Remains of medieval synagogue uncovered under Northampton kebab shop

Archaeologists have discovered what they believe to be the remains of a medieval Jewish synagogue underneath a town centre take-away.

A survey of land underneath Kebabish and The Bear public House, both in Sheep Street, Northampton, has found what experts estimate could be the remains of an ancient synagogue, dating back hundreds of years.

The finds, which include brick walls and what appears to be a staircase, were confirmed using a state-of-the-art ground-penetrating radar.

Historian and Northampton resident, Marcus Roberts, who is director of National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail (JTrails), said: "We've been working in partnership with Birmingham University and we were able to get a ground penetrating radar to do a survey of the site.

"We found what would appear to be the remains of a substantial masonry walls under the cellar walls of Kebabish. It also showed what appears to be two walls going down 14 feet underneath cellar level.

"There was also a square or rectangular structure next to it which may well have been a stair well going down into the synagogue."

Last year, an archaeological survey of what is now Lawrence Court, in Northampton, discovered what historians think is the site of a 12th century Jewish cemetery.

Mr Roberts, who is leading the search with Caroline Sturdy Colls, a PhD archaeology student at Birmingham University, warned he could not be certain what the latest finds were without excavating the site.

However, he said all the historical records suggested Sheep Street was once home to a medieval synagogue.

Mr Roberts said: "I have looked through all the possible documentary sources for this and my research led me to conclude that this area of Sheep Street was where we would have found the Jewish properties in medieval Northampton.

"We cannot say conclusively this is the synagogue.

"But we thought we would find the synagogue there and what we have found is an extremely substantial medieval sunken building."

Mr Roberts says the discovery, which was made possible thanks to the co-operation of the shop owners and Northampton Borough Council, could also prove to be of national importance.

He said: "There are so few of these things around.

"There are very few remains of medieval synagogues in this country.

"There have been some structures that have been destroyed and apart from one structure recently discovered in Guildford there are no other medieval synagogues structures that I know of in England."