© Marcus Roberts with original research and contributions by Ian Holt. Trail and Project Kindly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund


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Murder at the Tower

If relations between Jews and Christians were variable, it was never guaranteed that relations between Jews and Jews would be good or harmonious. In Gloucester a deadly rivalry developed between two Jews, Solomon Turbe and Abraham Gabbay, which lead to the murder of Turbe in dramatic, murky and horrific circumstances. In 1220, a group of men accompanying the Sherriff of Gloucestershire were returning to the castle to discuss some of the King's affairs, 'as they approached the castle gate they saw, as it were, a man falling from the summit of a tower, and wondered what it might be, and one of them said that it was a man, or clothing, or some such thing; and the sheriff immediately told the porter to go see what it was; who went and came back saying, that it was the Jew that was in prison.'

It turned out that Solomon Turbe had been thrown from the tower of Gloucester Castle and somehow he temporarily survived his fall from the High Tower of the castle and was able to talk, but was circumspect in blaming anyone. It was alleged by his wife, however, that he was murdered as a result of a conspiracy of another Gloucester Jew, Abraham Gabbay, with some of the king's men at the Castle, who were alleged to have been paid 10 marks each for the murder. Gabbay had claimed to have been previously seriously attacked and wounded by Turbe, but denied any part in his death. Gabbay was freed and while it is impossible to prove what really happened it looks likely that both has probably plotted to kill each other, but that Turbe came off worst.

In the 1241 tallage, Gloucester's continued decline was confirmed as it came last of all the contributors, just after Worcester. However, the lowest point in the Jewish community's history was reached during the Baron's War, which was to be disastrous for so many Jewish communities and for Gloucester in particular. In the period, 1263 - 1265, Gloucester suffered a major siege in 1263 and was taken twice in 1264 and in 1265, as the Severn Valley was important in the struggle and during these insults to Gloucester the leaders of the Gloucester Jewry were killed.

The beginning of the end came in 1275, when the Gloucester Jews suffered a local expulsion with the expectation that they would relocate to Bristol, but most went to Hereford. The only Jews remaining were Belia and Ursell. In all eventualities all the Jews of England were expelled in the climatic general Expulsion of 1290, with the exception of converts and though a few Jews who stayed on in the back-waters of the Wales and England.

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