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Old London Bridge

Around the area where the old London Bridge stood there is a tradition that ghostly cries for help can be heard as if people are drowning in the River Thames. This dates back to a dark time in English history and the cries are thought to be those of a group of Jews that were tricked by a ships captain in 1290.

King Edward I ordered the expulsion of all Jews from England on pain of death by the Feast of All Saints (1st November) 1290. 16,000 Jews were expelled from England leading up to this date. They were allowed to take some money and possessions, their remaining assets including all their property were forfeited to the Crown. Edward allowed them to depart in peace it was proclaimed by the sheriffs that no harm should be done to the Jews until the date of banishment, though not everyone abided by this.

In ‘A History Of The Jews In England’ by Albert Hyamson, he quotes an account of the drowning of the London Jews who had arranged to leave on St Denis’s Day 1290. "A sort of the richest of them, being shipped with their treasure in a mightie tall ship which they had hired, when the same was under saile, and got downe the Thames towards the mouth of the river beyond Quinborowe (Queenborough), the maister mariner bethought him of a wile, and caused his men to cast anchor, and so rode at the same, till the ship by ebbing of the streame remained on the dry sands. The maister herewith enticed the Jewes to walke out with him on land for recreation. And at length when he understood the tide to be comming in, he got him backe to the ship, whither he was drawne up by a cord. The Jewes made not so much hast as he did, because they were not ware of the danger. But when they perceived how the matter stood, they cried to him for helpe : howbeit he told them, that they ought to crie rather unto Moses, by whose conduct their fathers passed through the red sea, and therefore, if they would call to him for helpe, he was able enough to help them out of those raging floods, which now came in upon them : they cried indeed, but no succour appeared, and so they were swallowed up in water."

The Jews luggage was then distributed amongst the ships crew. They had however broken the law by were arrested and executed for their crime.

Image Copyright: 
Alison Topham

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Red Don's picture
Red Don
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Re: Old London Bridge

There was nothing GREAT about Britain when it was plagued by religious and cultural intollerance, especially at a level that can force a mass expulsion of a whole segment of society.  Maybe we can learn something from history and avoid future atrocities.

It does make me wonder about ghost traditions such as these though.  I wonder whether anyone has actually heard the cries at all.  Maybe the tale has been passed down it the form of a ghost story so that the events are not forgotten.  I know I wasn't taught about the expulsion of the Jews at school, maybe it is not on the cirriculum.



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