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Bristol, England

BRISTOL, seaport in southwest England. Its medieval Jewish community is sometimes said to have been one of the more important in England, although it ranked only thirteenth among the twenty-one communities in the 1194 Donum. In about 1183 it was accused of ritual murder ( *blood libel ) but few details are extant. At the end of the 12th century, an *archa for the registration of Jewish financial transactions was set up. In 1210 all the Jewish householders of England were sent as prisoners to Bristol and a levy of 60,000 (or 66,000) marks was imposed upon them. During the Barons' Wars, in 1266, Bristol Jewry was attacked and the archa burned. Another attack occurred in 1275, though no lives were lost. At this time the Bristol community received an influx of Jews from Gloucester who were sent there after the expulsion of the Jews from the queen mother's dower-towns. Subsequently, several Bristol Jews were hanged for coin clipping. The community came to an end with their expulsion in 1290. Medieval scholars of Bristol include Samuel ha-Nakdan (probably identical to Samuel le Pointur) and Moses, a descendant of R. Simeon the Great of Mainz and ancestor of R. Moses of London and Elijah b. Menahem of London.

In the middle of the 16th century Bristol was the only English town other than London where *Marranos are known to have lived. No organized Jewish community was established, however, until about 1751. Despite the virtual absence of Jews, the local Tory newspaper was among the most vociferously anti-Jewish during the agitation over the "*Jew Bill" of 1753. In 1786 the former Weavers' Hall was taken over as a synagogue. The community leader was Lazarus *Jacobs , a glassmaker, whose work is still sought after by collectors. His son Isaac Jacobs was glass manufacturer to George III. A secessionist community existed between c. 1828 and 1835 when it rejoined the parent body. A new synagogue was opened in Park Row in 1842. The present synagogue was constructed in 1870. Eastern European Jews arrived after the beginning of the Russian persecutions in 1881. In the 20th century the community dwindled, numbering 410 in 1968.

[Cecil Roth /

Joe Hallaby (2nd ed.)]

In the mid-1990s the Jewish population numbered approximately 375. There was some growth, however, in the size of the local community at the end of the 20th century, with the 2001 British census finding 823 Jews by religion in Bristol. In 2004 Bristol had an Orthodox and a Liberal synagogue.


M. Adler, in: JHSET, 12 (1928–31), 117–86; idem, Jews of Medieval England (1939), 175–251; Rigg-Jenkinson, Exchequer, index; C. Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), 40–41; idem, in: JHSEM, 2 (1935), 32–56; idem, Intellectual Activities of Medieval English Jewry (1948), 47ff.; Wolf, in: JHSET, 11 (1924–27), 5, 34, 92, 104, 109, 111; H.G. Richardson, English Jewry under Angevin Kings (1960), 127–8. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: JYB, 2004.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.