Rebecca Abrams commissioned to write our book

We are very excited that Rebecca Abrams, the well-known and respected author, has agreed to write our book on Licoricia and the medieval Jewish community. Rebecca has recently published ‘The Jewish Journey: 4000 years in 22 objects from the Ashmolean Museum‘ and ‘Jewish Treasures from Oxford Libraries‘ for the Bodleian Library. Her other works include Touching Distance, Three Shoes One Sock & No Hairbrush, The Playful Self, Woman In a Man’s World and When Parents Die. The book will be published in 2021.

Dame Jenny Abramsky DBE appointed Patron

We are delighted to announce that Dame Jenny Abramsky DBE has been appointed Patron of the Appeal. Dame Jenny has been Chair of the Royal Academy of Music since September 2014 and is also Chair of the Board of Governors of the Royal Ballet. From 2008 to 2014 she was Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund/National Heritage Memorial Fund, as well as Chair of the University of London, Board of Trustees.

Previously she was for ten years the BBC’s Director of Radio and of Music. Before that, as Director of Continuous News, she ran all the BBC’s 24 hour news services on TV, Radio and Online. At the BBC she created and launched more new services than any previous BBC executive, including Radio Five Live, BBC News Online and BBC News 24.

She is a Trustee of the Shakespeare Schools Festival and sits on the Board of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Previously she was Chair of Hampstead Theatre, a Governor of the British Film Institute, a trustee of Central School of Ballet and sat on the Economic and Social Research Council. Jenny was awarded a CBE in 2001 and made DBE in 2009.

Jenny will serve as Patron alongside eminent historian, Simon Sebag-Montefiore.

April 2020 Newsletter

Since our last newsletter in January, we have made good progress.

Of our £135,000 target, we have raised just over half so far.  In the last few months we have written to 150 trusts and have received some very generous donations although Covid-19 has postponed many of their trustee meetings.  We continue to receive donations via our website, where our supporter list now numbers seventy, up nearly 50% in the last couple of months.

We are commissioning Rebecca Abrams (who wrote ‘The Jewish Journey:  4000 years in 22 Objects’ for the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and whose latest book ‘Jewish Treasures from Oxford libraries’ is about to be published) to write our booklet on Winchester’s Medieval Jewish Community. 

Hampshire County Council education experts are working on a proposal for lesson plans on Licoricia and her community for Key Stages 1-3 for all Hampshire school children.

We have received fascinating advice from the V&A, the British Museum, and the Jewish Museum about whether or not Licoricia would have worn rings, including wedding and betrothal rings, and concerning the brooch holding her cloak.

Two eminent letter carvers have provided us with sample fonts for the inscriptions on the plinth, and we have been working with Hampshire County Council to finalise the plinth specification.

Throughout, there has been so much goodwill around the project that it spurs us on with enthusiasm.  Thank you for your continued support. 

We look forward to keeping in touch.

Progress being made

We have raised about 50% of the funds necessary for the statue, and are working hard for the rest. We aim to erect the statue in September 2021. In the meantime good progress is being made with our booklet, and educational material for schools. Please do help us in these endeavours if you can.

Presentation to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London

Many thanks to the Liberal Jewish Synagogue for their hospitality yesterday. Maggie and William Carver gave a presentation on the Appeal, its background, and the history of the Jews in England pre 1290 to the Synagogue on 22 February. The meeting was very well attended. Many thanks again to Rabbi Wright and the Synagogue for their kind help in organising the event.

January 2020 Newsletter

THE LICORICIA OF WINCHESTER STATUE APPEAL

Thanks to your generosity we have now raised over £42,000!  We still need over £80,000 to erect the statue but are confident that writing to over seventy charities and trusts will help and are pressing on strongly with this endeavour.  As most of these applications were sent out in in the last two months, we await their responses.  Many charities only meet once or twice a year.

The £42,000 includes £20,000 that we have been generously offered by the Rothschild Foundation towards our educational budget, contingent upon raising the money necessary for the statue.

Whilst concentrating on fundraising, we are also moving forward with the educational work.  In particular, the commissioning of a booklet and leaflet to accompany the statue, and Key Stage educational material to distribute to Hampshire schools.

In addition, we have been carrying out smaller activities such as talks at local history societies and organising a very successful fundraising walk around the Jewish Medieval Trail in Winchester. We have a talk at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue shortly.  The maquette which was unveiled at the Art Workers’ Guild in the Spring of 2019 takes pride of place at these talks, and the quality of the work by Ian Rank-Broadley speaks for itself.

