top of page
< Back

The Jews in Medieval York

Elizabeth Brunskill

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Jews in Medieval York By Elizabeth Brunskill, B.A. (Assistant Librarian, York Minster Library) IHE Transactions1 of this Society contain the work of the Rev. Michael Adler on Aaron of York, which is illustrated by deeds from various sources. Of these, the most important is one concerning the sale of land outside the city to be used as an additional burying place. This record is dated 1230, and can be found in a large collection of documents relating to the property under the control of the Vicars Choral of York Minster during the Middle Ages. These men served as deputies for the canons and sang the daily services for them. As a corporate body they drew much of their income from houses and land in the city and its neighbourhood. Their deeds of property have now been calendered and numbered. That concerning the Jewbury beyond the city wall is Number 22. There are four others which offer some further information about the Jews and their affairs in the medieval town, and they are here set down as a postcript to Mr. Adler's Aaron of York. (1) North Street Number 298 is the smallest deed in the collection of five hundred or so. It is a mere scrap six and three-quarter inches in width, and in length one and a half-inches at its best. The text and translation of this recognizance are as follows:? Ego Manesserus filius Leonis presbyter Judenus Eboraci Recongnosco per hoc presens scriptum meum quod dimisi et quietum clamavi pro me et heredibus meis in perpetuum Lucas (sic) de Warthill carnifici et heredibus vel assingnatis totum ius et clamium quod unquam habui vel habere potui in terra ilia que aliquando Waited carnificis in parochia sancti Johannis ad pontem use fuit. In cuius rei testimoruum presens scriptum litera mea ebrarea [sic] consingnavi: I, Manasser, son of Leo, Jewish "presbyter" of York, acknowledge by this my present writing that I have allowed and quit-claimed for myself and for my heirs forever to Luke of Warthill, butcher, and to his heirs or assigns all right and claim which was once (held by) Walter the butcher in the parish of St. John at Ousebridge. In witness whereof, I have subscribed to the present writing by Hebrew letter. I, Manser, son of Leon, acknowledge that all which is written above in the Latin language is true. Manser, son of Leon. ywb p nwo rm ^an yob TBfr'a (No date, no seal and no endorsement.) Translation 1 Trans. J.H.S.E., XIII, 113-55, reprinted in M. Adler, Jews of Medieval England, 1939, pp.127-73. 239</page><page sequence="2">240 THE JEWS IN MEDIEVAL YORK (Difference in size and, to some extent in character, between the main formula and the signature suggest that they may be in different hands. The word ptfVa is written with a ?? superfluous in ancient but correct in modern Hebrew, and the words "recongnosco," "assingnatis" and "consingnavi" have an additional "n" as written.) It appears from other deeds that Richard Bukford granted this property to Luke de Warthill in the mayoralty of Adam le Cerf. This information is not as helpful as might at first appear because Adam was York's first citizen five times between 1259 and 1270, and although the names of his bailiffs on this occasion are given, there does not seem to be any reasonable means of narrowing the possibility any further. However, Luke granted the land to the Vicars Choral in October 1265 (Number 299) so that Manasser's release must be dated some little time before this. The area is described as lying between the land once held by William Heuenryke and that of Emma Vincent extending from the street to the land of Henry le Wayder, "with all the lane and its appurtenances which leads to the water of Ouse." That is to say it lay between North Street and the river, approximately opposite the end of St. John's Church, Ousegate, which is now an institute for the advanced study of architecture. The lane is still there, looking the narrower for the tall buildings on either side and its ending at the water's-edge. As for Manasser, he may be the same person mentioned in the Close Rolls for October 1237 as living in Bretgate. Our Latin text definitely puts him in