There is a small street in York which today connects Newgate Market and the Shambles with Parliament Street. This lane is called Jubbergate, and though well-travelled by visitors to York it receives little notice amid the masses of shoppers and sightseers that walk along it.
Although the buildings standing along Jubbergate now are of much later construction, 13th century deeds for properties along this lane are still archived at York Minster Library, The Merchant Adventurers Hall and York City Archives. The earliest of these deeds, dating to around 1249, use the street’s prior name, Bretgate. This street name was also in use elsewhere in York. The confusion this may have caused could account for changes made to the street’s name-change in later deeds: it is called Joubrettegat’ in 1280 and Jubrettegate in 1287 and 1302.
Bretgate’s name was formed by two separate words. Bret- comes from Old English and Old Norse words meaning ‘Britons’, while –gate is the Old Norse word for street or road. You may have noticed that York has several streets with the ending –gate, the names of many dating back to Scandinavian rule in York. So Bretgate literally means ‘Britons Street’ or ‘Street of the Britons’.
The current street name Jubbergate was derived from the addition of a Middle English prefix: Jewe-/Ju-, as seen in the later deeds. As well as demarking Jubbergate as different from the second Bretgate in York, the added prefix implies that there once were properties held by Jewish families or businesses along this lane. Though there is no evidence in official records of Jewish occupation along Jubbergate, the added Ju-prefix strongly suggests that this was the case. Jubbergate would have been a convenient location for York’s medieval Jewry who worshipped at the nearby synagogue on Coney Street; indeed Jubbergate itself once extended down to Coney Street. Other Jewish residents of York, including Aaron, lived nearby in the late 12th century, and so the habitation of other members of York’s Jewish community along Jubbergate is highly possible.
Were Jewish residents of York living and working along Jubbergate at the time of the Jewish massacre in 1190? Or did surviving or newly-arrived Jews occupy this lane in the following 13th century when the street’s name was changed from Bretgate to Joubrettegat? Is it possible that this change was the product of local memory of earlier Jewish residence in the neighbourhood? We do not know the answers to these questions. Perhaps in the future some new evidence may arise that tells us more about Jubbergate’s place in the life of medieval York’s Jewish community.