TKJ – The Medieval Jews of England

UPDATE DECEMBER 2nd 2015 The winners of this week’s FREE eBook are = Anna Belfrage and Luke Jordan. CONGRATULATIONS.

When researching in order to write a 1,200-page trilogy there is so much background that never sees the light of day (or pages) of the finished books (though such close detail is naturally included to build and enhance the story). This series of ‘blogs’ sets out to give you an insight into building blocks that make up “The King’s Jew” – if you have any questions concerning any of these points just get in touch and I’ll be happy to share what knowledge I have garnered. Thanks

Thanks for popping in – there are two prizes on offer at the end


Continuing our look behind the scenes of “The King’s Jew”.

In Chapter Two

We meet Gilles de Burgh a knight in the service of Henry III. Gilles is in the Jewry district of London on his way to meet the moneylender Joseph ben Simon ben Moshe. But what of the real Jews in London in 1238?




King Henry III


The history of Jews in medieval England is quite short.

William the Conqueror is said to have brought moneylenders to London after 1066, and the Jewish presence in England lasted until their expulsion by Edward the First, in 1290.

By the end of this period, the Jews numbered several thousand out of a total population of almost two million. As moneylenders, Jews were under the protection of the Crown and this caused much anger to the locals in times of economic hardship. Their identification as Christ-killers, and the popularity of the Crusades from the late eleventh century, also exacerbated hostility towards Jews.



The Jewish diaspora in medieval England

Areas of Jewish Settlement


The earliest reference to Jews in London dates to 1130 and notes their settlement around Jew street (now Old Jewry) and Cheapside. We also know that until 1177 the only Jewish cemetery in England was at Cripplegate. Given that Jewish law requires the dead to be buried within 24 hours, you must appreciate how difficult it was for Jews living elsewhere in the country. This law was later relaxed to enable Jewish cemeteries in locally designated towns where they were allowed to live.


The modern Jewry

All that remains


The constant need of the Crown for money to pay for foreign wars meant the Jewish community were a lucrative source of taxable income and written records are peppered with royal demand for money and goods. However, the rise of Italian bankers from the mid-twelve hundreds – free from the stigma of non-Christian association – meant that the usefulness of the Jews to the Crown was short-lived. This in turn meant that royal protection from persecution also diminished. The years leading up to their expulsion from England in 1290 were particularly oppressive.



Jews being assaulted


During the barons’ wars of King John’s reign (1199-1216) rebels looted the Jewish community in London. Their houses were destroyed and inhabitants moved to other places. Indeed, stones from these houses were used to rebuild Ludgate and other gates in the city wall.

The year 1215 also saw the papacy endorsing the idea that all non-Christians (i.e. Moslems and Jews) should wear distinguishing clothing in order to prevent ‘accidental’ fraternising with Christians. Regulations were subsequently soon in force throughout Europe. Note the distinguishing ‘Tabula’ sewn onto the Jew’s garments in the image above. Makes you think doesn’t it?


Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III


During the Second Baron’s war – 1264 to 1267 (led by Simon de Montfort) persecutions and massacres of Jews took place on a regular basis. One of the characters in the book, Gilbert de Clare, massacred the Jews at Canterbury in April 1264 –



Gilbert de Clare (boo! hiss!)


Spoiler Alert; Gilbert was the implacable enemy of the main character in the book.


Before this, in 1262, amidst allegations of excessive interest being charged by Jews, a London mob destroyed a synagogue, south of Lothbury Street EC1, killing 700 inhabitants. Henry III (1216 – 1272) ordered the synagogue to be rebuilt as a chapel for a group of friars but by 1598 it had had become a wine tavern. There were apparently several synagogues in London because in 1282 the bishop of London was ordered to destroy all synagogues in his diocese. AND THIS WAS EIGHT YEARS BEFORE THE DEPORTATIONS OF 1290!!


Attempts to convert Jews for the good of their souls.


The Domus Conversorum

Contemporary image of the London Domus


In 1232, Henry III established a house of conversion (Domus Conversorum) in Chancery Lane (now a library for King’s College London). The hope was that by the establishment of this refuge there would be a mass conversion of the English Jews. Records show that in 1290 there were 80 converts in residence.

