views updated May 14 2018


NORWICH , county town of Norfolk, E. England. The medieval Jewish community is first mentioned in 1144, when the discovery of the body of a boy, William of Norwich, in a wood near the town gave rise to the first recorded *blood libel in Europe. Although this apparently had no immediate effect on the community, there were attacks by citizens on the Jews in the 1230s, the one in 1234 following an accusation that the Jews had kidnapped and circumcised a Christian child. The descendants of *Jurnet of Norwich, who were financiers, patrons of learning, and scholars, dominated the community from 1160 to 1260: the lower part of their stone house still stands in King Street (as part of the "Music House"). The 13th-century community (numbering about 100 to 150) seems, from the considerable documentary evidence surviving, mainly to have consisted of financiers who lent to local traders and the rural gentry and villagers. The community suffered from the "coin-clipping" charges of 1279 and the execution for blasphemy of the local magnate, Abraham fil' Deulecresse; by the time of the general expulsion from England in 1290, it numbered only 50 souls. The poems of *Meir b. Elijah of Norwich (c. 1244) have survived, mainly in a Vatican manuscript.

Individual Jews settled in Norwich in the first half of the 18th century and there was an organized community by 1754 when a quarrel in the synagogue attracted much attention in the press. Continuous communal activity dates from the purchase of a burial ground in 1813 and the opening of a new synagogue in 1828. Local 19th-century families included those of Samuel (father of the first Lord *Mancroft), Haldinstein, and Soman (founder of the Norwich Argus newspaper). The community was especially known for shoe manufacture, antique dealing, and the press and printing. The synagogue, which was destroyed by bombing in World War ii, was rebuilt in 1948; the community's numbers remained between 100 and 200 (1% of the total population) through most of the 20th century. The 2001 British census found a total of 239 declared Jews in Norwich. The town had an Orthodox and a Reform synagogue.


V.D. Lipman, Jews of Medieval Norwich (1967); C. Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), 85–87; Roth, England, index; Roth, Mag Bibl, 92, 93, 170; H. Levine, Norwich Hebrew Congregation 18401960; Jackson's Oxford Journal (June 8, 1756). add. bibliography: M. Brown, "The Jews of Norfolk and Suffolk Before 1840," in: jhset, 32 (1990–92), 219–36.

[Vivian David Lipman]


views updated Jun 08 2018

Norwich. County town of Norfolk, situated on the river Wensum, and a cathedral city since 1094. It is not recorded before 900, yet by 1066 it was one of the three or four most important towns in England, a position it retained until late Georgian times. It may have begun as a wic or trading port under the Vikings before rising rapidly to become a major town, in a way that still lacks explanation. The Normans transformed the city by building a castle and cathedral, and laying out a new French borough. From the 1140s to 1290 Norwich housed an important Jewry, and from 1194 the citizens accumulated privileges of self-government, while between 1297 and 1344 they built stone walls which enclosed an area of a full square mile (as much as London's). By this time it was the wealthiest provincial town, possessing a major Benedictine priory, 6 friaries, and 57 parish churches. In the 14th and 15th cents. textile manufacture became the dominant industry, especially of cloths called worsteds after a local village. In the 16th and 17th cents. it overtook its rivals to be once more the largest and wealthiest English town after London, its economy sustained partly by a massive immigration of refugees from the Spanish Netherlands who introduced the New Draperies. It also became a social centre for the East Anglian gentry. In the late 18th and early 19th cents. the textile industry declined in the face of Yorkshire competition, and Norwich reverted to its traditional function as a marketing and trading town with only modest industries. The city centre is still dominated by its cathedral, castle keep, and 32 medieval churches (more than in any other British town); the most notable modern accent is perhaps the city hall of 1932–8, inspired by Stockholm's town hall, and a reminder of Norwich's tradition of municipal socialism.

David M. Palliser


views updated May 09 2018

Norwich City and county town of Norfolk, e England. It was already an important market town in the 11th century. There are many fine medieval churches, including the Norman cathedral (1096). Industries: textiles, machinery, chemicals, electrical goods, foodstuffs, footwear. Pop. (1994 est.) 127,778.