The City of London
Marcus Roberts


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The Middle Period

During the time of the "Kings great matter", i.e. the proposed divorce of Henry VIII, two Jews form Rome and Venice were brought in to give learned opinion on Levitical marriage.

The expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal in 1492 brought a small secret community of murrano Jews to London. In the reign of Henry VIII there were around 37 Jewish households in London. Alves Lopez was the focus of this community and he held secret religious services in his house. However this community was not stable, the actions of the Inquisition, and the reactionary Catholicism of Mary caused the community to decline and mostly scatter.

In the reign of Elizabeth I, the fortunes of this community revived again. In 1559 Roderigo Lopez, a Jew, settled in London and was physician to Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester. He again held services in his house. However he became embroiled in the politics of the time and was accused of treason and was executed for his pains. In 1578, more evidence of a Jewish presence was provided by the occasion of a Jew called Nathaniel receiving baptism in All Hallows Church, Lombard Street. In 1609 suspicions of Judaizing by the Portuguese Jewish merchants led to the community being expelled.

However the permanent resettlement of the Jews in England was probably pioneered as early as 1632, when murranos fleeing the breakup of the Rouen community settled in London. They were joined by other Jews, direct from Spain and Portugal. These Jews, and their 16th century forerunners, mostly lived in Hart St, in the parish of St Olaves in the city, that is between Mark Lane and what is now Fenchurch Street Railway Station.

The increasing and open presence of Jews is indicated by references to them in literature. In Ben Johnson's play Every Woman in Her Humour, he has a citizen's wife declare that if any one was going to court they could get a good suit at a Jews. Dekker wrote in A Strange Horse Race there is reference to the Jewish Tribe in the synagogue of Hounds Ditch.

It is clear that even from this early period Jews were resettling in the vicinity of Duke's Place and Hounds Ditch, which was to be the center of Jewish life for another three centuries. The existence of a synagogue in Creechurch Lane (and perhaps another in St Helen's by 1662) was in fact an open secret in this time.

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