the nominative case as "presbyter Judenus," and hence he must be the son of an undistinguished and perhaps indistinguishable Leo. There was a celebrated Leo living in Coney Street who was "episcopus." Robert Davies, in his valuable articles on the Jews of York which appeared in the Yorkshire Archceological and Topographical Journal for 1875, claimed that Manasser was the son of Leo "episcopus," and hence, brother to Aaron. This, Mr. Adler, writing later, will not allow. Among such usual Jewish names the verdict must rest not proven until further evidence is forthcoming. Warthill, which Luke forsook to ply his trade in York, is a little village, distant five and a half miles N.E. by E. of the town. (2) Bretgate Number 52 has for its geography the street which came into being just outside the walls of the Roman fortress and linked the market with the "Strand" of York, Coney Street. Earlier historians though that here was the Jewish quarter and suggested that the name "Bretgate" had changed over the years by way of Ju-Bretgate to Jubbergate because of this Jewish occupation. This theory is not supported by York's latest topographer historian, the Rev. Angelo Raine. Manasser of the Close Rolls dwelt here, but one of the points which this little clutch of deeds here discussed makes very plain, is that there was no ghetto in York. However, here is one Matilda disposing of her revenue:? Sciant omnes presentes et futuri quod ego Matillida filia Alani filii Ormi in viduitate et libera potestate mea constituta relaxavi et quietum clamavi de me et heredibus meis Hugoni filio Serlonis capellano de Nortstrete et heredibus et assignatis suis in perpetuum pro quatuor marcis et dirnidia argenti quas idem Hugo mihi dedit ad omnes terras et redditus meos adquietandos versus Judeos Eboraci Redditum quinque solidorum et undecim denariorum quern idem Hugo mihi debuit per annum pro ilia terra cum per tinenciis in Bretegate quam Lambertus pelliparius quondam de me tenuit pro novem solidis per annum et eidem Hugoni et heredibus et assingnatis suis per voluntatem et con cessionem meam dedit et carta sua quam inspexi confirmavit. Ita quod ipse Hugo et heredes sui sive assingnati reddent per annum tantummodo tres solidos et unum denarium</page><page sequence="3">THE JEWS IN MEDIEVAL YORK 241 scilicit mihi et heredibus meis predictum denarium in septimana pentecoste et moniahbus sancti dementis Eboraci predictos tres solidos medietatem ad pentecosten et medietatem ad festum sancti martini in hyeme sicut nostri assignati in perpetuum et domino Regi husgablium suum pro omni servicio et toto Jure quod unquam mihi vel heredibus meis de predicta terra cum pertinenciis poterit accidere. Et ad maiorem securitatem presens scriptum sigillo meo roboravi. Johanne Blundo et Henrico de sancto michaele capel lanis Ada Nairun [or Nairim] Johanne fratre suo Willelmo Turgisii Thoma Takel Willelmo Normarmi Rogero filio Rogeri Stephano fUio Hugonis Blundi Thoma Blundo et Aliis testibus eciam presentibus. Endorsed:? "Item sunt testes Robert Buistard Henricus Buistard. Gilberto cappellano parochiali ecclesie sancti Petri parvi Radulfo filio Willelmi de Fossato Hende de Ospitali. Serlone Tanatore Gilberto Lorimer." "Bretgate." (No seal, no date.) Translation Know all men present and to come that I, Matilda, daughter of Alan, son of Orm, in my widowhood and free power have released and quit-claimed for me and for my heirs to Hugh, son of Serlo, chaplain of North Street, and to his heirs and assigns for ever, for four and a half marks of silver which the same Hugh gave to me to free all my lands and rents in relation to the Jews of York a rent of five shillings and elevenpence which the same Hugh owed me yearly for that land with its appurtenances in Bretgate which Lambert the skinner once held of me for nine shillings a year, and gave to the same Hugh and his heirs and assigns with my will and consent, and confirmed by his charter which I inspected. And so the same Hugh, and his heirs or assigns shall pay yearly only three shillings and a penny, that is to say to me and my heirs the aforesaid penny in the week of Pentecost, and to the nuns of St. Clement of York the aforesaid three shillings, half at Pentecost, and