Winchester launches medieval Jewish trail in response to community appeal

Press Release: 14/07/2015

Jewish Trail Launch

Winchester City Council and the University of Winchester have launched a new city trail telling the story of a medieval Jewish community based around Jewry Street.

The trail, a leaflet available from Winchester Tourist Information Centre and online, is based on original research by Toni Griffiths and came about when the University and members of the community and the City Council joined forces to uncover the previously hidden narrative.

Local businessman Danny Habel, who championed the cause over the last 20 months, was a guest of honour at the launch event at Guildhall Winchester.

More than 70 people heard Deputy Lieutenant for Hampshire, Lady Appleyard, and representatives from the City and County Councils, the University and the community talk about the project. Event-goers also sampled the tour in the company of Winchester’s official tourist guides.

An article by Toni Griffiths comparing the depiction of the Jewish history of York with a lack of knowledge about Winchester was the catalyst for new research.

A team of researchers at the University of Winchester, led by Dr Christina Welch, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies, liaised with the Jewish community and focused on a period in the early Middle Ages when Winchester city was a national cultural centre.

A number of royal births, deaths and marriages took place within the city walls and the royal family had strong links to an important Jewish settlement based around Jewry Street. The community endured heavy fines. imprisonment and execution before their eventual expulsion at the end of the 13th century, and some of these stories are retold in the new publication.

Dr Christina Welch from the University of Winchester said:

The Medieval Jewish Trail takes pedestrians back in time to the Middle Ages when the city was one of the largest and wealthiest Jewish settlements in England. We were already aware of a colourful 13th-century character known as Licoricia of Winchester; however, so much was missing from our knowledge of local Jewish history and culture between these times that we set out to fill in the gaps with the help of students and researchers in Winchester and Berlin. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Danny for approaching the University and also our four hardworking and dedicated students, Charlotte Andrasi, Adele Beston, Tracey Churcher and Cader McPhail, and Drs Alex Langland, and Patricia Skinner for their support and expertise.

The trail uncovers the sites of various past landmarks from this historic period including a synagogue, a statue of a blindfolded young woman named ‘Synagogia’ and a grand stone house owned by David of Oxford.

As few of these landmarks remain today, Winchester City Council commissioned a local artist to provide illustrations, an initiative funded by Danny Habel in memory of his parents, Jack and Greta who, as refugees from the Holocaust, set up home here. The leaflet was designed by David Livingston from Park Corner Design in Southgate Street.

Danny Habel said:

The Medieval Jewish Winchester Trail has been developed because our community wanted to tell a story, not always a comfortable one, of a community which endured executions, fines and imprisonment and which is an integral part of the city’s rich cultural past. The persecution and eventual expulsion of the Jewish population provides an important lesson that applies not only to Jews, but to all races and religions. We become a richer community when we treat every minority with respect. The generosity of Winchester City Council and the detailed, high-quality research work by the University has made me so proud of the city of my birth. I am so pleased the story has been told. For us it is symbolic of the City and University’s support to a minority group.”

Cllr James Byrnes, Winchester City Council’s Portfolio Holder for the Local Economy and Tourism, added:

The launch of the leaflet this week was a good example of a local success story. In this case we had the strong voice of a community with a story to tell and two supportive local organisations who wanted to help make it happen and who were happy to invest time and resources to ensure it did. I hear that the University and Council are looking to do more together along similar lines in the future - another positive outcome for our city.

Download the leaflet from: www.visitwinchester.co.uk or collect it from:
Winchester Tourist Information Centre, Opening Hours: May to September
Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm., Sundays and Bank Holidays 11am to 4pm
01962 840 500. Winchester’s official Tourist Guides: www.winchestertouristguides.com