History - Hoxton Jewish Cemetery
The old Jewish Burial Ground sited on Hoxton Street, adjacent to Hoxton House, an asylum founded in 1695, was purchased by Marcus Moses on a 150 year lease in 1707, at a cost of 10 shillings a year. It closed in 1878, or perhaps early as this 1872 shows the grounds as ‘disused’. It then existed in an ever increasing state of dereliction.
Mrs Basil Holmes visited the grounds in spring 1895 and reported that it was sadly neglected with no grass and plenty of weeds. She said that there was an idea being considered to let the caretaker’s house to the adjoining lunatic asylum as a garden or yard, which according to a neighbour, was being used by a pack of rogues who climbed the walls each night to gain entry.
Presumably the lease was extended around 1857 when it would have expired, or it may have been purchased given that an article in the Jewish Chronicle (18/7/1958) refers to L. C. C. stating that they would make a compulsory purchase order to acquire the land if necessary.
In 1958 the Chief Rabbi agreed to the removal of the graves, there had only been one person who spoke in opposition at the council meeting, stating ‘Let the dead remain as they are, it is Holy ground’. In 1960 the few remaining stones were removed and resited at West Ham Cemetery.
Sadly no photos appear to have been taken before the cemetery was destroyed, nor were any records made of those buried there other than the translation of epitaphs visible in Dec 1929 recorded by Dyan Mendelssohn of the United Synagogue.
There remains just one description of the cemetery in the Jewish Chronicle article in 1958. Here the cemetery was described as being tucked away behind high walls topped with broken glass. The entrance being a plain door, painted green with no notice or signage displayed to tell those passing that a Jewish Cemetery was behind the walls. The reporter wonders whether even the locals knew what was behind the green door.
The cemetery is described as a peaceful place where birch and fig trees grow amid 500 graves. A pathway around the gravestones which were weathered and mostly illegible and footstones appearing amongst the flower beds.
It doesn’t seem much to remember it by, such an historic burial ground which existed for over 250 years, in use during a period of such importance to British Jewry, a site that contained the graves of many important community members. Can you help restore its memory? Did you ever visit this cemetery? Take some photos? Remember what it looked like? If so we would appreciate you contacting us via the ‘contact us’ link.