Source Four: Accusation of Murder

Extracts from a court case accusing Jews of the murder of a Christian child in Winchester brought before the Hampshire Eyre, c. 1232 (Catalogue Ref: JUST 1/775, m. 20)

During the 1230s, the relationship between Christian and Jewish communities became increasingly tense. Lesson (1) showed that accusations of Jewish violence especially the murder of Christian children had circulated in England since the 1140s. However, from the 1230s onwards, these cases were finding themselves before the king’s law courts for the first time. These accounts were most likely made up but were being taken seriously by the law. The extract below is taken from one such case in 1232 when it was recorded on the Hampshire Eyre roll that a one-year-old boy, named Stephen, was found strangled near St Swithun’s Priory, in Winchester. According to those who found the body, it had been dismembered (hands and feet removed), castrated, and its eyes and heart taken out. The case reveals that Abraham Pinche, a member of the Jewish community, was named by the jury as the perpetrator of the murder.

Latin Transcript

Quidam puer unius anni inuentus fuit mortuus et jugulatus in cimiterio sancti Swithuni truncatis manibus et

pedibus et testiculis abscisis et oculis extractis et corde. Et similiter testantur quod nutrix ipsius pueri illum uendidit […] Abrahe Judeo qui eum occidit et ipsa nutrix fugit et Emma mater pueri capta fuit pro suspicione mortis eius et inprisonata fuit in gaola ciuitatis tempore quo Pentecostes fuit seruiens gaole et inde euasit et ideo cust’ Dicunt etiam precise quod ad domum ipsius Abrahe Pinc fuit idem puer occitus per eundem Abraham et alios Judeos quorum nomina [igno]rant. Sed mater ipsius pueri tunc fuit infirma et ea nesciente factum fuit hoc set quando ipsa euasit fugit […] Dicunt etiam quando hac factum fuit Henricus de Bath cepit

omnes Judeos Wint’ pro facto illo et postea dimisit eas quietos de xx marcis quas cepit de eis.

Simplified Translation

A one-year-old boy was discovered dead and strangled in the church yard of St Swithun’s with his hands and feet having been chopped off, his private parts castrated, and his eyes and heart removed.

They [the jury] testify (say) that the nurse of the boy sold him to a Jew, Abraham, who killed him, and the nurse fled. And Emma, the mother of the boy, was captured on suspicion of his death and imprisoned in the city jail […] but then she escaped.

[They jury] also say that at Abraham Pinche killed the boy at his house along with other Jews whose names they did not know. They say the mother of the boy was ill at that time and did not know what had happened when she escaped […]

[The jury] also say that when this deed was done Henry of Bath (the sheriff) captured all the Jews of Winchester for this deed and afterwards he released them from 20 marks which he had taken from them.

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  1. Read through Source 4 and consider the following questions:
    1. Who is recorded to be telling the account to the court?
    2. Who is reported to have sold the young boy?
    3. What happened to the boy’s mother?
    4. What happened to the Jews in Winchester because of this accusation?
  2. Consider the following information and reflect on the questions below:

The young boy’s mother was eventually found guilty of the crime, yet Abraham Pinche failed to win back around the people of Winchester. Abraham was accused of stealing from a shop and eventually tried at the Hampshire Eyre (court) of 1236 and hanged as a felon (criminal).

  1. What does this court case suggest about the relationship between Christian and Jews living in Winchester in the 1230s?
  2. Whose side of the story do we not hear in the court case? Why might that shape how we think about the accusation?
  3. Why must we be careful to not always trust the stories (especially of violence) recorded in medieval court records?