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Domus Conversorum

DOMUS CONVERSORUM, home for converted Jews in London, established in 1232 by Henry III in New Street (now Chancery Lane). It could accommodate about 40 persons and paid pensions to others who lived outside. The home was governed by a warden and later a subwarden or presbyter, assisted by a chaplain. In 1280 Edward I devoted to its upkeep half of the property of converts, which legally escheated to the Crown, and for a period of seven years also the proceeds of the Jewish poll tax. From its foundation up to 1290 the total number of inmates and dependents was approximately 100. On the expulsion of the Jews from England in that year, there were as many as 80 at one time. Thereafter, its importance declined. However, it was hardly ever empty. It was continually resorted to by converts from France, Germany, Flanders, Italy, Spain, Portugal, or the Barbary States. From 1390 to the beginning of the 17th century, 38 men and ten women figure in its records. The last reference to an inmate appears in 1609, though for another 150 years converts from Judaism sometimes received crown pensions. The office of keeper was ultimately combined with the judicial office of Master of the Rolls. The last legal relic of the institution was abolished in 1891.

Sources:Martin, in: JHSET, 1 (1893–94), 15–24; Adler, ibid., 4 (1899–1901), 16–75; idem, Jews of Medieval England (1939), 277–379; Public Record Office, Exhibition of Records (Jews in England) (1957), 9–14.

[Cecil Roth]

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