Find out more about the fascinating history of the Jewish community in Winchester with our medieval Jewish trail.
Winchester has an important Jewish past. The earliest record of Jews in the city date to the mid-1100s, making it one of the earliest, largest and most successful Jewish settlements in England. Although fascinating, the story is little known.
The first evidence of Jewish people living in Winchester dates to 1140, some 70 years after they were invited to England to help the economy. Many of them lived in Scowtenestret, which later became known as Jewry Street. They were part of the wider community and had friends as well as enemies with whom they worked, played and socialised, but they always had the fear of discrimination and anti-Judaism hanging over them.
They were severely restricted in the work they were allowed to do. They were banned from joining guilds. They could be doctors, lawyers, scribes, butchers, bakers and wine merchants, metal workers, jewellers and pedlars.
The Church forbade Christians lending money for interest, though many did. A small number of Jews became successful money lenders, paying an important part in the economy, providing capital to the King, the Church, landowners and merchants.