half at the feast of St. Martin in winter as our assigns for ever and his "husgablium" to the Lord King for all service and for all right which could ever fall to me or to my heirs concerning the aforesaid land with its appurtenances. And for greater security I have confirmed the present writing with my seal. John Blund and Henry of St. Michael chaplains, Adam Nairun [or Nairim], John his brother, William of Turgisius, Thomas Takel, William of Norman, Roger son of Roger, Stephen son of Hugh Blund, Thomas Blund and others being present as witnesses. Endorsed:?"Likewise are witnesses Robert Buistard, Henry Buistard, Gilbert parish chaplain of the church of St. Peter the Little, Ralph son of William de Fossato, Hende de Ospitali, Serlo the tanner, Gilbert the spurrier." "Bretgate." ("Hende" is unusual. The scribe may have had a stutter of the pen and intended Henry and doubled the "de." "Ospitali" perhaps refers to the great medieval school infirmary-almshouse of St. Leonard's.) It is unfortunate that Matilda gives no details of her predicament, particularly in that she names no names. Her creditors would have been welcome. Other deeds (Numbers 51 and 53), relating to the same property are also undated. The most helpful clue here is to be found in the additional witnesses mentioned over the page, that is, on the reverse of the document. Robert and Henry Buistard were members of a family which gave its name to a now vanished hamlet lying on the road between York and</page><page sequence="4">242 the jews in medieval york Bishopthorpe. There, where the Ouse flows so steady and full between the level pastures, Archbishop Walter de Gray built, by 1241, the palace which is still the pride of the diocese. He bought some of the land to be used for this purpose from Robert, who, with his brother, figures in several undated charters relating to this transaction. These are to be found in the Minster's great Registrum Album1 and were drawn up about the year 1226. Gilbert the chaplain is otherwise unknown, unless he was that Gilbert who was instituted to a mediety of Holy Trinity Church in 1235. His St. Peter's is called "Little," to distinguish it from the Minster which has the same dedication. It stood in an alley which still provides a short-cut between Jubbergate and High Ousegate, but long ago was ruined and disappeared. Plate 38 Plan of Medieval York. Apparently Matilda did not have the four and a half marks (or three pounds) required to pay off the debt for which the property had been mortgaged; Hugh, son of Serlo, the chaplain, finds this amount for her and secures a reduction in rent on the property in 1 Pt. II, ff. 85-8.</page><page sequence="5">THE JEWS IN MEDIEVAL YORK 243 Bretgate Street of two shillings and tenpence per annum (from five and elevenpence to three shillings and a penny). In future the rent, apart from a penny to Matilda, is to be paid by Hugh to the nuns of St. Clement. Whether this was a spontaneous act of charity on Matilda's part, or in return for Hugh's financial assistance, does not appear. The deed, however, illustrates the sort of financial activity in which clerics and religious houses engaged, which is explained in H. G. Richardson's The English Jewry under Angevin Kings.1 (3) Coney Street Number 63 takes us into the city's principal street:?Sciant omnes presentes et futuri quod ego Nicholas Doggeheved dedi concessi et hac carta sigillo meo roborata confirmavi Deo et ecclesie sancti Petri Eboraci et Commune vicariorum in dicta ecclesia deo serviencium annuum redditum sexdecim solidorum sterelingorum in ilia terra cum pertinenciis in vico de Cuningestrete que Jacet In Longitudine et Latitudine Inter terram Leonis episcopi Judei et terram que fuit Galfridi malerbe In qua terra Robertus de tumba mansit In tempore confectionis huius carte. Habendum et tenendum dictis vicariis in perpetuum percipiendo quolibet anno in liberam puram et perpetuam elemosinam scilicet octo solidos ad Pentecosten et octo solidos Infra octabas sancti martini in hyeme pro salute anime mee et omnium fidelium defunctorum Salvo tarnen dictis vicariis redditu quern antea in prefata terra habuerunt Et Licebit dictis vicariis omnimodas dis trictiones facere in predicta terra