Jews in Britain Timeline

It is likely that the first Jews came to Britain with the Romans, 2000 years ago. Despite the 12th Century pogroms in York and Lincoln, the first recorded blood libel in Norwich and the community’s expulsion from England in 1290, this has been a comparatively tolerant home for Jews over the millennia.

From their readmission to Britain in the mid-1600s through to the present day, Jews have played an increasing role in British society, producing many of the country’s most outstanding musicians, artists, politicians, scientists and businesspeople.

Below is a brief history of our community’s time in Britain.  For more information go to:



Although it is likely that Jews came to England with the Romans, this is first written record of Jewish settlement having arrived from France with William I.


The first report in history of the blood libel against Jews, in the case of William of Norwich.


The mass suicide of York’s Jews at Clifford Tower - terrorized by a murderous mob - is one of a number of brutal attacks on Jews in England during the crusades.


Jews expelled from Britain by King Edward I's Edict of Expulsion.


While Oliver Cromwell never officially readmitted Jews to Britain, a small colony of Sephardic Jews (of Spanish and Portguese origin) living in London was identified in 1656 and allowed to remain.


Bevis Marks Synagogue opens in the the City of London and today is the oldest continually used synagogue in Britain.


The Jewish Naturalisation Act, an attempt to legalise the Jewish presence in England, remained in force for only a few months.


Foundation of the Board of Deputies when, on the accession to the throne of George III, the Spanish & Portuguese Jewish community presented a loyal address to the monarch.


After Moses Montefiore was elected as President, the Marriage Act 1836 names President of the Board of Deputies as the authority for certifying Marriage Secretaries of Synagogues.


President of the Board, Moses Montefiore, pleads the case of persecuted Jews in Damascus, marking the genesis of the Boards active role in international Jewish affairs.


At the insistence of Irish leader Daniel O'Connell, the British law "De Judaismo", which prescribed a special dress for Jews, was repealed.


Lionel De Rothschild becomes the first practicing Jew to sit in Parliament after the law relating to the oath of office is changed, although Benjamin Disraeli, born Jewish but baptised a Christian, had been a Member of Parliament long before this.


The Jewish population of England has swelled to 46,000 by this point, mainly Sephardim. By 1919 it has grown to approximate 250,000 largely as a result of refugees fleeing persecution in Russia and East Europe.


50,000 Jews serve in the British armed forces, with an estimated 10,000 killed on the battlefield. Britain’s first all-Jewish regiment, the Jewish Legion fights in Palestine


Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour writes to Vice-President of the Board of Deputies, the 2nd Baron Rothschild saying “His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”


The creation of the Jewish Defence Committee which took on the British Union of Fascists in meetings and on the streets.


Despite severe restrictions on Jewish immigration, around 90,000 are allowed to settle in Britain from the European mainland, including around 10,000 Jewish children rescued from Germany on the eve of war in the Kindertransport.


Britain withdraws from Palestine, making way for the establishment of the State of Israel. British Jews serve both with the British army in Mandate Palestine and with the Haganah.


The British Jewish community is estimated to have peaked at around 400,000 with London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Leeds amongst the major areas of settlement.


Lobbying by the Board of Deputies Jews leads to Jews being protected from discrimination by law in the Race Discrimination Act.


First Limmud educational conference takes, place. By 2014 Limmud events are held in around 60 countries worldwide, leading it to be described by Ha’aretz as “British Jewry’s greatest export”


Jo Wagerman becomes the first woman elected Board of Deputies President


Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis succeeds Lord Sacks as the 13th Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, frequent referred to as “The Chief Rabbi”.


263,346 people self-defined as Jewish in the 2011 Census although the actual figure is thought to be more likely to be around 300,000. This is the fifth largest Jewish community in the world.

For a comprehensive history of the Board of Deputies, contact to order your copy of the Board’s published history, 250 Years of Convention and Contention by Raphael Langham.