in Florence.</page><page sequence="9">Receipt by Philippus Ferdinando, Convert, of 4$s. 7\d.&gt; being a year's pension of i\d. a day, due last Candlemas. Dated 3 Feb., 1598. 41 Eliz. [1591]. Receipt by Elizabeth Furdinando of 45*. j\d., for the year ending at Christmas. [circa 1603-1611]. DOMUS CONVERSORUM DOCUMENTS.</page><page sequence="10">THE DOMUS CONVERSOR?M. 21 The second tomb, in point of date, is that of Sir Richard Ailing ton and his wife Jane, sister of Sir William Cordell, Master of the Rolls from 1557 to 1581. It is a very fine piece of sculpture, but without genius. The husband and wife kneel facing each other in two niches, the husband in armour, holding his helmet in his hand, and the lady her prayer book. The faces are clearly portraits, the lady with thin lips and rather a shrewish expression, though she was said to have been very charitable ;m and the man just a good-looking gentleman of the period. His armour and her dress, even the pattern on her sleeves, and the masks and wreaths of flowers and leaves over their heads are most beautifully wrought. Among the decorations is a circular recess, with a ball of black stone within it, from which an old keeper of the chapel concocted the story, which he told to visitors, that this was a knight who had fought in the wars, and this was the cannon-ball which killed him. The three daughters and the coat of arms are below in relief. The third tomb is that of Edward Lord Bruce, Commendator of Kinloss, who was Master of the Rolls from 1603 to 1611. This is very inferior work to the tombs just mentioned, but it is interesting as giving specimens of the costume and hairdressing of the period. The judge himself lies resting on his elbow, dressed in his official robes, trimmed with fur, while his sons, one of whom was killed by Sir Edward Sackville in a duel, and the other was the first Lord Elgin, kneel below. Facing them are their mother and sister. Her name was Christian, and when only twelve years of age, she was married in this chapel to William Cavendish, the second of his name and family who bore the title of Earl of Devonshire. She apparently wears a single hoop, just below the waist, and both she and her mother have their hair dressed in a mass rising from the head, sur? rounded with a wreath of flowers. There is some very good glass in some of the windows. The large west window bears the arms of Henry Prince of Wales, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, Lord High Treasurer to James I., and Thomas Egerton, Lord Ellesmere, who was Master of the Rolls from 1594 to 1603. The south window bears the arms of Sir Harbottle Griraston,</page><page sequence="11">22 THE DOMUS CONVERSORUM. who was Master of the Rolls from 1660 to 1685, and of Sir Henry Powle, who held the same office from 1689 to 1693. There are other more modern memorials in each of these windows, but the old glass is very fine. Just now, however, it cannot be seen, as the windows are boarded up to prevent damage from the new build? ings, as you will see in some of the photographs. The north window is rather a curiosity. Under the coat of arms of Sir John Trevor, who was Master of the Rolls from 1693 to 1717, there is a facsimile of his signature* This is the only window in which I have ever seen such a thing. This Sir John Trevor was also Speaker of the House of Commons, until he was expelled for receiving bribes. A story is told of him, that soon after his expulsion he hap? pened to pass Archbishop Tillotson, and said to his companion, loud enough to be heard by the Archbishop, " I hate a fanatic in lawn sleeves." The Archbishop, turning round, immediately rejoined, "And I hate a knave in any sleeves." He was a wealthy man, but notorious for stinginess. It is told, that when drinking his wine after dinner, his cousin called upon him and was shown into the room by the back door. He immediately said to his servant, "You rascal, you have brought my cousin Roderick Lloyd, Esq., Prothonotary of North Wales, Marshal to Baron Price, and so forth, up the back stairs. Take him down immediately, and bring him up the front stairs." Meanwhile the bottle of wine was put away in the sideboard. This story would very well apply to the dining-room of the present Rolls House, which is now occupied by my friend the Secre? tary of the Public Record Office, but this house was only begun in 1714, so that it is much more likely that it occurred in Sir John's house in Clement's Lane. The same window also contains the coat of Sir Edward Phelips, Master of the Rolls from 1611 to 1614, which has some very fine glass in it, as well as that of Robert Lord Gifford, who died in 1824. This last is hideous. The east window is filled with modern glass in the worst possible taste and the crudest colours. At the top are the royal arms, sup? ported by a terrible lion and unicorn, and below are coats of Masters of the Rolls from 1365 to 1318.</page><page sequence="12">Receipt by Arthur Antoe, "a Pagan borne but conveted to the fayth of Christe Jesus," of 455. "beinghis Majesties graciouse allowance upon my conversion." Dated 7 Nov., 6 &amp;42 Jac. I.