We have considered the evidence brought before us by Mr. Gollancz and Mr. Haes on the question of the early history of Moyse's Hall in Bury St. Edmunds.
We find that the belief, maintained by Mr. Gollancz, that this building was once the residence of a Jew, or the synagogue of a Jewish community, rests entirely on the statement, made by various anti? quaries, that there was a local tradition to that effect. We have had before us nothing to show whether this tradition was ever generally current in the neighbourhood, and if so, to what period it can be traced. So far as we can ascertain, it first appears in print in Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum,1 a work of which the publication was begun in the year 1655, i.e. 465 years after the expulsion of the Jews from Bury St. Edmunds, 365 years after their expulsion from England, and 181 years after the date of the document in which, as we understand, the name Moyse Hall appears for the first time.2
It is obvious that a tradition separated by so long an interval of time from the supposed facts to whicfh it refers is in need of strong corroboration before it can be regarded as having any historical value.
Mr. Gollancz, however, maintains that it should be provisionally accepted until some further evidence is discovered to prove definitely its truth or its falsehood.
1 Vol. iii. p. 104 of the edition by Caley, Ellis, & Bandinel (London, 1817 1830).
2 We assume that Timms had good authority for stating, in his Handbook to Bury St. Edmunds, that Moyse Hall is mentioned in the will of Andreus Scarbot, which bears the date 1474.
Mr. Haes, on the other hand, brings forward various arguments against its probability.
It seems to us that one of these is of considerable importance.
Mr. Haes gives the names of several persons, apparently Christians, living in the eastern counties, who have borne the names of Moyse, Moyses, Muese, Moes, or Moys, and he suggests that the original owner of Moyse's Hall, after whom the building was called, is just as likely to have been a Christian as to have been a Jew; and that the tradition that the building had been in Jewish ownership may have originated in an attempt to explain so Jewish-sounding a name. It is true that, in a part of England in which Moyse or Moses is known as a name borne by Christians, it is less likely than elsewhere that the hypothesis of Jewish ownership should have come into existence as the result of a popular attempt of this kind. But, as we have pointed out above, there is nothing to show that the belief in the Jewish ownership of Moyse's Hall had a popular origin. It may well have been at first the hypothesis of an antiquary (Dugdale, for instance) who was familiar with the facts that Moses was a Jewish name, and that Jews had lived in Bury St. Edmunds, and was not familiar with the fact that