|Alderney Road Cemetery||Tower Hamlets|
Alderney Road Cemetery is the oldest Ashkenazi Jewish cemetery in the UK, which opened in 1697. It was extended in 1749 and a granite plaque records that: 'Within this cemetery lie the mortal remains of the founders, lay readers and rabbis of the Ashkenazim community of this country'. The cemetery was closed in 1852 but remained with a resident caretaker. There are many fine tombs and a number of notable trees in the cemetery, which is surrounded by high brick walls.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2011
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Over the C17th members of the Ashkenazi community, which originated in Eastern Europe, immigrated to England and lived among the Sephardic community already established in the East End. They were initially able to use for burials the Sephardi Velho (Old) Cemetery (q.v.) in Mile End, but by 1693 needed to provide their own ground. A burial society was set up in 1696 and in 1697 the land for the first cemetery for the Ashkenazim community in London was purchased by a wealthy merchant, Benjamin Levy, who secured a 999-year lease for £190 on a plot of land owned by Captain Nathaniel Owen. Levy (d.1705) and his wife were both buried here. The cemetery was enlarged in 1749 with the purchase of a plot of land in Three Colt Yard, the two sections joined at one corner. The cemetery had a resident caretaker with a house in the grounds, who continued to live here after the cemetery closed to burials in 1852, and among those buried here is Nathan ben Mordechai Ire-land (d.1795) who had been a watchman in the cemetery for 50 years; the inscription on his tomb reads 'At this stone the guard is guarded'.
A detailed survey of the cemetery was carried out by Rabbi Bernard Susser. Most tombstones are inscribed in Hebrew, some now decayed; the older section in the north has a central path beside which are many fine chest tombs of the wealthy and well-known people buried here. A granite plaque inside is inscribed with the words: 'Within this cemetery lie the mortal remains of the founders, lay readers and rabbis of the Ashkenazim community of this country'. Among the prominent people buried here are members of the Franks family, including Aaron Franks, a founder of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and his daughter Phila Franks (d.1765), a beauty who was painted by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds; members of the Hart family, including Moses Hart and his daughter Judith Levy, founders of the Great Synagogue, Moses also bequeathing money to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, and Aaron Hart (1709-1756), the first Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazim community in Britain; David Tevele Schiff (1765-1791), the second Chief Rabbi of England. There are a few notable trees in the cemetery and the ground is surrounded by high brick walls. A survey of Alderney Road cemetery by Rabbi Bernard Susser was published by the United Synagogue in 1997.
The caretaker's house, built c.1860s, at the corner of the site, has now been sold by the United Synagogue, Subject to Contract (2013), which is of concern since it threatens the integrity of this important site.
Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons, 'London Cemeteries, An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer', 4th edition (The History Press, 2008); The United Synagogue website; Cemetery Scribes website, www.cemeteryscribes.com: Marcus Roberts 'History - Alderney Road Jewish Cemetery' (www.jtrails.org.uk); LB Tower Hamlets, 'Carlton Square Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Guidelines', October 2007; Dr Sharman Kadish, 'Jewish Heritage in England' (English Heritage, 2006)