views updated May 23 2018


BRISTOL , seaport in southwest England. Its medieval Jewish community is sometimes said to have been one of the more important in England, although it ranked only thirteenth among the twenty-one communities in the 1194 Donum. In about 1183 it was accused of ritual murder (*blood libel) but few details are extant. At the end of the 12th century, an *archa for the registration of Jewish financial transactions was set up. In 1210 all the Jewish householders of England were sent as prisoners to Bristol and a levy of 60,000 (or 66,000) marks was imposed upon them. During the Barons' Wars, in 1266, Bristol Jewry was attacked and the archa burned. Another attack occurred in 1275, though no lives were lost. At this time the Bristol community received an influx of Jews from Gloucester who were sent there after the expulsion of the Jews from the queen mother's dower-towns. Subsequently, several Bristol Jews were hanged for coin clipping. The community came to an end with their expulsion in 1290. Medieval scholars of Bristol include Samuel ha-Nakdan (probably identical to Samuel le Pointur) and Moses, a descendant of R. Simeon the Great of Mainz and ancestor of R. Moses of London and Elijah b. Menahem of London.

In the middle of the 16th century Bristol was the only English town other than London where *Marranos are known to have lived. No organized Jewish community was established, however, until about 1751. Despite the virtual absence of Jews, the local Tory newspaper was among the most vociferously anti-Jewish during the agitation over the "*Jew Bill" of 1753. In 1786 the former Weavers' Hall was taken over as a synagogue. The community leader was Lazarus *Jacobs, a glassmaker, whose work is still sought after by collectors. His son Isaac Jacobs was glass manufacturer to George iii. A secessionist community existed between c. 1828 and 1835 when it rejoined the parent body. A new synagogue was opened in Park Row in 1842. The present synagogue was constructed in 1870. Eastern European Jews arrived after the beginning of the Russian persecutions in 1881. In the 20th century the community dwindled, numbering 410 in 1968.

[Cecil Roth /

Joe Hallaby (2nd ed.)]

In the mid-1990s the Jewish population numbered approximately 375. There was some growth, however, in the size of the local community at the end of the 20th century, with the 2001 British census finding 823 Jews by religion in Bristol. In 2004 Bristol had an Orthodox and a Liberal synagogue.


M. Adler, in: jhset, 12 (1928–31), 117–86; idem, Jews of Medieval England (1939), 175–251; Rigg-Jenkinson, Exchequer, index; C. Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), 40–41; idem, in: jhsem, 2 (1935), 32–56; idem, Intellectual Activities of Medieval English Jewry (1948), 47ff.; Wolf, in: jhset, 11 (1924–27), 5, 34, 92, 104, 109, 111; H.G. Richardson, English Jewry under Angevin Kings (1960), 127–8. add. bibliography: jyb, 2004.


views updated May 11 2018

Bristol. A city at the junction of the rivers Avon and Frome, just inland from the Severn estuary. It is not recorded before c.1020, but by 1066 was a flourishing port, shipping slaves to Ireland. The Normans built there one of the key strategic castles of England, and Earl Robert of Gloucester (1107–47) made it his power base in supporting his half-sister Matilda in the civil wars from 1138. The original centre lay between the two rivers, just inside Gloucestershire, but the Redcliffe area south of the Avon (and in Somerset) quickly became an important suburb. By 1216 Bristol was influential enough to have an elected mayor, and by c.1240 enterprising enough to divert the river Frome to make a better harbour. Trade until the 15th cent. was chiefly with Ireland, Gascony, and the Iberian peninsula, with Bordeaux wines the main imports. By 1377 Bristol ranked in the poll tax as the largest provincial town after York; its importance was recognized in 1373 when the king took it out of Gloucestershire and Somerset and made it a county corporate; later its status was further enhanced when it became a cathedral city (1542) and when its traders were incorporated as the Society of Merchant Venturers (1552). Bristol suffered severely in the Civil War of 1642–6, but enjoyed a golden age in the late 17th and 18th cents. as the largest and wealthiest English town after London. Its wealth by then came chiefly from transatlantic trade (especially in slaves) and its associated new industries (sugar and tobacco). By 1800, however, it was overtaken in importance by Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, and in 1831 it was the scene of serious riots during the passage of the first Reform Bill. More positively, in the 1830s and 1840s I. K. Brunel helped to make Bristol an important terminus for railways and for Atlantic steamships, and from 1868 new docks at Avonmouth helped the city recover prosperity. In the 20th cent. it developed into a large and thriving conurbation.

David M. Palliser


views updated Jun 27 2018

Bristol City and unitary authority at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Frome, sw England. An important seaport and trade centre since achieving city status in 1155, it was a major centre for the wool and cloth industry. From the 15th–18th century, it was England's second city and the base for many New World explorations. The 19th century witnessed a gradual decline in the city's economy due to competition from Liverpool. Bristol suffered intensive bombing during World War II. Clifton Suspension Bridge (designed by Brunel) was completed in 1864. Other sites include a 12th-century cathedral and the 14th-century church of St Mary Redcliffe. Bristol has two universities, the University of Bristol (1909) and the University of the West of England (1992). The main port facilities are now at Avonmouth. Industries: aircraft engineering, chemicals, tobacco. Pop. (1994 est.) 402,000.