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Creechurch Lane Synagogue

City of London, London E.C.3.

 

 

   
 

Page created: 4 December 2006
Latest revision or update: 23 July 2017

A Brief History of the Founding of the Creechurch Lane Synagogue
The First Synagogue in Britain following the Readmission

David Shulman

All Jews had been expelled from England by King Edward I in 1290.  However, by the end of the first half of the seventeenth century, there was a small but influential community of Marranos or 'secret Jews',  in London, living outwardly as Spanish Catholics.

As a result of the efforts of Menasseh Ben Israel, a noted scholar from Amsterdam, Oliver Cromwell, the English ruler, called a national conference at Whitehall in the early part of December 1655, to discuss the formal readmission of the Jews to England.  Those summoned to attend included Puritan religious leaders, merchants and some of the most eminent judges and lawyers  in the country. The judges and lawyers declared that there was no law preventing the Jews from residing in England, as the 1290 expulsion had only applied to the Jews who were then resident in England. However, both religious leaders and merchants - for very different reasons - opposed the readmission. This led to Cromwell stopping further discussion in order to prevent an adverse decision.

War broke out between England and Spain in 1655 and, in the following year, all Spanish possessions in England, including those of the 'secret Jews', were subject to expropriation by the English authorities. The expropriated property included two ships belonging to Antonio Robles,  possibly the wealthiest member of the community. At this point, Robles declared himself to be a Jew and not a Spanish Catholic. The Council of State upheld his claim and restored his property to him.  In light of the Council recognition of the Jewish community in London, gave informal permission for the Jews to live and trade in England, so as long as they did not advertise their worship and they refrained from making converts.

On 19 December 1656, Antonio Fernando Carvajal, another wealthy ship-owning Marrano living in London and a close associate of Cromwell, agreed with the churchwardens of St. Katherine's Creechurch for the lease of a house at 5 Creechurch Lane in the City of London for use as a synagogue. The lease was for an initial term of 21 years at a rent of £40 per year(1) Synagogue services commenced in January 1657, using a Sefer Torah (Scroll of the Law) acquired earlier from Amsterdam. The next month, the community leased a piece of land in Mile End for use as a cemetery.

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FOOTNOTES ( returns to main text)

  1. "British Chief Rabbis 1664-2006" by Derek Taylor, p 15.

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