cum pertinenciis pro predicto redditu sicut in suo feodo in perpetuum Et ego et heredes mei Warantizabimus et defendemus dictis vicariis predictum redditum sicut Liberam puram et perpetuam elemosinam contra omnes homines In perpetuum Et non licebit mihi vel successoribus meis edificia in dicta terra constructa vel construenda ammovere vel deteriorare, sive mutare sine visu et assensu dictorum vicariorum. Hiis testibus Johanne capellano dicto Bouario Hugone fratre suo Willelmo de Donevic Rogero de sexdecim vallibus Henrico de maltona Alano de Richemund Philippo Bover Mauricio vinetario Henrico de Bigton Hugone Blundo tanatore Thoma Legrant Simone de elstoft Philippo telario de nortstrete. Et multis aliis. Endorsed:?N. doggeh'.?Carta Nicholai dogeh'?Coningstrete de XVI solidis annui redditus datis vicariis in Coningstret de XVI solidis cum alio redditu habito preante soluto per manus custodum pontis use. nota. (No seal, no date.) Translation Know all men present and to come that I Nicholas Doggeheved have given, granted, and by this charter, confirmed with my seal, have assured to God and the church of St. Peter of York and the community of vicars serving God in the said church, an annual rent of sixteen shillings sterling in that land with its appurtenances in the street of Cuningestrete which lies in length and breadth between the land of Leo "episcopus," the Jew and the land which was held by Galfrid Maletbe in which land Robert de tumba dwelt in the time of the making of this charter to have and to hold by the said vicars for ever by receiving each year, in free pure and perpetual alms that is to say eight shillings at Pentecost and eight shillings within the octave of St. Martin in winter for the salvation of my soul and of all the faithful departed saving however to the said vicars the rent which they had aforetime in the aforesaid land. 1 H. G. Richardson, The English Jewry under Angevin Kings, 1960. Q*</page><page sequence="6">244 THE JEWS IN MEDIEVAL YORK And it shall be allowed to the said vicars to make all manner of distraints on the said land with its appurtenances for the aforesaid rent as in their fief for ever. And I and my heirs guarantee and defend to the said vicars the aforesaid rent as free pure and perpetual alms against all men for ever. And it shall not be allowed to me or to my heirs to remove or damage or alter buildings erected or to be erected on the said land without the oversight and assent of the said vicars. These being witnesses. John the chaplain called Bovarius, Hugh his brother, William of Dunwich, Roger of Thixendale, Henry of Malton, Alan of Richmond, Philip Bover, Maurice the vintner, Henry of Bigton, Hugh Blund the tanner, Thomas Legrant, Simon of Elstoft, Philip the weaver of North Street and many others. Endorsed:?N. Doggeheved. The charter of Nicholas Dogeheved, Coney Street, concerning sixteen shillings of annual rent given to the vicars in Coney Street concerning sixteen shillings with another rent held of old paid by the hands of the keepers of Ouse Bridge. (These endorsements were made at various dates. The above example contains examples of five, possibly six, different hands. Leo "episcopus" whose land here serves to identify the plot under consideration will also serve to give an approximate date. Robert Davies states that Leo died in 1244, quoting the fine rolls of 28 H III, so that the charter of Nicholas must have been drawn up before this.) (4) Fossgate The last document (Number 85) illustrates the impact made by medieval Jews on their Northern neighbours. Although it is apparent from the charter that Benedict no longer lives in Fossgate for there have been two transactions concerning the property since his time (Richard de Risseford held it and then Laurence de Wilton and William Burgman bought it), it is to be identified by the fact that Benedict once held it, and this on both sides of the parchment. Sciant omnes presentes et futuri Quod Ego Laurencius de Wilton clericus dedi et concessi et hac presenti carta mea confirmavi willelmo Burgman pro servicio suo totam terram que fuit Benedicti Judei Infossegata cumpertinenciis suis Quam Ego Laurencius et predictus Willelmus Emimus de Ricardo de Risseford habendam