York 1190: Jews and Others in the Wake of Massacre was organised by Sarah Rees Jones and Sethina Watson of the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Department of History.

The conference was supported by the British Academy, the Jewish Historical Society of England and the Royal Historical Society. The Borthwick Institute republished the essays of Barrie Dobson on anglo-jewish history for the occasion: The Jewish Communities of Medieval England . We are publishing a collection of essays relating to the theme of the conference and developing further related research projects.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The History of Clifford's Tower between 1190 and 1245

Jonathan Clark's report, as sent by Jeremy Ashbee, English Heritage. I am afraid these refuse to be emailed. There is a longer technical report. I post only the shorter version here:

One topic which has hitherto received little discussion is the development of the site of Clifford’s Tower between 1190 and the construction of Clifford’s Tower itself, now generally accepted to have begun in 1245. An assessment of whether any significant archaeological remains of the events of 1190 are preserved on the site is essential for the formulation of policy concerning its future management.

The chronicle sources do not give consistent accounts of the extent of destruction after 1190, and none of them explicitly states that the tower in which the Jews had hidden was destroyed or unusable after the event. However, evidence of expenditure in works on the castle of York, recorded in the Pipe Rolls, strongly suggests that the building was badly damaged if not destroyed. The crucial entries are in the Pipe Rolls for years 2 and 3 of Richard I, amounting to £219, and include the expenditure of over £179 in the first six months after the massacre (ie before the Michaelmas 1190 session of the Exchequer). The inevitable conclusion is that these works were brought on by damage during the siege of 1190.

The generally accepted interpretation of the documentary record is that the tower in which the Jewish community took refuge was replaced by another timber building. The fate of this is unknown. However, since other buildings in the castle are known to have been destroyed by high winds in 1228.it has sometimes been assumed that a timber tower on the motte would inevitably, by virtue of its exposed site, have been lost at the same time. This inference is logical but ultimately cannot be confirmed on present evidence.

Excavations have been carried out on the motte both inside and outside Clifford’s Tower, notably in 1902, when a stratigraphic sequence for the build-up of the motte was established by a trench and borehole within the area of the keep. Of the many discoveries made during these works, two are of particular relevance for the history of the site prior to the construction of Clifford’s Tower.

The first was that the motte had been heightened by some 13 feet in material described as ‘an outer crust of firmer and more clayey material’, with lighter material (‘reddish gravel’) added on the top to bring the motte’s summit up to its present level: the uppermost levels are confusingly labelled in a cross-section drawing as ‘black soil.’ The date of this heightening is debatable: the foundations of Clifford’s Tower are shown penetrating into this layer, but the drawings are not sufficiently detailed to show whether they sit within a construction trench cut through it. (A suggestion that they do is given in the accompanying text:- ‘the walls of the keep go down to a depth of 6 ft and the foundations, 11 ft wide, rest on a bed of puddled clay 1 ft deep.’) The interpretation followed by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments is that this heightening occurred in the 1240s, immediately before the construction of Clifford’s Tower. However, the evidence cited above suggests strongly that the heightening took place some time before work began on Clifford’s Tower. It may be noted that the Pipe Roll entry for Michaelmas 1190 indicates that work had been carried out on the motte (mota).

The second archaeological discovery made in 1902 is that the motte contains traces of timbers, at approximately 15 and a half feet, and 13 feet below the present ground level. The upper timbers formed a platform, 6 inches thick, overlying 2 ft 6 inches of black clay, under which were discovered ‘the remains of a similar oak platform supported by posts.’ These were interpreted as the products of two distinct episodes. It was remarked that large quantities of charred wood were found above the lower timbers, interpreted by the excavators as the remains of a wooden tower of 1068, burnt during the northern rebellion of 1069. An alternative reading is to see the burnt timbers as remains of the building destroyed in 1190, and the upper tier of timber as the footings of a replacement building. Other structures included a ‘wooden boatstay, evidently of great age’.

During the excavations of 1902, and during an investigation of the motte in 1824, human bones were discovered. These have been variously interpreted as Roman or Prehistoric, and some of them are believed to be redeposited in the upcast from the ditch around the motte. The existing record does not allow any statement of the relationship between human bones and the burnt timbers mentioned above. It is simply stated that ‘a large number of bones was found in every part of the mound. Human bones were abundant, especially in the interior of the keep.’

