By: Joseph Jacobs
Capital of Northamptonshire, England. Jews were living there as early as 1180, when it is recorded that Samuel of Northampton, for obtaining a divorce from his wife, owed the king 5 marks. Four years later he made arrangements for the marriage of his son to the daughter of Margaret, a Jewess of London. When Richard I. returned from Germany, in 1194, he issued at Northampton a rescript to the Jews of England for a donum of 5,000 marks to be paid by them, probably toward the expenses of his ransom. Altogether £1,803 7s. 7d. was collected, of which the Jews of Northampton (thirty-six of whom are mentioned) contributed £163 13s. 11d. They were thus second in point of numbers and fourth in point of contributions of all the Jews of England at that time. The community included Jews who had come from Bungay, Colchester, Nottingham, Stamford, and Warwick.
Northampton was one of the English towns in which an Archa was established; and the Jews had, therefore, the right of residence there down to their expulsion. During the Barons' war (1264) an outbreak against them occurred in the town, in which they suffered severely. In 1279, a boy having been found murdered at Northampton, some Jews of that town were taken to London, dragged at the tails of horses, and hanged (Reiley, "Memorials of London," p. 15). In 1286 a lawsuit occurred in Northampton with regard to the disposition of a house belonging to Leo fil Mag Elie Baggard ("Jew. Chron." Nov. 22, 1889). When the Jews were expelled from England four years later, only five names were given as of Jews holding landed property at Northampton which escheated to the king. The community itself held five cottages, a synagogue, and a cemetery, the rental of which was paid to the prior of St. Andrew's. The cemetery was surrounded by a stone wall, probably to protect the bodies from desecration. After the expulsion no Jews returned to Northampton till about 1890, when a small congregation was formed by Russian Jews, with a synagogue in Overstone road.
- Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, passim;
- Tr. Jew. Hist. Soc. Eng. ii. 98;
- T. Baker, Northamptonshire, vol. i.