Maggie Carver’s speech at the unveiling of Licoricia of Winchester, 11 April 2019

View speeches of Maggie Carver and Cllr Roy Perry:

11 April 2019. Maggie Carver’s speech at the Unveiling of the maquette of Licoricia of Winchester, the Art Worker’s Guild.

Good afternoon everyone, thank you very much for coming.  For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Maggie Carver, Chairman of the Licoricia of Winchester Statue Appeal.  We are so glad to see you all here today.  We’ve been hugely encouraged by the amount of support we have had right across our Jewish community including leaders of the reform and liberal communities, some of whom are here today, and a letter of good wishes from Chief Rabbi Mirvis.  We’ve also had terrific support from the the arts, politics, and academic communities, the Archbishop of Canterbury and many others – Licoricia is already an inspiration.

Before I ask Councillor Perry to unveil the statue, Ian Rank-Broadly to tell you about the sculpture and William to brief you on fund raising, I thought, for those of you who are not familiar with Licoricia, I’d tell you a little bit about her and explain how the project started.

First of all, in case you were wondering, Licoricia’s name does indeed mean sweetmeat.  In a recent interview on Radio Solent with one of our trustees, Tim Dakin suggested that the modern equivalent might be Smartie or Opal Fruit – take your pick but unfortunately, I’m told licorice allsorts are not kosher.

Anyway, our Licoricia was a remarkable businesswomen who lived in mid 13th century Winchester.  She was one of a number of successful Jewish women engaged in financing.  Winchester was important at that time because it had Royal connections, a legacy of its recent role as England’s capital city and treasury.  There was a unique relationship between Jews and royalty.  Jews raised funds for the Royal family at regulated interest rates and for their part, the monarchy gave them some protection from persecution and levied special taxes on them.  One such tax of £2,500 from Licoricia with an added contribution of approximately £3,500 from her husband, David of Oxford’s estate, was used to build the inner sanctum of Westminster Abbey.  To give you some idea of the size of this donation, £10 was enough to pay for a fully equipped ship, so this would have been enough for a fleet of 600 ships – a whopping amount!

Our sculpture depicts Licoricia holding the hand of Asser, her son.  Asser followed his mother into the family business and is likely to have been forced out of the country with the rest of the community in 1290.  By this time the community had been forced into poverty and were no longer so useful to royalty.  They were not popular with parliament as they had given the monarchy an independent source of income and the church offered the King a huge sum of money to get rid of them.  A sad end to the community which remained banned until the seventeenth century.

The inspiration for erecting a sculpture began with a Winchester University project to produce a trail marking places that had been important for the medieval Jewish community.  This brought to light the fact that, apart from the name Jewry Street and the Great Hall, where Licoricia was engaged in business with the King and Queen, there was nothing tangible for people to see.

With encouragement from Hampshire County Council, our project for a sculpture was born.  We chose Licoricia because she was an unusual and outstanding character and because, thanks to Suzanne Bartlet, a remarkable person herself – the first woman leader of Hampshire County Council and a Jew – we have a book about her and setting her in the context of medieval Winchester.  We welcome her husband Leslie and friend Ruth here today.

We are ambitious for her effect on Winchester:

  • We want her to be a beacon of tolerance and diversity in the community
  • We want her to educate people about Winchester’s Royal past and its medieval Jewish Community
  • And we want her to be an inspirational woman who enhances the city by her presence.

I’d like to thank my fellow trustees, Danny Habel, Paul Lewthwaite, Tony Stoller and Laurence Wolff for all their hard work and much valued contribution so far and particularly my husband William who has done more than anyone else to make this happen.

We are very fortunate to have as our sculptor, Ian Rank Broadley.  Not only is he an eminent and outstanding sculptor but he has fully embraced this project and we are deeply grateful.

I would also like to thank Hampshire County Council for their wonderful support and help and Councillor Perry himself, leader of the Council, whose personal and substantial contribution to interfaith work in the area has been exceptional, making us feel a valued and welcomed part of the community.

Thank you Roy, over to you.