Canterbury
Marcus Roberts

Key Dates

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1158
A Jewish community is thought to exist by this date. The Scholar Abraham ibn Ezra probably writes part of his famous Letter of the Sabbath in Canterbury during this year.
1160
First recorded mention of Jews in Canterbury, Dieulecresse the Jew lends Richard of Anesty 40s.
1174
The Archdeacon of Bath, Peter de Blois, pleads to the Bishop of Ely, to be rescued from debt to Samson the Jew of Canterbury. Samson is one of the major money lenders of the city.
1179
The monks of St Augustine's Abbey borrow from the Jews, and Pope Alexander III publishes a Papal Bull exhorting Henry II to protect the holy fraternity in their business dealings with the Jews.
1181
Nicholas (a converted Jew?) works in the Mint at Canterbury, in the center of the Jewry close to the synagogue.
1187
Canterbury Jews support the monks of Christ Church in a dispute with Archbishop Baldwin. When the monks are besieged by Baldwin the Jews provide them with food, drink, and prayer.
1190
The Archa, a strong chest to store records of Jewish financial transactions, is set up.
1194
The Canterbury Jewry is the third most important in England. The Jews are on good terms with both town and clergy. Jews live in the commercial heart of the city, principally in present day Jewry lane, White Horse Lane, Stour Street, High Street, and Best Lane. They own around 20 houses. Other Jews are known to live out in the county at Ospringe, Sittingbourne, Frenningham, Sandwich and Tonbridge. Some of these originally come from Canterbury.
1206
The Jewish community is estimated to number some 100 Jews - a large Jewry.
1216 to 1241
Large numbers of Jews are recorded as living in Canterbury.
1222
Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury publishes the edict of Oxford restricting Jewish life. Within his own diocese he orders all communications with Jews to be severed, even the selling of food and necessaries. The King dissolves the edicts and threatens arrest for all whom disobey.
1225
A Jew, Abraham, is thrown into Jail on the charge of murder, but is acquitted.
1226
The monks of Christ Church are long term and large scale borrowers from the Jewish community. The Priors Chapel in the Cathedral is built using Jewish loans.
1234
A Jew is converted and baptized by the monks of St Augustine's, and named Augustine.
1240
Jehozadak ben Jehozadak, is named in the records as a rabbi, and a member of the Canterbury Rabbinic Court or Beth Din.
1241
The Canterbury Jewry is still prosperous, and sends six representatives to the Jews Parliament in Worcester to help raise a tax (or Tallage) of 20,000, marks. Salle son of Jose (ie, Solomon ben Joseph) flourishes (d.1270) and is very prominent in the Kent Jewry. He has large scale financial dealings in Kent and London. Rabbi Aaron of Canterbury, a notable scholar, flourishes in Canterbury.
1245
Benjamin ben Meir flourishes in Canterbury, being one of the six richest Jews in England.
1253
A Samuel of Ospringe is mentioned.
1255
The Canterbury Jewry declines to the rank of the eighth most important Jewry.
1257
The King confiscates houses belonging to Copin, son of Molkin.
1261
The Jews suffer a pogrom during the Baron's War at the hands of clergy and laity. No lives are lost but many are violently assaulted.
1264
Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, one of the rebellious barons, captures Canterbury and sacks the Jewish quarter. The object is to destroy records of debt, Jews are violently assaulted some may have been killed.
1266
The Jews have return to Canterbury, and the leading 17 Jews of the city sign a treaty of self-defense, against, 'liars, improper persons, or slanderers'.
1275
The statute de Judaismo prohibits Canterbury Jews lending money. Henceforth the Canterbury Jews trade in contracts for Wool, Wheat, and Corn - effectively forms of 'futures' trading.
1275
The king confiscates more Jewish properties. Caleman, a Canterbury Jew is murdered.
1278
Six Canterbury Jews are executed in London on charges of coin clipping, and their properties are confiscated. The rest are temporarily incarcerated in the castle, and various of their goods and chattels are illegally seized by local people.
1280
Two convert Jews collect a Poll-Tax of 2d. a head from the Canterbury Jews to support the House of Converts in London.
1284
Tax returns show there are 34 Jews living in Canterbury aged 12 years and above.
1290
The expulsion - all Canterbury Jews are expelled from the realm. An inquest shows that 16 men and six women had enough wealth to be mentioned in the record. The Jewry consisted of a synagogue, with 15 houses or parts of houses, and three plots of land. The Jewry leaves behind five Jewish converts.
1640
The medieval synagogue still survives as the 'Saracens Head Tavern'.
1720 to 1730 circa
c. 1720-30? Jews return to live in Canterbury, they are forced to reside and worship outside of the ancient city limits.
1730
A new Jewish congregation is formed, and worship is established at sometime in a temporary building in the St Dunstan's area of the city.
1732
Medieval Hebrew inscriptions still survive in the keep of Canterbury Castle.
1760
A Jewish cemetery is established in Canterbury.
1763
A new synagogue is set up, in St Dunstan's.
1799
By now most of the Canterbury Jews live within the city walls, in St Peter's Street, and Parish, in the West Gate suburb.
1820 circa
c.1820 Many members of the community emigrate to the Island of St Helena, and later to South Africa.
1831
The cemetery is expanded.
1832
The city corporation collects the annual 8d. rent due on the confiscated property of the medieval Jewry for the last time.
1845
Jewish women use the public baths of the city for ritual bathing.
1847
The community makes its living from a wide range of market town trades and occupations. Trades include, china, glass, earthenware, and hardware dealing, clothes and furniture broking, linen and wool drapers, pawnbroking, and watch and clock making.
1847
A new synagogue is built in the Egyptian Style, in King Street, the old one being demolished to make way for a railway line. The population is 106.
1850 circa
The Jewry starts to decline.
1851 circa
The community constructs a ritual bath (Mikveh) in the grounds of the synagogue. The community also enjoy the services of a kosher slaughterer and butcher.
1869
Henry Hart is appointed first Jewish mayor of Canterbury, serving twice more as mayor in 1869 and 1890-1.
1889
The synagogue is restored, and re-consecrated, after falling into serious disrepair.
1896
The synagogue records its last congregational minutes. There are only 12 Jews left in the city.
1901
The synagogue is only used on High Holy Days.
1911
The Jewish community in the city faces extinction, the synagogue is closed.
1913
The synagogue is temporarily reopened for Jewish soldiers in the First World War.
1931
The Jewish community ceases to exist in Canterbury. The synagogue is handed over to the charity commissioners, and the Torah scrolls are entrusted to the Oxford congregation.
1962
The former synagogue is used as a church hall.
1965
The opening of the University of Kent at Canterbury re-vitalises Jewish life, Jews live in the city again.
1975
Several Jewish lecturers, and city families, form a new Jewish community.
1978
Canterbury is dependant on Chatham or Margate for services.
1981
There are 300 Jews resident in the city.
1985
The 'old synagogue' is sold to the Kings School. It is refurbished for use as a music room.
1991
A service is held in the synagogue, the first Jewish service for 60 years.
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