et tenendam ei et heredibus suis vel cui Idem Willelmus earn assingnare voluerit de me et de heribus meis in perpetuum reddendo inde annuatim unam Libram incensi Domino Episcopo Dunol mensi ad festum Sancti Cutberti in Septembri pro omni servicio mihi et heredibus meis pertinente et Husgablium Domino Rege Ego autem et heredes mei totam prenorninatam terram cum pertinenciis suis predicto Willelmo et heredibus suis et eius assingnatis warantizabimus et ut hec mea donacio et concessio rata permaneat earn sigilli mei apposicione confirmavi Hiis testibus:?Willelmo Grammatico Roberto et Ricardo fratribus eius petro de alta Ripa Willelmo de Parlington Willelmo Otewyn Nicoiao de Bretegata Thoma palmario Petro filio Roberti Willelmo de Bretegata Waltero filio Joce Roberto fratre eius Waltero de Nortfolc Alexandro aurifabro Thomas aurifabro Ada filio petri Johanne de fulford Thoma filio Warini Ambrosio fratre eius et multis aliis. (No seal, no date.) Endorsed:?de terra que fuit Benedicti Judei per magistrum Laurencium Wilton in fossegata: Carta facta Willelmi Burgmanni per Laurencium Wilton.</page><page sequence="7">THE JEWS IN MEDIEVAL YORK Translation Know all present and to come that I, Laurence of Wilton, clerk, have given and granted and by this my present charter confirmed to William Burgman for his service all the land which was held by Benedict the Jew in Fossgate with its appurtenances which I Laurence and the aforesaid William bought of Richard of Risseford to have and to hold by him and his heirs or by whomsoever the same William shall have wished to grant from me and from my heirs for ever, paying thence yearly a pound of incense to the lord Bishop of Durham at the feast of St. Cuthbert in September for all service pertaining to me and to my heirs and Husgablium to the lord King. For I and my heirs guarantee all the afore-mentioned land with its appurtenances to the aforesaid William and his heirs and assigns and that this my gift and grant may remain valid 1 have confirmed it by the affixing of my seal. These being witnesses:?William Grammaticus, Robert and Richard his brothers, Peter Dautree, William of Parlington, William Otewyn, Nicholas of Bretgate, Thomas Palmer, Peter son of Robert, William of Bretgate, Walter son of Joce, Robert his brother, Walter of Norfolk, Alexander Goldsmith, Thomas Goldsmith, Adam son of Peter, John of Fulford, Thomas son of Warin, Ambrose his brother and many others. Endorsed:?Concerning the land once held by Benedict the Jew by master Laurence Wilton in Fossgate. The charter made by William Burgman by Laurence Wilton. Both text and translation are straightforward. Again, however, there is little guidance as to date. Benedict is anonymous, there is nothing to identify him with the Benedict who lived in Spen Lane or that Benedict of Winchester, who had a house in Coney Street. William Burgman figures in a charter which the late Chancellor F. Harrison dated 1230, and a Walter de Norfolk was active in Bretgate around 1239. "Husgablium" was a medieval property tax generally based on the number of gables per house. Was Walter son of Joce a Jew? He would be a bold man who would date a charter to within five years on the score of handwriting alone, but it may be noted that this has also been considered. The four documents belong to the first half of the thirteenth century when Aaron the Jew was one of York's prominent inhabitants and John Romanus, then sub-dean of St. Peter's, had granted, or was about to grant, to the commune of the Jews of York and of the other Jews of England the land which he bought of Galfrid Brun in Barkergate, which lay, he says, between the land which he held of the canons of the Minster and "antiquum Cimiterium Judeorum." SOURCES The most important sources whence these notes have been derived have been indicated in the text. It might, however, be added that the local public library posseses a valuable manuscript in three volumes, a collection of information about the city's civic dignitaries compiled by the late R. H. Skaife, and that the full tide of the Rev. Angelo Raine's guide to medieval York is Medieval York: A topographical survey, based on original sources, London 1955.</page></plain_text>

bottom of page