Winchester campaigners lobby for place in history

A newly formed group of academics and local Jews is campaigning to highlight the neglected Jewish history of Winchester.
The group was formed following concerns that there was no official mention of what was one of England's most important medieval communities prior to the expulsion in 1290.

Until that point, the Winchester community was prominent - there was a Jewry Street in the city and a Jewish inhabitant was one the country's wealthiest women. Winchester Castle had a Jews' Tower, where members of the community were imprisoned.

There was a Jews’ Tower where people were imprisoned

However, there is no mention of the medieval community in either Winchester Council's City Museum or at the Great Hall run by Hampshire County Council.

Professor Tony Kushner - who holds the chair in Jewish/non-Jewish relations at the University of Southampton and is an authority in medieval Jewish history - said the local group was attempting to get recognition from the city council and that the early signs were promising.

"There is, however, much work to be done in recognising the persecution faced, including the role of the church in promoting ritual murder accusations which had a terrible impact on the Jews."

One of the members of the Jewish heritage group, Danny Habel, said that Winchester University had provided a grant for four students to study the city's Jewish history this summer.

"We are hoping to have a launch of the research around the time of Rosh Hashanah, which will result in a Jewish heritage walk through Winchester.

"We would like signs in certain places in Winchester and would also like to ensure tour guides of Winchester include Jewish history."

A council spokesman said the city was keen to promote Jewish history. "There is more work to be done in uncovering the history of the Jewish community in Winchester, but it is far from ignored.

"The council is always keen to increase understanding and awareness of the city's history through its visitor leaflets and websites and would be pleased to hear from Mr Kushner if he has research that can be used to help tell the story of Jewry Street and of the Jewish community in Winchester."

    Last updated: 4:50pm, April 28 2014