Jews Massacred in Bury St Edmunds
The frenzy around Richard I ’s planned Crusade had enormous ramifications for the small Jewish community in England at that time – between 2000 and 3000 people. Under Stephen they had been encouraged and largely protected, in effect providing banking services that helped economic development at that time.
Religious fervour was primed by the projected Crusade ; long-standing resentment of a largely prosperous group of perceived outsiders made matters worse; and some it seems took advantage of the situation to clear their own debts by wiping out those who had lent to them. Such was the case at York , culminating in the massacre of 150 Jews at Clifford’s Tower; and likewise in what was then another great religious and civil centre at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
In Bury a small Jewish community had grown up under the protection of the abbey, which in turn benefitted from loans provided by Jewish traders. The abbot, Hugh, who allowed his abbey to become seriously indebted, died in 1180. Unwisely the Jewish moneylenders tried to have an abbot of their choice elected: he lost, and Abbot Samson who won held a grudge. On March 20 1190 Samson was probably one of those who stirred up men off to the Crusade, along with others, to attack the Jews who lived in Hatter Street in Bury, killing 57 of them. He soon afterwards engineered the expulsion of the survivors.
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