History - Cheltenham Jewish Cemetery
With kind permission of Marcus Roberts Jtrails.org.uk© Marcus Roberts, www.jtrails.org.uk
The cemetery is situated in what was the poorest area of the town on the junction of Elm Street and Malvern Street, which is between the main Tewkesbury and Swindon Roads leading north-west out of town. The Tewkesbury Road is a continuation of the High Street.
The cemetery was established between 1824-6 the earliest legible tombstone (to Sarah Rees) dates from 1836.
The cemetery has a small, plain, red-brick ohel (burial hall), which is approximately square in shape, which forms the entrance to the cemetery, though there is also a small wicket gate from the adjoining caretaker's house.
The oldest part of the cemetery is the top half running from the side with the ohel and caretaker's house. The oldest tombstones clearly face in two double rows into what was the central path running through the centre of the cemetery. As in other cemeteries this relict boundary also seems to be indicated by a tree. The cemetery like many others was enlarged in stages by the acquisition of small pieces of additional ground in 1844, 1860 and 1892-4.
Unusually the cemetery was not entirely walled in until a late date - some of the cemetery was open to the street or only railed as late as 1872.
The strip of the cemetery directly adjoining the ohel on the Elm lane side, was until more recent times the site of two slum-type of 'one up one down' cottage dwellings, originally called Worcester Cottages and latterly named Jews' Cottages, once they had been acquired by the congregation. These were brought in 1844 by the congregation as part of their cemetery extension, and also provided rents, but were removed in the 1950s to allow an extension of the cemetery.
The tombstones are well generally preserved, the earliest dating from the 1840s. Some of the oldest are in Hebrew only, but most are bilingual. Most of the tombstones are of a high quality but generally simple and unadorned. There are a few horizontal tombstones for Sephardi members of the congregation, including Solomon da Silva and Moses Quixano Henriques.
The cemetery contains the remains of Jews from a wide area around Cheltenham, for example, from Gloucester, Stroud, Hereford, Ross on Wye and Wales.
One interesting feature of the cemetery are the remains of several stone supports in the walls which once held stone plaques, or boards of some kind. Some three of the wall mounted stones still remains in place, two others are now leant against foot of the wall.
The tombstones of a number of the tradesmen noted in the business and residential addresses can also be readily identified - for example the headstone of Elias Meyers, a pawnbroker and silversmith, who died in 1870, can be seen. Also the tombstone of Elias (Lewis), Asher Dight (d. 1852), a local publisher and stationer of 170 High Street, can be seen. Dight also published the laws of the congregation in 1840.
One rather tragic tombstone is to Walter Emanuel Levason, aged 9, of Hereford, who drowned in River Wye in 1852. The same tombstone records the premature deaths of two other sons of Joseph and Rebecca Levason. Not surprisingly the tombstone is concluded with the Biblical quotation, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away..." Elsewhere there is evidence of child mortality and the perils of child-bed - the tombstone of Sarah Bella wife of Benjamin Isaacs recalls that she died in child birth aged 35 years.
There is one "absentee" tombstone memorializing Hannah Meyer, born in Great Yarmouth, but buried in the Willesden cemetery.
The cemetery remains in use and there is still some space left and it is very well kept.