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Was there a Domus Conversorum in Oxford?

Rev. H. E. Salter

<plain_text><page sequence="1">4 Was There a Domus Conversorum in Oxford ? The most famous of the Houses for Converted Jews was founded by king Henry III in the year 12321 in New Street (now Chancery Lane), London. Bristol possessed one in 11542 and the district of Bermondsey, London, in 1213,3?whilst writers upon the period have recorded that, about the year 1221, the Dominican Friars of Oxford 1V. my Paper, "History of the Domus Conversonim," Transactions, iv. 2 V. Transactions, xii, 125. 3 Tovey, Anglia Judaica, p. 108.</page><page sequence="2">30 MISCELLANIES. established a Domus Conversorum in the Jewry on the site of the present Guildhall. This view was generally accepted as authentic4 until, in the course of a speech delivered by the Rev. H. E. Salter, M.A., at the Oxford celebrations on June 21st, 1931,5 that distinguished Oxford historian declared that no Domus ever existed in the University city. The following notes upon the subject were subsequently prepared for the Society by Mr. Salter?in which it is definitely proved that there was no House of Converts in medieval Oxford. M. A. The property known sometimes as Domus Conversorum lay on the south side of the original Guildhall, as will be seen in the plan from the Ordnance Survey, which I send. It was purchased by the City about 1550 from the Master of the Rolls,6 and was subsequently called the Lower Guildhall. About 1750 a new Guildhall was built which united the two properties. The history of the property begins on 9th May, 1228, when the king granted to David of Oxford, a Jew,7 his heirs and assigns, a messuage in St. Martin's once of Aubrey le Converse, who had fled in the reign of king John (Cal. of Charter Rolls, p. 76). In 1229 when the City purchased the old Guildhall it was described as bounded by the house of David the Jew (ib., p. 93). David the Jew died, I think, in the summer or autumn of 1244.8 On 30th April, 1245, the king granted to the House of Converts in London the messuages and lands in Oxford, late of David a Jew 4 Neubauer, Collectanea (2nd Series), Oxford Historical Society, p. 285. Maxwell Lyte, University of Oxford, p. 26. Boase, Oxford (Historic Towns series) p. 24, who approaches nearest to Mr. Salter's views; Wood's Oxford, I. p. 153 (Oxf. His. Soc. edition). Jewish Encyclopaedia, ix, p. 452. Hyamson, History of the Jews of England, p. 103. Stokes, A Short History of the Jews of England, p. 37, giving a picture of the supposed Domus Conversoram taken from Skelton's Oxonia Antiqua. 5 V. Transactions, xii, Introduction xii. 6 He was always the Custos (Warden) of the Domus Conversorum of London. 1 Excerptae Botulis Finium, I, p. 174. V. Neubauer, Collectanea, p. 295. David was the second husband of Licoricia of Winchester, whom he married after divorcing his wife Muriel. V. Stokes, Transactions x, p. 199. Jewish Quarterly Review, v. p. 158 (article by M. D. Davis upon the divorce). 8 V. Bigg, Plea Rolls of the Exchequer, i, 76, where it is clear that David died in 1244.</page><page sequence="3">5 Q o 5 ? 8 Co o Q (S.31VQ1V2S) '1S A?3f JLV3VD</page><page sequence="4">WAS THERE A DOMUS CONVERSORUM IN OXFORD? 31 which had escheated to the king on his death (Cal. Pat. Rolls, p. 453) and on 7th May, 1245, he ratified a lease made by the Warden of the House of Converts in London to Nie. de Stockwell, son of Hie. de Stockwell, of the capital messuage which was of David, Jew of Oxford, in St. Martin's and a house near by once of Rob. le Mignat. In 1247 (Assize Rolls, no. 700) it was returned that Nie. de Stockwell held two messuages in Oxford paying to the House of Converts in London eight marks a year. It is clear from the subsequent history that this was practically a ground rent. In 1279 (Hundred Rolls, vol. II, p. 798) in a survey of the houses of Oxford, as we pass along the houses in St. Martin's parish in the S.E. ward we meet with "John de Hanekenton holds a tenement in St. Martin's of the gift of Nich. de Stockwell, of the House of Converts, for which he pays 8 marks a year." The house on the other side of the road also paid 10s. a year to the London Domus (ib., p. 791. b and Cartulary of the Hospital of St. John, II, 153) and there was probably another house which paid 65. a year. Complaint was made in 1300 (Cal. Pat. Rolls, p. 491.) that the tenants in Oxford were not paying their rent to the London Domus, and in 1322 the king sent a writ to the Mayor and Bailiffs that Richard Cary and Gilbert de Grensted, who, because of quarrels between them had failed to pay their rent to the Domus Conversorum at London, should be distrained to pay (Twyne MSS. XXIII, 190). In 1352, John, son of Richard Cary left to his widow for her life a tenement in St. Martin's called Domus Conversorum; after her death there was to be raised from it a rent of 4 marks a year to maintain a chaplain at St. Martin's (Oxford Books of Wills, p. 367). In 1368 this was carried out and the Inquisition ad Quod Damnum stated that the tenement called Domus Conversorum was held of the House of Converts at London at a rent of 8 marks (Inq. ad quod dam. 366, no. 11). At this time the owner was Nie. de Sandresden who acquired it from Cary's widow. He died in 21 Ric. II and left to his widow the tenement formerly known as Domus Conversorum but now</page><page sequence="5">32 miscellanies. Cary's Inn (Twyne MSS. XXIII, 629) with remainder to his son William. In 1406 a survey or extent was made of the properties of William Sandresden, spieer; it states that he held a tenement in Oxford between the Guildhall on the N. and land of St. Frideswide on the south. From this time there is a long gap. The chantry in St. Martin's came to an end about 1470 which makes me think that the property in question had fallen in value so much that no rent could be levied beyond the 8 marks due to the House of Converts. In 1543 the property was in the hands of the Master of the Eolls, who granted to the City a lease of it for 85 years at the rent of 13s. 4$. (Records of the City of Oxford, by W. H. Turner, p. 173). Within a few years the City must have obtained the freehold, but the date is not recorded. H. E. Salter.</page></plain_text>