The problem with entering the Domus was that all monies and property were taken away and given to the king which left the ‘convert’ destitute. (Just to say that another of the main characters in “The King’s Jew” came from the Domus after his parents gave him away to a Christian family – but more of that in the book!)

The first warden of the Domus was Walter Mauclerc, bishop of Carlisle.

In 1330, there still remained eight men and thirteen women from the pre-expulsion period. By the year 1353 the Domus possessed only one convert, a woman named Claricia of Exeter, who had been admitted several years before the expulsion. She died in 1356; and a month after her death a Spanish Jew, John of Castile, found his way to England and the Domus. The last trace of the Domus was legally swept away by an act of the year 1891.

The last warden of the Domus was Edward Phillips, appointed 1608.

Home for converted Jews, or Domus Conversorum, Oxford



However, the days of the Jews in England were numbered. In 1275, Edward 1 (1272 – 1307) issued the Statute of Jewry. Jews were prohibited from charging interest on loans and had to collect all existing debts by the following Easter or forfeit them. In order to survive economically Jews were to be encouraged to become labourers and, therefore, granted a licence to lease land for 15 years (until 1290). The Statute also stipulated all Jews from the age of seven had to wear a yellow felt badge 6” long and 3” wide. A poll tax of 3d a year was also imposed from the age of twelve. Finally, Jews were given notice to quit England forever on 18 July 1290.

Their re-admission in 1656 under the Cromwellian Protectorate is interpreted by some as evidence of Cromwell’s toleration and compassion.


Tally Sticks

Tally Sticks


These tally sticks above date from the 13th century and relates to the taxation of the medieval Jewish community in England. The first stick shows payment of one shilling by Isaac the butcher, probably relating to the 1241 tax of Gloucester Jews. The stick was notched to indicate the payment and then split into two “receipts”. Payment could be checked by matching them back together.


In Conclusion

According to Reverend Moses Margoliouth, Old Jewry was a ghetto. Ghettos, areas of a city mainly or exclusively populated by Jews, were common across Europe. In 2001, archaeologists discovered a mikveh (ritual bath) near to Old Jewry, on the corner of Gresham Street and Milk Street, under what is now the State Bank of India. It would have fallen into disuse after 1290 when the Jews were expelled from England.

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The Mikveh, or ritual bath dug up on Milk Street close to St Paul’s Cathedral. Courtesy of the Museum of London Archeology Service

It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that the Jewish quarter in 13th century London extended from Jewen Street in the north, by St Giles-without-Cripplegate, to Poultry in the south. Also nearby is St Lawrence Jewry, a Church of England guild church on Gresham Street, next to the Guildhall.


Thus ends our look behind the scenes of Chapter Two.

BUT SCROLL DOWN FOR YOUR PRIZE and next week we’ll have a sneaky peek at some more background from TKJ = “The King’s Jew. Book One. At the tomb of King Edward the First…”

And it is available at the following outlets:

Amazon =

Kobo =

Google Play =

Apple iTunes =

Barnes & Noble – Nook =


Now then – as you’ve read this far I believe you need a reward.

Sign up or Leave a comment and I’ll pick TWO names at random from my black fedora and send the lucky winners a FREE copy of the latest eBook incarnation of “The King’s Jew. Book One.”

Thank you, dear reader. Any questions – just SHOUT!


TKJ -Historical Fiction (medieval) FREE BOOK

Westminster Abbey – a short journey 

PLUS your chance to obtain a copy of The King’s Jew for FREE

UPDATE November 25th 2015 THE WINNERS WERE

Lynette Riley

Christy Robinson and

Kathy Burnham

all of whom will receive the FREE COPY – see you next time and thank you all for getting involved.




In my Historical Fiction novels “The King’s Jew,” the opening scene is set in Westminster Abbey, London. Lots of readers have asked questions about book one –

“The King’s Jew – At the tomb of King Edward the First. Westminster, 1307”

So – as I obviously did a lot of research for this project I have decided to share some of it with you, dear reader. Accordingly I will deal with a chapter at a time to give you some background to the scenes depicted in the relevant chapter – without giving anything away that would spoil the plot!

Chapter one is set within the confines of Westminster Abbey on Friday, October 27th, 1307 – so how about we take a look at Westminster Abbey? Though it didn’t look like this at the start.



