By: Joseph Jacobs
County town of Essex, England. Jews are first mentioned as living in Colchester in 1185, and it is probable that they were involved in the massacre of 1190. The community was evidently of some importance, as it was ninth in the amount of its contribution toward the ransom of Richard I. in 1194. The community had in 1220 a special bailiff, probably for the purpose of collecting the taxes imposed upon it. In 1220 this officer was one Benedict. An agreement dated 1258, relative to the Colchester Jewry in Stockwell street, was transcribed by W. Bedwell in Roman letters, from which it was retransliterated into Hebrew by Neubauer ("Rev. Et. Juives," v. 247). In 1267 a curious incident occurred when several Jews and Christians were involved in an infringement of the forest laws. They had started and chased a doe in the woods in the neighborhood of Colchester. They were severely fined, the Jews more heavily than the others. One of the Jewish offenders escaped to Lincoln, but returned ten years later, when a portrait of him was drawn upon the Forest Roll by the scribe who had described his offense (see Aaron, Son of the Devil). The king claimed sole jurisdiction over the Jewry of Colchester, and when he granted the castle to Guy of Rochfort, he reserved the right to enter the town and hundred of Colchester to search for Jews' debts. When the Jews were expelled in 1290, nine houses and a "schola" of the Jewry escheated to the king, from which it may be assumed that the community of Colchester stood about seventh in order of importance at that time.
- E. L. Cutts, Colchester, xiii. 118-125;
- Jacobs, Jewish Ideals, pp. 225-233.