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THE FIRST SETTLERS
Although a lack of royal documentation from the era means information about medieval Jewry is limited, there’s enough evidence to tell us that Jews had settled in the eastern counties of England by the middle of the 12th century. During the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154), the power of the monarch was decentralised, devolved to local barons. Local mints were set up and local economies flourished, attracting Jewish traders.
The flourishing market towns of Bungay in Suffolk and Thetford in Norfolk were cases in point. Under the protection of the local lord, Hugh de Bigod, Jews settled and prospered.
However, when Bigod took part in a failed uprising againts Henry II in 1174, he was forced to pay a huge fine of 1000 marks and his castle at Bungay pulled down. Losing the protection of both the castle and their patron, local Jews had to look elsewhere for security.
It’s not known at what point they completely dispersed, as records listing Jews ‘of Bungay’, persist into the 13th century. Enough though clearly felt the need to leave, some seeking royal protection in locales with royal castles, some heading for baronial boroughs like Castle Rising, and others opting for ecclesiastical boroughs such as Bury St Edmunds .Next