Northampton
© Marcus Roberts, with additional contributions from Michael Jolles

Key Dates

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1159
The first mention of Jews in Northampton. The Jews live in The Parmentary, now the area around the Corporation Fish Market west of Sheep Street and East of Silver Street, and in other houses in the near vicinity at Bearward Street and Corn Hill. The community has links with the Rhineland Jewry.
1189
The Northampton Donum. Representatives of all the Anglo-Jews are forced to assemble in Northampton to decide how much each Jewish community should pay towards King Richard's ransom.
1190
There is a religious riot against the Jews, provoked by the profane cult in nearby All Saints church around the body of the murderer, and anti-Semite, John of Stamford. This is suppressed in person by St. Hugh of Lincoln.
1194
The Northampton Jewry is the fifth largest Jewry.
1200 circa
The Jews establish a Talmudic academy in Town, several scholars are known from Northampton, including a Master Aaron, the head of the academy, Rabbi Isaac ben Perez, a noted scholar, and a Rabbi Solomon.
1215-86
The Northampton Jewry shrinks in size, and various confiscated Jewish properties are granted to Christians by the King.
1237
Northampton Jews are forbidden to reside outside the town of Northampton in the Shire.
1250 circa
The Northampton Jewry remains one of the most important Jewrys in England, with around 80 Jews living in the town.
1259
The Northampton Jews establish a small cemetery outside the North Gate of the town, on land perpetually leased from St Andrew's Priory.
1264
The community is attacked by rebel Barons, and takes refuge in the Castle. They refuse to leave their refuge and resume business for a considerable period. The king is forced to intervene to guarantee their safety.
1268
The third and last Crusade begins at Northampton.
1277
Sampson ben Samson, a leading Northampton Jew, is alleged to have worn a monk's habit, posing as a Franciscan monk, and preaching "in contempt of the Christian faith". The Archbishop of Canterbury sentences him to be driven naked through several towns and cities, on three successive days in each, with the entrails of a calf around his neck.
1277
Good Friday - the community is falsely accused of the crucifixion and attempted murder of a Christian boy St Sepulchres' churchyard. Tradition alleges that in consequence, 50 Jews were executed horribly, being "drawn at horse’s tails" and hanged in trees outside the gates of Northampton.
1278
Many Northampton Jews are executed on a charge of coin clipping, and forgery, in London.
1280
Agnes and Barnabas of Northampton "formerly Jews, and now converted to the faith of the Church" have their house and goods restored to them by the king for the maintenance of them and their family.
1281
A Royal inquisition reveals that many Northampton Jews are dealing in wool - probably as a response to the Royal prohibition on usury of 1275.
1290
Edward expels all the English Jews, and all of their immovable property and assets are confiscated. The Northampton community leaves ten properties behind them. The walls and stones of the cemetery are valued at 30 shillings "for carting away". Moses son of James of Oxford, together with his family and household, are granted safe passage to the continent by the King.
1291
The former synagogue is granted to the Abbot of St James. The former cemetery is apparently disposed of and desecrated in this year.
1327
Queen Isabella is granted a large income, some of which comes from the former houses of the Jews in Northampton.
1715
Three ancient houses are recorded by Henry Lee as houses built and occupied by medieval Jews.
1782
A local tradition relates that the remains of a cross in the church yard of St Sepulchre is the remains of a cross set up in memory of the "outrage" committed against a young Christian boy in 1277. Folk tradition also asserts that St Sepulchre's Church itself was the former synagogue! The cross in reality was probably blown down from the church roof in gales in 1661.
1815
Moses, a Jew, is a witness to a Quaker wedding, signing his name in Hebrew. He is the first documented Jew in Northampton since the Middle Ages.
1840 circa
The Northampton Jewish Tombstone is dug up during a development in Princes Street. Other pieces of tombstone are discovered here and elsewhere around this time.
1857
Samuel Isaac lives in Northampton, and is a major military contractor, supplying army boots, and other military kit, especially to the American Civil War.
1858
G.L.Michel and Son, leather merchants and shoe machinists, is established in Northampton. He is a founder of the industrialised shoe industry in Northampton, one of the last British industries to be mechanised and factorised. Michel is originally a German immigrant, and establishes the Northampton Hebrew Congregation.
1863
Samuel Isaac donates a fountain to the town, to commemorate the marriage of Prince Albert to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. This is set up in the Market Square.
1885
The Northampton Hebrew Congregation is formerly established, and is lent a Sefer Torah from Nottingham. This starts in Mitchell's house, 37 - 39 Newlands. A shochet (kosher butcher) is also appointed. The community is mostly of "very poor people", working in the shoe and leather industry, or as tailors.
1890
The new Northampton Synagogue is opened in Overstone Road. It is a refurbished "Iron Church", a prefabricated wood and corrugated Mission Church, purchased from the New Jerusalem Church.
1896
Rev H. Jonas is appointed rabbi. The Jewish population is now around 100.
1900
Doffmann's tailor's shop established by this date on the corner of Abingdon Street and the Market square. The junctions becomes known to locals as Doffmann's Corner.
1902
After some debate about the merits of religious segregation in the cemetery, the Hebrew Congregation is granted a separate Jewish cemetery within the new municipal cemetery, off Towcester Road. Before this Northampton Jews were sent for burial in Birmingham. The first Jewish burial in Northampton since 1290 takes place.
1909
The contract for the medieval Northampton Jewish cemetery - the only surviving document of the original Northampton Jewry - is bought from an Edinburgh street hawker's barrow for 2d. The Northampton Hebrew Congregation consists of some 17 families.
1911
G.L.Michel dies.
1935
There are 24 paying members of the Hebrew Congregation.
1939-45
There is a considerable influx of war-time refugees swelling the Jewish population.
1960
An Ohel is built next to the cemetery.
1962
Samuel Isaac's fountain is taken down, though the base survived for a few years after this.
1964
The old synagogue on Overstone Road is demolished.
1965
A new synagogue is built, on the same site.
1969
The Jewish community numbers between 200 and 300.
1987
Robert Moore, an archaeological curator, rediscovers the Northampton Jewish tombstone in the museum basement where it has been since the 1860s. By chance it is positively identified by Marcus Roberts in 1991. It is the only known example of a medieval Jewish tombstone in England.
1992
Marcus Roberts identifies a site as the lost Jewish cemetery. On the day before Yom Kippur, a culvert collapses on the edge of this area, and up to five skeletons are recovered. The site is later confirmed as the lost Jewish cemetery.
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