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THE ISAACS OF SOUTHWARK
The focus of Guildford’s Jewish community in the 13th century, and possibly also the 12th century, appears to have been the wealthy and influential family of Isaac of Southwark.
Isaac himself was a successful moneylender and attorney who flourished between 1241 and 1280. Believed to have been a ‘serviens Judeorum’, an official at the Exchequer of the Jews, his name crops up in a number of historical documents over the years – when his house is broken into and ransacked in 1272, when his grandson is accused of attacking a convert to Christianity and when various members of his family pass away.
References to other Isaacs in Guildford prior to 1241 suggest there may have been a family dynasty. For instance, in 1189, an ‘Isaac son of the rabbi’ is forced to pay a huge fine of £200. Given his heritage, it’s possible that he was the man who built the synagogue discovered in Guildford in 1996. It was common practice at the time for wealthy sons of pious families, who were not rabbis themselves, to become religious benefactors. And the date of 1189 tallies with the period when the synagogue would have been constructed.
Another Isaac of Southwark, meanwhile, is mentioned in 1234. And by 1272, we know that the maternal uncle of our original Isaac of Southwark - also called Isaac of Southwark - has passed on.
Our original Isaac himself dies in 1290.Next