The Jewry Wall Museum faces the Jewry Wall ruins and needs your support. Inside you can discover the archaeology of Leicester’s past and find out about the people of Leicester from prehistoric times to the medieval period. Complementing the Roman archaeology collections, there are fascinating artefacts from other eras. From ancient stone tools to striking medieval decorated tiles from Leicester Abbey, there's something to interest the whole family. The museum grounds contain one of Leicester’s most famous landmarks, the Jewry Wall, part of the roman town's public baths. It is one of the tallest surviving pieces of Roman masonry in the country. The celebration of Leicester’s roman history continues inside the museum, with stunning collections including detailed mosaics, intricate painted wall plaster and a beautiful Roman cavalry helmet cheek piece.
The wall, an impressive example of standing Roman masonry, is dated to approximately 125–30 AD, and so is nearly 2000 years old. It measures 23 metres long, 8 metres high and 2.5 metres thick. The structure comprises alternate bands of Roman brick and coursed masonry, of local granite, limestone and sandstone. In the centre of the wall are two large arched openings about 3 metres wide and 4 metres high; and there are further arched alcoves on the eastern side. The wall lies immediately to the west of St Nicholas' Church, which includes in its late Saxon and early medieval fabric much re-used Roman brick and masonry. The remains of the Roman town's public baths, lying immediately west of the wall, were excavated in four seasons from 1936 to 1939 by Kathleen Kenyon. The wall and some of the foundations of the baths are now laid out to public view. They are adjoined by a building housing the Jewry Wall Museum and Vaughan College, which stands on the remainder of the baths site (including the site of the three furnaces).
The wall appears to have formed the western (long) side of a large rectangular basilica-like structure. However, the precise character and function of this building has been a matter of much debate. When she began her excavations in the late 1930s, Kathleen Kenyon initially thought that the overall site was that of the town forum (of which the basilica would have formed a part). Although she modified her views when she uncovered the remains of the baths, she continued to believe that the area had originally been laid out as the forum, with the Jewry Wall the west wall of the basilica; but argued that in a second phase of building, only about 20 years later, the site had been converted to become the public baths. This interpretation later had to be abandoned when, in a series of excavations undertaken between 1961 and 1972, the true remains of the forum were firmly identified a block further east (Insula XXII). The Jewry Wall was then identified as the wall of the palaestra (gymnasium) of the baths complex, and this continues to be the explanation which is most commonly accepted, which is given in the official scheduled monument descriptions, and which appears in the interpretive material on site.
The name of the wall (first recorded in c.1665) is unlikely to relate to Leicester's medieval Jewish community, which was never large and which was expelled from the town by Simon de Montfort in 1231. One theory, which has achieved widespread currency, is that the name bears some relation to the 24 jurats of early medieval Leicester, the senior members of the Corporation of Leicester, who were said to have met in the town churchyard – possibly that of St. Nicholas. However, it seems more likely that the name in fact derives from a broader folk-belief attributing mysterious ruins of unknown origin to Jews. Such attributions are found at a number of other sites elsewhere in England and in other parts of Europe.
Disabled access is available via Holy Bones using Vaughan College car park where level access to the museum is available. Two disabled parking bays are available in Vaughan College car park, but as these also serve the college, availability cannot be guaranteed. The whole of the museum is on one level, the floor area to reception and most of the ground floor is carpeted and is wheelchair accessible. On event days there is a complimentary ticket policy for a carer. Jewry Wall has one accessible toilet which is situated opposite the entrance doors. The accessible toilet requires a key. The key is left in the door to enable easy access so you do not have to ask staff for the key to use the toilet. It has a lever lock, a grab rail and an emergency alarm. The sink in the accessible toilet is fitted with a lever tap, mirror and hand drier. Assistance dogs are welcome and water can be provided upon request. Jewry Wall Audio Tour: Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five.
Location : Jewry Wall Museum, St Nicholas Circle, Leicester, LE1 4LB
Transport: Leicester (National Rail) then bus - 1.1 miles. Bus Routes : 103, 104, 203 and UHL stop close by.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 16:30.
Tickets : Free
Tel: 0116 225 4971