Marcus Roberts


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When the expulsion came, the financial assets of the community comprised mostly of bonds for the delivery of corn and a small amount of wool. As for property, 22 men and women were listed as owning assets. This consisted of some 14 private dwellings, or parts of private dwellings, and the synagogue, and adjoining land, as well as three other pieces of land. The remaining property of the Jewry was then distributed to the Cathedral Priory and leading Canterbury citizens and friends of the king. The synagogue passed to William de Sommerfeld who had previously already enriched himself with other Jewish properties.

As was the case in other former towns occupied by the medieval Anglo-Jews, the memory of the Jews lived on for many centuries. In the case of Canterbury this was even well into the times when the Jews eventually returned to Canterbury.

The City Archivist in 1952 provided a fascinating report, showing how the city had come by the former Jewish property confiscated in 1290 and continued to benefit from the rents due on the confiscated property until as late as 1832. However the amount never varied from 8d. over the centuries!

The dues of 8d., that came to the city, was part of a larger amount of £60 a year that the Provosts of Canterbury and later the Sheriff were required to produce every year at the Exchequer at Westminster, ever since the citizens had been empowered to collect the Royal dues. Before 1254 the Crown had collected house rents and in circa 1234 in return for an annual £60, the citizens were empowered to collect these dues. These £60 had to be produced annually at the Exchequer and the amounts raised were recorded on an elaborate and heavily engrossed roll that was drawn up called the 'Quietus'.

The last Quietus was issued in 1832 when payments for the Jews' houses were solemnly accounted for, for the last time. These payments to the Exchequer ended in 1835 with the Municipal Corporations Reform Act.

The former medieval synagogue is said to have partly survived into the 17th century as the Saracen Inn. Remains of Jacob the Jews' House survived incorporated into the County Hotel into the early part of this century. Until the 18th century Hebrew graffiti could also still be observed incised into the ashlars of the Canterbury Castle.

The Jews eventually returned to Canterbury after some six centuries absence, somewhere around 1720-30. This new community is reputed to have been the second oldest in the country. The new community was Askenasic, in contrast to the older Sephardic community, which remained in London, bound by the first rule of their constitution or Ascama (1663), which forbade them from forming any new congregation without the consent of the elders or Mahamad. The Askenazim were foot-loose compared to the Sephardim and settled where they willed and where there was sufficient trade. There was also some considerable poverty among the Askenasim which further encouraged their spread to the provinces and the economic opportunities that beckoned there.

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