The first reports of the abbey are based on the tradition that a young fisherman called Aldrich on the River Thames saw a vision of Saint Peter near the site and thus St Peter’s was built. This seems to be quoted to justify the gifts of salmon from Thames fishermen that the abbey received in later years. In the present era, the Fishmonger’s Company still gives a salmon every year. The proven origins are that in the 960s or early 970s, Saint Dunstan, assisted by King Edgar, installed a community of Benedictines on the site.



Between 1042 and 1052

Almost one hundred years later King Edward the Confessor began rebuilding St Peter’s Abbey to provide himself with a royal burial church. It was the first church in England built in the Romanesque style. The building was not completed until around 1090 but was consecrated on 28 December 1065, only a week before Edward’s death on 5 January 1066. A week later he was buried in the church.

His successor, Harold Godwinson was probably crowned in the abbey, although the first documented coronation is that of William the Conqueror later the same year.

To the victors the spoils eh? For when King Harold decided to claim the throne he upset Duke William who assembled an army and after creating havoc wherever he wanted the two opposing forces met at what we now call ‘The Battle of Hastings’. Harold died and William was crowned King of England.

The abbey became the coronation site of Norman kings. None was buried there until Henry III; intensely devoted to the cult of the Confessor he rebuilt the abbey in Anglo-French Gothic style as a shrine to venerate King Edward the Confessor and as a suitably regal setting for his own tomb, under the highest Gothic nave in England.

Edward the Confessor's Shrine, Westminster Abbey.

Edward the Confessor’s Shrine, Westminster Abbey.

From 1066 onwards the building underwent many minor changes but the main architect (I don’t mean literally) of the edifice you now see was King Henry the Third (he turns up throughout book one for he is father to Edward – the King mentioned in the title)

Thus, the construction of the present church was begun in 1245 by Henry III who selected the site for his burial. An interesting point here is that though Henry III was a Norman / Plantagenet King and imbued with the dominance of his dynasty he actually gave his firstborn an Anglo-Saxon name; Edward.

The reason for this? Because he adored the dead king Edward the Confessor. It was Henry III who built the Confessor’s Tomb that we see nowadays. It was Edward and his son who carried the remains of Edward the Confessor to its final resting place. In short, Henry revered this medieval Saint who was canonized in 1161. Henry built his church to reflect the piety of Edward the confessor.


In those days, Westminster Abbey was just a stone’s throw away from Westminster Palace which was the main residence of Henry III. Thus, you have an abbey and a palace in close proximity a few miles west of London. And so it came to pass that the area of Westminster prospered for pilgrims constantly visited the shrine of The Confessor to pray and ask for favors.

The proximity of the Palace of Westminster did not extend to providing monks or abbots with high royal connections; in social origin the Benedictines of Westminster were as modest as most of the order. The abbot remained Lord of the Manor of Westminster as a town of two to three thousand persons grew around it: as a consumer and employer on a grand scale the monastery helped fuel the town’s economy and relations with the town remained unusually cordial. The abbey built shops and dwellings and the district of Westminster prospered.

The first Norman King to be buried at the abbey

Was Henry III in 1272 and it was his son Edward (later King Edward the First) who helped with the design of his tomb. Henry’s tomb effigy below

Henry the Third - his tomb


Not many people know this, but

Henry III was unable to be crowned in London when he first came to the throne because the French prince Louis had taken control of the city (yes the French had arrived!) and so the king was crowned in Gloucester Cathedral. This coronation was deemed invalid by the Pope and a further coronation was held in the Westminster Abbey on 17 May 1220.


Over the past 700+ years, many changes have taken place in the shape of the Abbey as different people have sought to leave their mark on it. Yet certain things remain – the secret stairway is still there (you’ll have to read the book) – the listening post of the two rebels can still be accessed (read the book!) – the Cosmati pavement on which my characters walked is still there and – last but not least –King Edward’s coronation chair is still there – and his great black Purbeck stone tomb where Lord Cristian is making his way to in chapter one (the tomb was open at this time).

The image below is a drawing of the tomb when it was opened in the seventeenth century – spooky eh?

