Marcus Roberts


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There were additional properties on Best Lane running to the north from the High Street and close to this block of land. Two properties have been located on Stour street then called Heathenmanne Lane - or in modern English 'Heathen's lane'.

It is thought that in this case that the 'Heathens' were not the Jews, but either the memory of or an actual relict colony of pagan Danes - since names like 'Tholi' occur on the rentals. It is significant to remember that Christianity had even by this stage not necessarily completely supplanted its predecessors, even in the towns.

The Jews enjoyed generally good relations with their neighbours, with the towns' people, and especially with the Cathedral and its monks, who were also their landlords. While the Jews were subject to anti-Semitic outbreaks in the 13th century, overall they enjoyed relative peace and prosperity. The community had many similarities with that at Oxford and both shared similar fates.

The first definite evidence of the existence of the community comes from 1160 when a Dieulecresse the Jew was recorded as lending money in Canterbury.

The Jewish community like many of the others lent money to both towns' people and country dwellers basing much of their business on the constant influx of people to and from the local markets.

The Jewry appears to have enjoyed a close and profitable relationship with the Cathedral priory. There were many transactions between the Priory and the Jewish money lenders. The Cathedral required large capital sums on a regular basis to fulfil its needs.

The Cathedral needed money for many expenditures. These included large sums for the conduct of its business at Papal Court, to pay taxes to both King and Pope. This was not to forget the not infrequent burden of the cost of elect new Archbishops of Canterbury.

Credit was used to pay for building projects, for example to raise the Priors' Chapel which still partly exists. Among various lenders involved in this project was Benedict the Jew, who lived in Stour Street close to the Royal Exchange. In 1226-7, the Cathedral repaid as much as 24 Marks (excluding interest) that had been held on loan for eight years.

However, contrary to popular assumption, Jews were not the only money lenders operating in England. Gentiles did in fact lend money even though the Church tried to restrict the practice. A Gentile contemporary of the Jews, and money lender in Canterbury, was one Lambin Frese, the moneyer, who lived close to the Jewry in Canterbury next to the River Stour.

More recent study of the transactions between the Jews and Cathedral at Canterbury, show that the Priory tended to use the Jews to raise smaller amounts of capital in coin for using on journeys or to buy provisions at fairs. The Cathedral actually borrowed most of its larger sums of money in Rome or from various English Christians, rather than from the Canterbury Jews. This is in the context of an economy that was short of specie or coinage. The Jews were an important source of hard cash in a money starved era. Thus the Cathedral seemingly used Jewish finance in a similar fashion to many of its lesser neighbours.

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