History - Bancroft (Maiden Lane) Jewish Cemetery
Text version - Brief History of Bancroft Jewish CemeteryBancroft Cemetery
The cemetery was founded by a group of congregants who broke away from the Western Synagogue in the early 1800's. They called themselves "Amude Yesharim' (The Pillars of the upright" and, following a couple of moves, finally established themselves in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. In 1810 they purchased grounds for a cemetery situated in Bancroft Road, once known as Globe Fields, and measuring about 1,600 square yards **
The first burial took place in about 1811 and what, no doubt, started as a neat and spacious cemetery was reported in 1896 by Mrs Basil Holmes* as being crowded with upright gravestones.
Eleven years later the grounds were in a sorry state of neglect with no one apparently taking responsibility for their upkeep: a regrettable state of affairs which appears to be a continuous theme running through to the present day.
Public attention was drawn to the condition of the grounds in 1920 and in particular to the state of the walls. Responses to the appeal for help did result in the walls being repaired or rebuilt and some general maintenance took place.
There were renewed attempts in 1927 but it is unclear whether any work was carried out. And, as if community neglect were not enough, further damage was caused by bombs during the war.
In 1981 the Jewish Chronicle carried a request for descendants and their relations to set up a fund to ensure sufficient income for maintenance of the grounds.
Two years later the Jewish Chronicle reported that the condition of the cemetery was deplorable. There were no further reports until 1992 when, once again, promises were made to clean it up.
On a recent visit, the perimeter railings carried official notices from the Park Department of the Borough of Tower Hamlets requesting the landowner to contact them.
Meanwhile, it is understood, that talks between the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the United Synagogue regarding the financing of restoration and\or maintenance are still ongoing.
But the argument goes right to the heart of the Jewish Community: Should this near-derelict cemetery be saved? If the answer is affirmative, what costs would be involved and who should be responsible? And, if there is not enough interest - with the necessary accompanying finance, what are the alternatives?
We have no views and certainly no answers to these difficult questions, but the descendants of those interred in these grounds, not to mention Jewish Genealogists and Family Historians
may wish to open up the subject on Message Boards and Lists or within their own communities.
*London Burial Grounds by Mrs Basil Holmes, 1896 Fisher-Unwin.