Edward's Tomb in Westminster Abbey


The Abbey is steeped in history and actually outlasted the King’s Palace on which site you will now see the British House of Parliament.

Thus ends our look behind the scenes of chapter one. Next week we’ll have a sneaky peek at some more background from “The King’s Jew. Book One. At the tomb of King Edward the First…”

And it is available at the following outlets:

Amazon =

Kobo =

Google Play =

Apple iTunes =

Barnes & Noble – Nook =


Now then – as you’ve read this far I believe you need a reward.

Leave a comment and I’ll pick TWO names at random from my black fedora and send the lucky winners a FREE copy of the latest eBook incarnation of “The King’s Jew. Book One.”

“The King’s Jew” – Its Journey and a FREE COPY for YOU!

UPDATE 18/11/2015

The winners of the free book (as detailed below) are –

Terrylee Warren – D W Wilkin  and Annie Whitehead

Congratulations and thank you for entering – sadly if you, dear reader, want a copy then the outlets are listed below. Maybe next time eh?


This post is suitable for you readers out there and also my fellow Authors / Writers (published or not).

I’ll keep this short and sweet and concentrate on the salient facts so far.

Every writer needs a reader. Every reader needs a well-written book but we writers need something extra – we require exposure – otherwise the reader is unaware of what’s available.

And so it came to pass – getting biblical eh? – that I sought out the best literary gatekeepers I could find (for ‘gatekeepers’ read Literary Agents). Eventually a nice lady agent (and well respected in the literary world) took up my challenge and expressed more than a passing interest in “The King’s Jew”. Channels of communication opened and it seemed I had found my goal of mainstream publishing.


Changes were suggested – including the title. I went along with the process with beating heart. I was asked to withdraw “The King’s Jew” from sale, with a view to it being taken up by one of the ‘Big’ publishers. Agents don’t make decisions on their own though and, sadly, the offer of representation was eventually withdrawn. To say I then ‘wondered lonely as a cloud’ is an understatement!

So what to do next?

Well I’d made a few changes, rectified some typos, had the book reformatted and even had a suggestion as to a different style of cover (I’d even changed the title!!! And that hurt).

Then I saw an article in the news feed concerning a new publishing venture called Pronoun – here’s a link – The blurb went as follows

“Sell your book on all major retailers, and keep 100% of your earnings.”

Sound too good to be true?

“The King’s Jew” had only been for sale under the ever darkening umbrella of Amazon and achieved good sales and reviews. But what if I could get it out to the other retailers quickly and easily with ‘Pronoun’ as the designated publisher? I delved deeper into the ‘Pronoun’ raison d’être and was rather impressed.

It seemed I could upload my book file and ‘Pronoun’ would convert it into an eBook suitable for and sold on; Amazon, Kobo, Google Books, Barnes and Noble and Apple.  AND I get to keep all monies from sales as ‘Pronoun’ currently takes not one cent from me (sales are subject to normal Amazon type percentages though – but that’s normal). AND I have increased my sales outlets fivefold!

To sum up – the main title stays the same (thanks to the advice of my many Facebook readers and friends who helped in my decision). The subtitle changed so it is now

“The King’s Jew.

Book One. At the tomb of King Edward the First. Westminster, 1307”

And is available at the following outlets:

Amazon =

Kobo =

Google Play =

Apple iTunes =

Barnes & Noble – Nook =

To sum up, the summing up –

Does this collaboration with ‘Pronoun’ as my publisher mean that I am no longer self-published?

The answer is that I’m not sure. What do you think dear reader?

I will devote an in-depth post to ‘Pronoun’ in the coming weeks as we  bed down together but what I can say is that communication between us is easy; every question answered and resolved. Would I recommend using the ‘Pronoun’ platform to other writers? At this point in our relationship, I’d give an emphatic ‘YES’ so watch this space for a detailed review. If you want to talk to me about ‘Pronoun’ or anything else just SHOUT!

UPDATED !(Monday 16th Nov) !!! Now then – as you’ve read this far I believe you need a reward.

Leave a comment and I’ll pick THREE names at random from my black fedora and send a FREE copy of the latest eBook incarnation of “The King’s Jew. Book One.”


“Now there’s a bargain,” as a gypsy friend of mine used to say.

Best wishes