Licoricia of Winchester

Referred to in records as: “Licora de Wyntonʼ”, “Licorice”, “Licorice Jewess of Winchester”, “Licorice of Winchester”, “Licoricia”, “Licoricia Judea Wintonie”, “Licoricia Wintonie”, “Licoriciam”, “Licoriciam Judeam Wintonie”, “Licoricie”, “Licoricie Jewess of Winchester”, “Licoricie Wintonie”, “Licoric’”, “Licoriz”, “Licoriz de Wintonʼ”, “Licoriz de Wyntonʼ”, “Liquoricia”, “Lycorice”, “Lycoricia”, “Lycoricʼ”, “Lycoricʼ de Wintonʼ”, “Lycoryca”, “Lycoryce”, “Lycoyca”, “Lyquiric’”, “Lyquiric’ de Cantuaria’”.

Brief biography

Statue of Licoricia of Winchester. Author: Lategatsby23, Wikimedia.
                CC by-sa
Statue of Licoricia of Winchester. Author: Lategatsby23, Wikimedia. CC by-sa 4.0.
Licoricia of Winchester was one of the most prominent businesswoman of thirteenth-century England, with an active career that spanned at least five decades. She was first based in Winchester, later settled in Oxford, and then returned to Winchester after her second husband’s death. Her financial dealings, further, meant that she traveled over much of England, and that her family and business networks were impressively wide. Her first husband was Abraham of Kent, who died in 1234. She then married David of Oxford, who divorced his first wife Muriel for her in 1242 and died in 1244. After David’s death, Licoricia remained a widow, working both independently and with her children. She had four children with Abraham: Cokerel, Benedict, Lumbard, and Belia. With David, she had her youngest child Sweteman (also called Asher). In her early career, after Abraham’s death, she worked with the family of Chera of Winchester, including Belia of Bedford; in her later career, she worked with her children, all of whom were involved in the family lending business and themselves established close connections with other prominent Jewish families. Her sons are typically named in records with the matrilineal designation son of Licoricia.
After her second husband’s death, Licoricia was hugely wealthy. Her inheritance tax on David’s estate was 5000 marks (£3333, one third of the estate), the third largest ever recorded—and much of it went to the renovation and expansion of Westminster Abbey. Licoricia evidently had a close working relationship with King Henry III, who exempted her, and later the Winchester Jewish community under her leadership, from taxes levied against Jews. Nonetheless, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London at least twice: once in 1244, when she was sent to the Tower until she paid what she owed on David’s estate, and once in 1258, when she was accused of stealing a ring that Belia of Bedford had sent her as a gift for Henry III (she was acquitted and her neighbor Ivette proven to be the thief). In 1244, as part of the negotiations of her inheritance fines, she was granted David’s chattels together with the books that are in the king’s custody…saving to the king a certain Bible, a glossed psalter and certain decretals, suggesting that the Crown had seized her household library and that the king kept for himself at least some of her (probably Latin) books, which she likely held in pledge for debts from Oxford scholars. This library, however, was varied enough to cause some curiosity and litigation: the Justices of the Exchequer of the Jews were ordered to cause to be investigated whether any book can be found which is against the law of the Christians or Jews.
After the death of Henry III in 1272, Licoricia’s royal influence waned. In 1277, she and her Christian servant Alice of Bicton were murdered. The two women, both stabbed in the chest, were found at home by Licoricia’s daughter Belia. Though her sons Cokerel and Sweteman pursued three Christian men for the murders, the case was never solved. Her son Benedict was hanged on coin-clipping charges in 1279. On 2 May 1287, her youngest son Sweteman (Asher) was imprisoned in Winchester castle, where he scratched into the wall the following: On Friday, eve of the Sabbath on which the periscope [parsha] Emor is read, all the Jews of the Land of the Isle were imprisoned. I, Asher, wrote this.
Further reading
  • Abrams, Rebecca, Licoricia of Winchester, Power and Prejudice in Medieval England. Unicorn. 2022.
  • Bartlet, Suzanne, Three Jewish Business Women in Thirteenth-Century Winchester, Jewish Culture and History 3, no. 2 (2000): 31–54.
  • Bartlet, Suzanne, Licoricia of Winchester: Marriage, Motherhood, and Murder in the Medieval Anglo-Jewish Community Vallentine Mitchell. 2015.
  • Brown, Reva Berman, and Sean McCartney, David of Oxford and Licoricia of Winchester: Glimpses into a Jewish Family in Thirteenth-Century England, Jewish Historical Studies 39 (2004): 1–34.
  • Butler, Sara, Who Killed Licoricia of Winchester? A Medieval Murder Mystery, Legal History Miscellany. n.d.
  • Goldy, Charlotte Newman, Muriel, a Jew of Oxford: Using the Dramatic to Understand the Mundane in Anglo-Norman Towns, in Writing Medieval Women’s Lives, ed. Charlotte Newman Goldy and Amy Livingstone (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp.227–245.
  • Hillaby, J. and C. Hillaby, The Palgrave Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History. London: Palgrave. 2015, s.v. 1287, Mini-Parliament, Winchester: The Era of Licoricia, and Winchester, Licoricia of, pp. 35, 391–393, and 399–401.
  • MacLellan, Rory, Jewish History of the Medieval Tower of London,, [see Dataset nos. 39 and 58].
  • Meyer, Hannah, Licoricia of Winchester (d. 1277), ODNB. n.d.

Dates mentioned in records



Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Bedfordshire, Hampshire, Southampton, Warwickshire, London, Middlesex, Kent, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Cheshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire



View networkView family tree (experimental)


¶ Licoricia of Winchester is recorded as being deceased in this record.
※ Licoricia of Winchester is mentioned solely as the relation of another person; she is not present or involved in any business.
Putative social network for Licoricia of Winchester (experimental feature)
David of Oxford Licoricia Muriel Isaac Unnamed Sweteman Lumbard Benedict of Winchester Cokerel Floria Belaset Abraham of Kent Solomon l’Eveske Floria Belaset Muriel Unnamed Abraham Unnamed Samuel
Putative family tree for Licoricia of Winchester (experimental feature)