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Canterbury, England

CANTERBURY, cathedral city, Kent, England. Canterbury possessed one of the most important medieval Anglo-Jewish communities, first mentioned c. 1160. The Jewish quarter was in the modern Jewry Street. Traces of the synagogue were to be seen in the High Street as late as the 17th century. Canterbury was the seat of one of the local *archa instituted after 1190 for registering Jewish-held debts. The names of 20 Jewish Canterbury householders figure in the *Northampton Donum of 1194: the contribution of the Jews of Canterbury on this occasion was exceeded only by those from London and Lincoln. In the levy of 1255, however, they ranked only eighth. The community was attacked in 1261 and again in 1264, when the archa was seized and several Jews were killed. Subsequently,

Map of medieval Canterbury showing the Jewish quarter. After M. Adler, Jews of Medieval England. Map of medieval Canterbury showing the Jewish quarter. After M. Adler, Jews of Medieval England.

there seems to have been some immigration into Canterbury. In 1266, 18 local Jewish householders bound themselves to see that no "liars, improper persons, or slanderers" should be admitted to the Jewish community. After the Statutum de Judaismo of 1275, the Canterbury Jews began trading in corn and wool (see *England ). In 1279 they were implicated in the general accusation of debasing the coinage. The whole community was confined in the castle and six Jews were eventually hanged. Jews resettled in Canterbury early in the 18th century. A congregation was formed c. 1730 and a burial ground was acquired in 1760. A synagogue erected in 1763 was demolished in 1847 to make place for the railway and replaced by another building with a quaint semi-Egyptian exterior. By the early 20th century there was no Jewish congregation in Canterbury and the former synagogue was now used as a parish hall. In the mid-1990s the Jewish population numbered approximately 35. However, according to the 2001 British census, 210 Jews lived in Canterbury and its surrounding districts.


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