History - Bath Jewish Burial Ground
With kind permission of Marcus Roberts Jtrails.org.uk© Marcus Roberts, www.jtrails.org.uk
The Bath Jewish Cemetery was founded in 1815 and its title deed dates from 1820.
Coombe Lane and the Jewish cemetery lie some two miles south of Bath. It is located opposite an MOD site, on the corner of Bradford Road (A 3062) and Greendown Place. The 'Foresters Arms Pub' is the easiest landmark, directly opposite the entrance to the cemetery and the ohel. The wall of Greendown House, 174 Bradford Road, further east, indicates the eastern extent of the small grounds.
Again, like many such Jewish sites, the cemetery was on the very edge of the City limits. The former city limits are indicated by an old boundary post opposite the junction of Coombe Road and North Road, the next street junction just to the east. The cemetery was also sited close to the entrance to a local stone quarry.
Overall the cemetery is a dignified and decent burial ground. Within its walls lie the Jewish people of old Bath. What is unusual is that there are no memorials to Jewish mayors or councilors, or folk with other distinctions or celebrity. The inhabitants of the cemetery are as low-key in death, as they were largely in life, and this gives as good an idea of the quiet ambiance of Jewish life in the city as any.
The cemetery is an elongated and irregular shaped plot, lying along the roadside. It is exactly 100 feet long, though its width varies from 30 - 40 feet. It is essentially a long rectangle with a small extension on the south side, a small patch of land 15 feet by approximately 40 feet. It is surrounded by rough stone walls about seven feet high. The former ohel is at the entrance near the pub. It is a small irregular shaped building with a large, now boarded up window, on to street. Inside there is a large fire place on the east wall, though the chimney is on the south wall suggesting a move of the fire place at some point. Indeed there is a closed off window opening close to the fire place. There is also evidence that the roof level was raised at some point as well. The door is on the north side right on the entrance.
Within there are about 50 tombstones, contained in several rows of stones; the majority are uprights, but there are five chest and horizontal tombs. Many of the tombstones have bi-lingual inscriptions, though a number are only in Hebrew. The overall styles of the stones reflect local Christian styles and indeed local (Christian) monumental mason have placed their company name on the margin of some of the stones. Some of the stones have attractive ornamentation. At the rear of the cemetery is a nice example of Cohanic hands. The tombstones of Abraham and D. Rees have very attractive urns and Levitical ewers on their heads. The first burial was in 1836 and the last according to the last caretaker of 1967 was in 1921. Twenty-nine of the tombstones date from before 1901.
At the rear of the plot there is a large regular raised terrace some four feet high, running along most of the length of the back wall of Greendown House. This appears to be another possible example of 'raised ground' i.e. a terrace of preferential or privileged burial, another example of which can be seen at Chatham Jewish cemetery. However the over-grown state of the grounds when we visited made it impossible to establish if this was discarded rubble and material from elsewhere!
A commemorative plaque is to be found set in the middle of the wall of the southern extension of the cemetery. Unfortunately there is no discernable trace of the original inscription what-so-ever.
Since our original visit there have been moves afoot, in Bath in 2006, to bring the cemetery back into decent order by the Friends of Bath Jewish Burial Ground. The cemetery is now the responsibility of the Board of Deputies