We continue to be heartened by the enthusiasm shown from all quarters for the project.  Maggie met Sir Simon Schama at an event at Buckingham Palace in December who promised his support.  Winchester City Council, the Tourist Office, Hampshire County Council, the Hampshire Cultural Trust and the Jewish Museum in London are all willing to help us with our activities and with publicity and marketing. 

We hope to erect the statue in the autumn of 2021 and will keep you posted with progress.  Thank you for your enthusiasm.  Please do spread the word.  Our website www.licoricia.org is always happy to receive donations!

Wishing you a good 2021

The Licoricia of Winchester Team

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain on Licoricia

Rabbi Dr Romain wrote this article in the Jewish Chronicle on 2 August 2019.

The wealthy widow who made her mark in medieval England

Licoricia was a remarkable Jewess, both because of her love life and her business dealings. But whereas that may apply to many a Jewish woman today, she stands out as being one of the few of whom that could be said in medieval England.

Her story also epitomises the prosperity and gradual decline of the Jewish community, which culminated in one of her sons being hanged and the others banished in the expulsion of the Jews from England, one of the many tragedies connected with Tishah B’Av, which begins next Saturday evening.

The story of the Jews as a settled community starts after William I conquered England in 1066 and invited them over to help colonise his new kingdom.

This was the core factor behind both their rise and downfall: on the one hand they had the king’s protection; on the other hand, they were seen as interlopers, both foreign and the king’s agents. They were also of a different faith in a society where there was only one right faith.

In addition to this toxic mix, many Jews were moneylenders. This was because Christians were banned by canon law from offering loans with interest and so there was a vacuum in society. It enabled many Jews to make a living, but it came at the high cost of unpopularity when the debtors faced mounting interest, or could not repay their loans and had to forfeit their deposits.

This was the world into which Licoricia was born. We are not sure when, or where, but thanks to the painstaking research of the late Suzanne Bartlet, we know that she first appears in 1234 as a young widow, known as Licoricia of Winchester.

The toponym of Winchester is deceptive, as it does not necessarily indicate her birthplace, but could be where her main business activities lay and the place with which she was most associated.

What is crucial, though, is the fact that she was a moneylender, be it in her own right or having inherited her late husband’s business. It was because the king could tax the Jews directly as his “chattels”, without recourse to Parliament, that such close records of their dealings were kept.

As a result we know more about Licoricia than virtually the entire generation of her non-Jewish female contemporaries, who are lost to history and remain anonymous.

In theory, she should have worn the “Jew badge”, which in England took the form of the two tablets of stone. Introduced by Pope Innocent III in 1215, it suggests that, without it, you could not tell a Jew from anyone else. However, wealthy Jews were able to buy an exemption and it is likely she did so too.

She was not only an accomplished businesswoman, but an attractive widow, for another leading moneylender, David of Oxford, divorced his wife Muriel in 1242 in order to marry her.

Divorce was permissible, but unusual, in medieval Anglo-Jewry. However, it seems to have been without Muriel’s consent, as she tried to get the divorce rescinded by appealing to a beth din.

This led to a unique royal intervention in rabbinic rulings, as the king, Henry III, no doubt prompted by a lavish gift from David, sent a letter banning the rabbis from overturning the divorce or from forbidding David to marry Licoricia. The wedding went ahead.

As it happened, David died two years after the marriage, leaving Licoricia with an even more extensive portfolio of loans than before. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Oxford, which was later taken over by Magdalen College, and today it lies beneath the Rose Garden, close to the Oxford Botanic Gardens. No tombstones remain, although a memorial plaque has been placed on the site.

Licoricia stayed in Oxford until her death in 1277, when she and her housemaid were killed during a burglary at her home in Jewry Street. Such was her renown at the time that her death was reported to the Jewish community in Germany.

By then, Anglo-Jewry was suffering its own death-pangs. Edward I had introduced the Statute of the Jewry in 1275, which was an early experiment in social engineering. He prohibited Jews from lending money on interest and to turn instead to other trades.

However, a combination of economic restrictions and the social antagonism between Jews and Christians meant Jews were unable to make a success of their new businesses.

By 1290, the Jewish community was impoverished, the Church opposed them, the population at large resented them and they were no financial use to the king anymore. The edict of expulsion was signed on July 18, Tishah b’Av.

Licorcia’s descendants returned to France with the remnant of medieval Anglo-Jewry. Whereas the Spanish Jews, also expelled on Tishah b’Av two centuries later, kept their identity, the English ones disappeared from view. We still mourn them.

Among the many disasters associated with the fast of Tishah b’Av is the expulsion of English Jewry