Benedict the Gildsman of Winchester

The medieval gilds of England were both religious confraternities and trade unions and none but a native-born Christian could become a member.1 It is, therefore, remarkable that, in the year 1268, Simon le Draper, the Mayor of Winchester, admitted a Jewish financier into the rights and privileges of the Merchants’ gild. The record of this unique act of toleration runs as follows :

Know all men that I, Simon le Draper, Mayor of Winchester, with the common counsel and assent of the bailiffs, the citizens and the whole community of the said city have received our beloved and faith? ful friend and special neighbour Benedict the son of Abraham the Jew into the full society of our liberty as our fellow-citizen and fellow gildsman in the Merchants’ gild in all things that appertain to the said liberty. . . . (Patent Rolls, 1268, p. 223.)

Dr. Gross,2 naturally surprised at

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