Antonio Rodriguez Robles

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Antonio Rodriguez Robles

Also Known As: "Isaac Barzillay", "Ishac Barzillay"
Birthplace: Fundão, Portugal
Death: December 1688 (63-72)
Immediate Family:

Husband of Ribcah Robles
Father of Gracia Robles; Esperanza Robles; Rachel Robles and Joseph Robles

Occupation: Merchant
Managed by: Alex Moes
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Antonio Rodriguez Robles

Antonio Rodriguez Robles. English Marano merchant and shipper; born at Fundăo, Portugal, about 1620. It is probable that he was one of the Neo-Christians who attempted to reestablish the Spanish dominion in 1641 (Kayserling, "Geschichte der Juden in Portugal," p. 307). He settled in London and was connected with the West-Indian trade. In 1656, during the war between England and Spain, two of his ships, "The Two Brothers" and "The Tobias," were seized and he himself was arrested on the ground that he was a Spaniard. On the advice of his coreligionists in London, Robles boldly claimed indemnity on the plea that he was not of the Spanish but of "the Jewish nation," and that he had come to England to shelter himself from the tyranny of Spain. He, however, admitted having attended mass in London; and the commissioners, on inquiring into the case, were doubtful as to his nation or religion, but declared that the balance of testimony was in favor of the fact that he was a Jew born in Portugal. The Privy Council ordered his release; and thenceforth there was no reason for any Jew in England to deny his race or religion.

Bibliography: L. Wolf, in Tr. Jew. Hist. Soc. Eng. i. 60-66, 77-86.

At the time England went to war with Spain in 1655, Antonio Rodrigues Robles had cargoes in two ships in the Port of London, both of which were seized. He petitioned for their release on the grounds that he was not a Spaniard but a Portuguese Jew, and that since England was not at war with Portugal he was not an enemy alien, even though he had formerly been Collector of Customs in Tenerife. His goods and papers were then released, which led Antonio Fernandes Carvajal and other crypto-Jews in London, whose cargoes were just as much at risk of seizure, to come out into the open as Jews and to seek permission from Cromwell to meet for prayers and acquire a cemetery.

We know that Robles continued to live in London and trade as a merchant, because he was endenizened in 16751 and his name recurs in the London Port Books,2 but he does not appear in the synagogue records. However, in 1665 Captain Francisco Machado told the Inquisitors in the Canaries that he had visited London in 1660 and again in 1664 and 1665, and that while there Domingo de la Cerda, Robles’ nephew, had told him that Robles held one of the highest and most esteemed offices in his religion.3 In another deposition Captain Gabriel Francisco stated that when he had been in London, Don Joseph Carreras had informed him that Robles was the sacristan of the synagogue.4

A. S. Diamond deduced from this that Robles had served as Gabay (Treasurer) of the synagogue in 1660.5 This identification makes it possible to establish his synagogue name. Since we know from the Libro de los Acuerdos6 that the Parnassim and Gabay in 1664 were Manuel Martines Dormido, Elias de Lima and Antonio Louzada, it seems likely that the conversations with the two ships’ captains took place in 1660, before the start of the Libro. However, in 1668 one Ishac Barzillay gave the following account which indicates that he had held the office of Gabay in 1660. In this case Ishac Barzillay must have been the same person as Antonio Rodrigues Robles, although, just to complicate matters, Barzillay also served as first Parnas in 1665. He wrote:

The Cedaka owes £80, which I paid in advance on the Impuesta for the action which the traders brought against us in order to drive us from the Kingdom, and there fell to my share the said £80 of the sum expended in its defence....

The event which occasioned this heavy expenditure was the petition of the City of London to Charles II in 1660 to have the Jews expelled, the unpersuasive reason being that they were exporting English cloth at lower rates than English merchants.8 The counterpetition of Maria Fernandes Carvajal and the other Jewish merchants was successful.9

The trading turnover disclosed in Ishac Barzillay’s Impuesta account tallies closely with Robles’ annual wine imports between 1675 and 1679, which averaged about 65 pipes a year, worth £2500 in London.10 In Abraham Zagache’s list of the Jewish community, compiled in 1684, Isaac Barzillay is shown as having a wife, three daughters and two sons.11 He died in December 1688,12 but his wife Ribcah survived until 1707.13 In 1692 his daughter Gracia married Jacob Escudero with a dowry of £667,14 which suggests that he left £2000 to his three daughters and probably a modest total estate of perhaps £5000 to £6000. His other daughters, Esperanza15 and Rachel Barzillay,16 remained single, but his son Joseph married Esther de Isaac Gomes Porto later in 1692.17

In 1695 a Poll tax was levied on the inhabitants of London, the records of which do not mention a Barzillay family, although the Widow ‘Robbies’ household appears in the parish of St Katherine Creechurch. She lived with her son Joseph, his wife Esther and their two sons Isaac and Abraham.18 The fact that in 1695 Robles was dead but his wife alive, coupled with the presence of Joseph and Esther Robles in the household, clinches the case that Barzillay was the Jewish name of the Robles family and that Antonio Rodrigues Robles and Ishac Barzillay were one and the same man. This supplies a new dimension to the life of one of the founders of England’s modern Jewish community. From the Libro de los Acuerdos we learn that he was elected a Parnas again in 1675 and was an active member and regular contributor to the synagogue.

1 W. A. Shaw (ed.) Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in England and Ireland, 1603-1700 (Huguenot Society: Lymington 1911). 2 Maurice Woolf, ‘Foreign Trade of London Jews in the Seventeenth Century’, Trans JHSE XXIV (1975) 47. 3 Lucien Wolf (ed.) Jews in the Canary Islands (1926) 202. 4 bid. 206. 5 .S. Diamond, ‘The Community of the Resettlement’, Trans JHSE XXIV (1975) 135. 6 L. D. Barnett, El Libro de los Acuerdos (1931). 7 Ibid. 58-9. 8 Trans JHSE IV (1903) 186. 9 Trans JHSE V (1908) 28-9. 10 Woolf (see n. 2) ibid. 11 L. D. Barnett, Bevis Marts Records, Part I: The Early History of the Congregation (Oxford 1940) 17. 12 Misc. JHSE VI (1962) 6, no. 107. 13 Ibid. no. 108. 14 M. Gaster, ‘The Ketuboth of Bevis Marks’, Misc. JHSE II (1933) 76, no. 11 15 Died 1740. Misc. JHSE VI (1962) 24, no. 842. 16 Died 1714. Ibid. 14, no. 438. 17 Gaster (see n. 14) no. 5. 18 Misc. JHSE VI (1962) 95.

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