In conclusion, there is insufficient evidence to associate any of the archaeological remains within the motte at Clifford’s Tower with the massacre of 1190 and its aftermath. However, it is clear that the motte is a complex structure incorporating the remains of several phases of occupation. The documentary and archaeological records also suggest that its history is one of accretion and build-up. This leaves open the possibility, perhaps even probability, that in the months after March 1190, some of the debris from the destruction of the tower was buried within the motte. The possibility of cremated human remains being preserved inside the motte likewise remains open.

The Future of the Jews of York

I just place a draft of my talk up at In the Middle, for anyone who is interested.

The Stiffnecked

Along the same lines as Robert's post on Blindness and the figure of Synagoga, and here seeking the stereotypes that underpin William of Newburgh's use of 'rigidi' for the Jews of 1190, does anyone know of a treatment in the secondary literature of the idea of the Jews as a 'stiff-necked' people, dervied from Exodus 32:9, where God himself is reported as declaring 'Populus iste durae cervicis sit' ?

Monday, 29 March 2010

Clifford's Tower: archaeology

From Jeremy Ashbee, Head Properties Curator, English Heritage.

Jeremy has kindly supplied the archaeological appraisal of Clifford's Tower which, with his permission, I will email to delegates later this week. He adds:

"Jonathan Clark is currently at an advanced stage of re-writing the EH guidebook for Clifford's Tower, to be published this summer, and I know he develops some of his theories about whether Henry III's building incorporated earlier structures - he hadn't got to this stage when he wrote his archaeological appraisal, so I'd be grateful if you could put in a line that more information relevant to the castle of 1190 and its aftermath will be available shortly."

I think this means a return trip for you all to York this summer ;-)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds massacre

A few links for those who expressed interestBury St Edmunds

link http://www.jtrails.org.uk/trails/bury-st.-edmunds/places-of-interest



Thoughts on York 1190

From In The Middle (Jeffrey Cohen)

Fee debts and Bowie bonds

The practice of advancing money on an annuity was just one mechanism that came into play in the mid-thirteenth century. A fee debt, as defined by Dr Sharon Lieberman, was a perpetual agreement to alienate or give the revenue which came from a portion of land in exchange for a cash advance.

They were later banned by the Provisions of the Jewry in 1269

“…for the better ordering of the land and the relief of the Christians from the burdens laid upon them by the Jewry of England: that all debts to Jews which are fees, and which are at present in the hands of the Jews are not assigned or sold to Christians,………….and let no Jew from this day forth take or make any such fee debt.

The problem seems to have been that there was a market in such bonds and they were being sold on. In the 1260s some debtors were also providing annual lump sums for cash in advance and these were being sold on on the open market. As early as June 1267, Robert Burnell tried to benefit from the market in fee debts when Master Elias Menahem granted him two yearly fees worth £31 'with the usuries and penalties'.

Today in the light of Lehmann brothers we might well notice the parallel of this type of securitisation which more recently has been associated with the Pullman or Bowie Bond. In 1997 the Prudential paid $55 million for the future revenues of 25 David Bowie Albums. These Bowie bonds were sold on and traded on. In January last year Evan Davis and others looked into this practice



Saturday, 27 March 2010

Blindness – a medieval preoccupation and fascination?

Robin Mundill asked the following question:
In relation to the Jews it was during Carlee Bradbury’s paper that I thought of the panel from the York Chapter House roof and the depiction of Synagogue. Is it coincidence that the blind woman involved in the ritual murder story of St Hugh was healed? The language of Edward’s strengthening of the London Domus Conversorum in 1280 reads “ in order that those who have already turned from their blindness to the light of the Church…….’. Or am I reading too much into it?

(Robin I moved this from the comments to a New Post - I think it will attract more discussion that way).

Friday, 26 March 2010

Thursday, 25 March 2010

York 1190 in 2010

In March 2010 we held a conference at the University of York: 'York 1190: Jews and Others in the Wake of Massacre'. It was attended by around 84 people from three continents - and over three intense days we shared some really thought provoking academic papers, discussion, beer and two harrowing (but wonderfully performed plays).  Barrie Dobson was presented with a volume of his collected works on medieval English Jewish communities by Joe Hillaby.

Robin Mundill suggested that it would be good to have a forum where the discussion could continue. So here it is!

It was an extremely rich three days for me - and it will take me a long time to absorb it all. Nick and Hugh have now confirmed that my (and Birch's) reading of the seal legend is indeed correct. The first common seal of the City of York does indeed bear the legend 'Fideles Regis' - quite chilling in the immediate aftermath of 1190 - but more on that to come in publications, I am sure.