Jewish Cemeteries At Risk

According to Jewish law Jewish burial grounds remain sacred places in perpetuity however old they may be

Sunderland's Georgian Jewish cemetery at Ayres Quay photographed in 1998 (Copyright: SJBH  Photo: Andrew Petersen)

Sunderland's Georgian Jewish cemetery at Ayres Quay photographed in 1998 (Copyright: SJBH Photo: Andrew Petersen)

Urban burial grounds currently suffering from extreme neglect or completely abandoned

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Birmingham, Betholom Row, Islington Road (1823)

Inherited by Singers Hill Synagogue but long since abandoned.  It is sandwiched between the railway, canal and major roads. The recent development of surrounding land as student housing was not accompanied by the restoration apparently promised by the developers. The erection of steel fencing has rendered the overgrown site completely inaccessible.

Glasgow, Craigton Cemetery, Jewish Section (1880)

Back in August 1999, our Survey was unable to locate the Jewish Section in this privately-owned burial ground because the whole site was badly overgrown, with vegetation in places reaching a height of six feet or more. Other old Jewish cemeteries in inner city Glasgow: Janefield (1853), Western Necropolis (1886) and Riddrie (1908), although maintained by the City Council and/or the Jewish community, have experienced serious vandalism in the past. A new inspection in August 2012 showed a distinct improvement in the condition of all these sites, largely due to Glasgow City Council's investment in cemetery restoration in recent years. Craigton has been tidied up and the tiny Jewish Section relocated although most of the monuments have disappeared. Riddrie has been tidied up by the Jewish community, using a scorched earth policy that we are keen to discourage.


London, Alderney Road Cemetery (1697)

This site, subject of the Susser survey published in 1997 (see Publications), is the oldest Ashkenazi cemetery in Britain. The boundary walls are Grade II Listed and the cemetery lies within the Globe Town Conservation Area. It has been well maintained in recent years by the United Synagogue. However, the caretaker's house (ca.1860s)  located at the corner of the site, remains neglected and unoccupied.  It appears to lie outside the scope of the Listing. In January  2013 rumours circulated that the house had been sold by the United Synagogue 'Subject to Contract' (the sales particulars were on-line). It was understood that there were plans to fence off the house from the rest of the site, a move that could require Planning Permission.   In April an outcry by the strictly Orthodox Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe apparently stopped the sale.

Jewish Heritage remains concerned that the threat to the integrity of this cemetery has not been lifted and that it is necessary to remain vigilant. We maintain our stated position that: -

1. The house, although rebuilt in the 19th century, is part of the cemetery.

2.  Burials may lie in the garden and under the pathway that currently separate the house from the cemetery.

3. Hiving off the house from the cemetery means the loss of an on-site presence to ensure continued maintenance. On the contrary, alienation of the house could lead to its inappropriate use and possible restrictions on access for visitors to the neighbouring cemetery. A more sensible course would be to repair and tenant the house as a form of 'enabling development' to fund on-going maintenance of the cemetery.

We are of the opinion that sale of the house would diminish the heritage value of the cemetery and effectively amounts to asset stripping.


London, West Ham Cemetery (1857)

This site, inherited by the United Synagogue, includes remains from the Hambro’ Synagogue's Old Hoxton Cemetery (1707) re-interred there in 1960. Serious vandalism, clearly anti-Semitic in intent, hit the national headlines in July 2005. Some 100 headstones were toppled and smashed in each case, and swastikas and other hate graffiti scrawled on graves and walls. The doors of the fine Renaissance style Rothschild Mausoleum, designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt in 1866, were broken. The mausoleum was commissioned by Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) of Waddesdon in memory of his young wife Evelina (1839-1866) who died in childbirth aged 27. Both are buried in it. The mausoleum was subsequently repaired and is now Grade II Listed, but the whole site is a desolate place where urban foxes prowl.


Liverpool, Green Lane Jewish Cemetery, Tuebrook (1839)

Founded by the breakaway Liverpool New Hebrew Congregation and inherited in turn by Hope Place (1857) and Greenbank Drive (1937) this cemetery has been 'left to nature' behind a high brick wall since the 1990s. Greenbank closed in 2008 rendering the cemetery truly abandoned. By contrast, Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation's  (Princes Road) cemetery at Deane Road (1836), with its fine Grade II Listed Greek Revival screen and gateway, has undergone a major restoration thanks to a generous HLF grant. Deane Road is the oldest extant Jewish cemetery in the city.


Manchester, Prestwich Village Cemetery (1841)

Founded by the original congregation that became the Manchester Great Synagogue (1858), this badly overgrown site constitutes the second oldest burial ground of Manchester Jewry, the second largest Jewish community in Britain, numbering some 35,000 people. It was inherited by Stenecourt, the 'Great, New and Central' Synagogue, along with the assets of all three defunct congregations. Historic silver was sold in London in 2011 raising about £100,000, none of which was earmarked for cemetery maintenance. However, we are optimistic that the newly-formed (2013) North Manchester Jewish Burial Board,  will concern itself with the repair and maintenance of closed cemeteries in the city as well as those that are currently in use. The efforts made so far by the new Board to set up a centralised system across the north of the city are very much to be commended.

Letter in Jewish Telegraph


Sunderland, Ayres Quay Cemetery (ca. 1780)

This was the first burial ground placed on our Sites At Risk pages back in 1999, the Survey having managed to locate it on a nearly inaccessible hill top between a slag heap and a factory. It contained the broken down monument of David Jonassohn, Victorian Jewish mining entrepreneur and communal leader. Retail shed development in the vicinity has since transformed the neighbourhood and a Friends Group was formed in 2010 spearheaded by a London based ex-Sunderlander and a local non-Jewish archaeologist. Jewish Heritage successfully pushed the Jewish developers who had acquired Sunderland Synagogue to donate some of the proceeds towards the restoration work at the cemetery that is currently in progress. The project has the support of the Gateshead Jewish community who have undertaken responsibility for future maintenance of the site.

Copyright © Text Sharman Kadish 1997 to date