Articles Image

Moyse Hall, in the small town of Bury St. Edmunds, has been for nearly two centuries reputed to be an ancient synagogue, or Jews' House or Hall. The words House and Hall are the same. Univer? sity Halls were called Houses or Halls, and, as you know, the words are interchangeable to-day. There are ten Halls in Oxford to-day, mostly bearing names of persons who endowed them, or in memory of whom they were erected. I hope to show you that this Jewish desig? nation is merely a misty tradition, for which I think I can fairly account. I must now let the building speak for itself as to age and date of erection. It is undoubtedly a late Norman or transition work; this gives a date between 1160 and 1200, with a few years' variation. With this photograph and the pictures in the second volume of the Transactions of this Society (1895), pages 118 and 119, you will not have any difficulty in following my remarks. In the east front was the original, and probably only entrance. The ground-floor had only very small lights, the south front had probably small lights on ground floor, and, as you see, two large windows on the upper storey. The other portion of the building must also have had round-headed windows; the only old one now existing is of much later date, being Decorated, nay, almost Perpendicular, and much of it is, I believe, resto? ration work. We are not, as far as I can see, much concerned for the present with the interior, but I may mention that the ground-floor is a stone-vaulted chamber with two rows of arches, of the same date as the exterior. The next point to which I shall direct your attention is its site. The east site is on what was known as Hog Hill, or the Beast Market; the south side is on Cornhill, which I believe was the Corn Market, and it stands 300 yards from the Abbey Gate as the crow flies. It seems to me that we must allow the English Jews of this troublesome period to have had a reasonable amount of common-sense, and the wish to keep themselves out of danger; therefore, I ask, would any body of men in such growing disfavour as the Jews were at this period be so foolish, so short-sighted, or so foolhardy as to thrust their place of worship so prominently before town and abbey as the position Moyse Hall occupies 1 Excepting perhaps Spain, is there any European country in which at this period the Jews built their synagogue outside the Jewry or Ghetto ? The Jews in the various countries of the world in which they have lived have, so far as is known, followed, in building their synagogues, more or less closely the style then in vogue at the period, with, of course, such internal modifications as the form of service required. Will any one attempt to contend that Moyse Hall resembles

Become a member to read the full article
Become a member today


24 hour access to JHSE online resources

Instant access to over 700 articles View the original articles as a PDF
Learn More


Annual JHSE Membership

Members are entitled to a free copy of the latest Jewish Historical Studies, free access to our online resources and associate membership of the UCL Library in London.  In addition, they receive the JHSE Newsletter, special offers on books for sale and pay less to attend our series of lectures and other public events.
Learn More


Student Membership

The JHSE want to encourage students to engage with Jewish history.  Apply for a Student Membership with your university email account and once we have verified your status you will soon have all the benefits of being a full JHSE member.
Learn More


Associate your Institution with the JHSE

Give your members access to JHSE online resources and special offers on book sales.  Use your institutional email account when applying, and once your status is verified we will explain the scheme.  Preferred payment is by credit or debit card.
Learn More

Your Cart