(i6o8). Similar Receipt by Antoe, dated 20 Nov., 7 &amp; 42 James I. (1609). DOMUS CONVERSORUM DOCUMENTS.</page><page sequence="13">THE DOMUS CONVERSORUM. 23 The chapel was long used as a repository for Records, which were stowed away under the pew-seats, in presses with pilasters and columns of classical design, which lined the walls, and between the ceiling and the roof. It was re-consecrated by George Mounteigne, Bishop of Lincoln, about 1618, and since then has been used as a place of worship. Bishop Attenbury, Bishop Burnett, and Bishop Butler were all preachers there. The pew of the Master of the Rolls used to be like a box in a theatre, the entry to it being at the back, through a passage from the Rolls House, which still remains. So much for the chapel. The Hospital itself, perhaps from lack of converts, was annexed by Edward the Third and Richard the Second to the Mastership of the Holls. Receipts for an annual allowance to converts are sometimes found in the annual accounts of the Masters, the amount being three halfpence a day, and sometimes twopence, as in the case of Edward, of Brussels, who received a grant of that amount in 1339. (Close Roll, 14 Edw. III., m. 25.) I have brought with me facsimiles of some of these receipts, ranging in date from 1401 to 1610. The earliest is a receipt by William Convers, of Leicester. It is signed in a Moorish cursive script. Another in 1599 bears the name of Philip Ferdinand. He signs both in Latin and Hebrew, and adds the word "neophyta" in Greek characters. Ferdinand was born in Poland about 1555, changed his faith first to Catholicism and afterwards became a Protestant. He subsequently came to England and entered the University of Oxford as a poor student, and in 1596 removed to Cambridge. At both places he maintained himself by teaching Hebrew. Subsequently he obtained a professorship at Leyden, and became a friend of the great scholar, Joseph Scaliger. The " Dictionary of National Biography " states that he died at the end of 1598, but this must be a mistake, as this receipt is dated 3rd Feb., 1598, 41 Eliz. At that time, as you know, our English calendar had not been</page><page sequence="14">24 THE DOMUS CONVERSORTJM. reformed, and the 25th of March was New Year's Day, so that February, 1598, means what we should call February, 1599. The only work by Ferdinand in the British Museum is a Latin translation of a treatise on the Ten Commandments, printed at Cam? bridge in 1597. The other receipts are those of persons of no importance, as far as I know. One at least is not a Jew. He calls himself " Arthur Antoe, a Pagan born but converted to the fayth of Christe Jesus." Can he have been a native American, brought to this country by Drake or Raleigh ? The Hospital remained on, with various repairs and additions until it was pulled down by Colin Campbell when he built the Rolls House on its site ; and the old materials were sold. Considering the ancient purpose of the buildings on this site, it is not a little curious that the first Deputy Keeper of the Public Records since the passing of the Public Record Act for collecting the records here, was Sir Francis Palgrave, a man of Jewish parentage, and that the next Master of the Rolls was Sir George Jessel. As to Sir George, I well remember that on his first arrival at the Rolls, Sir Thomas Hardy showed him the Court and the Office, and then asked Professor Brewer, then Preacher at the Rolls, to show the new Master his chapel. Sir George admired the tombs and heard Professor Brewer's account of the building, and on shaking hands with him, said: " Well, Mr. Brewer, it is a very interesting place. I am much obliged to you for showing it to me, and as you do us the honour of worshipping a member of our nation here, I shall come in some Sunday morning and see how you do it." The west window has a memorial of Sir George.</page><page sequence="15">Receipt by Jacob Wolfgang of 45,. 7Wf "being his Majesties graticious and yerely t unto me sence my conversion." Dated 12 Feb. 1608, [i6bf] 7</page><page sequence="16">)t by Jacob WoHgang of 45*. 7y., "being his Majesties graticious and yerely allowance unto me sence my conversion." Dated 12 Feb. 1608, [160t]. Similar receipt, dated I Feb. 1609, [i6ffi].</page><page sequence="17">Receipt by Jacob WoHgang of 45,. ?W, -being his Majesties graticious and yerely unto me sence my conversion." Dated 12 Feb. 1608, [160*] Similar receipt, dated 1 Feb. 1609, [16S ]. Domus c0nver8orum Documents.</page><page sequence="18">by Jacob WoKgang of 45*. 7y., "being his Majesties graticious and yerely allowance unto me sence my conversion." Dated 12 Feb. 1608, [loot]. Similar receipt, dated I Feb. 1609, [16% ]. DOMUS CONVERSORUM DOCUMENTS.</page><page sequence="19">Receipt by Elizabeth Portyngale, Convert, of 45^ granted to her by the King for life. 12 Similar Receipt by Edward Scales, C Similar Receipt by Elizabeth Baptiste, DOMUS CONVERSORUM</page><page sequence="20">ert, of 45^. 6d. as her year's wages at i\d. a day, :&gt;r life. 12 Feb. 3 Henry VIIL [151*]. 1 Scales, Convert, of the same date. 1 Baptiste, Convert, of the same date. ?rsorum Documents.</page></plain_text>