York's Medieval Synagogue
1201AD - 1299AD
Where now you can shop for trendy clothing was once the heart of Jewish life in medieval York…
The contemporary building on Coney Street that houses the retailer Next stands on the site of what was a synagogue, a Jewish place of worship, during the 13th century. It’s not known what this building would have looked like, as both past and modern synagogues do not follow a particular architectural style. Rather, it is likely that the medieval Jews of York would have built their synagogue similarly to other buildings in town.
Nearby were the homes of several prominent Jews in York. Aaron of York and his father-in-law, Leo Episcopus, were considered in 1219 to be amongst the six richest Jews in England. Aaron in particular flourished between 1236 and 1243 and during that time he was appointed as the Arch-presbyter of the English Jews; the preeminent Jew in England.
By the 1270s, York’s Jewish community was in serious decline and Jews in England were facing significant anti-Semitism under the rule of Edward I. We know that the property next to Aaron’s house was owned by his nephew, Josce, who was hanged in London in the late 1270s. Many Jews were executed during this time for the crimes of coin forging and clipping – likely a pretense to confiscate their wealth. At the time of the 1290AD expulsion of the Jews from England, only six Jewish households remained in York including one on Coney Street, which was the home of a Jew named Bonamicus.
In later years, this area of Coney Street became the site of the medieval coaching inn, the George Inn.