Henry of Winchester

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HENRY OF WINCHESTER (13th century), the most notorious convert to Christianity in the medieval Jewish community of England. King Henry iii was involved in the conversion of Henry of Winchester and ensured that he received at baptism his own name Henry. The king then also knighted him. In 1252 Henry was granted an allowance of 12 pence a day for life at the Exchequer and appointed king's notary at the Exchequer of Jews, apparently with responsibility for compiling the Hebrew plea roll, but this appointment was short-lived or wholly ineffective. His wife, Clarice, was also a convert. From the mid-1250s he was involved in buying and selling Jewish bonds in partnership with Moses of Clare and in 1261 commissioned to inventory bonds in six chests on behalf of the King. In 1278–79 he played an important part in a secret, but officially-approved, scheme for the purchase of silver made from coin-clippings, in order to accumulate evidence against those involved in this illegal activity to be used at their trials. He was subsequently allowed to purchase some of the forfeited property of those executed in the trials for resale at a profit in England and abroad.


R.C. Stacey, "The Conversion of Jews to Christianity in Thirteenth-Century England," in: Speculum, 67 (1992), 276–77; P. Brand, "Jews and the Law in England, 1275–1290," in: English Historical Review, 115 (2000), 1138–58.

[Paul Brand (2nd ed.)]