Hidden historic gem gets listed

One of Plymouth’s hidden historic gems has been listed by Historic England.

The Jewish Burial Ground off Lambhay Hill has been granted Grade II listed status as a result of an application made by Plymouth City Council.

The burial ground is accessible only through a black door in an anonymous Barbican wall, but it is one of the earliest Jewish burial grounds surviving in England and the earliest outside London.

It also been listed in recognition of its well-recorded history, both in the form of paper records as well as the high degree of survival of original 18th and 19th Century material.

The burial ground was originally created in a garden by a member of the community, and then expanded through a series of purchases. Many of the inscriptions have been eroded since surveys were carried out in the 1930s but the earliest stones date from the 1760s.

Early tombstones are inscribed in Hebrew with occasional English transcriptions of the names of the dead on the reverse of the stones. The listing decision also says that records that the first burials happened in 1744.

The listing document also highlighted a number of interesting features including the terracing of the burials and the remains of a building against a wall, which is believed to have been an’ ohel’ for saying internment prayers over the dead body, with a possible watching chamber below to guard newly- interred bodies. This structure has now been largely demolished, or has collapsed.

Councillor Patrick Nicholson, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Strategic Transport, Housing and Planning said: “I’m so pleased with this listing especially as the decision recognised that this is one of the earliest Jewish burial grounds in the country.

“It’s a fascinating place and one which helps explain Plymouth’s story. Plymouth has the oldest Askhanasi synagogue in Europe and to have it confirmed we have one of the oldest Jewish burial grounds all helps celebrate our rich history.

“Many of the people buried here were tailors or other types of trade who supported the Royal Navy.”

The cemetery is owned by the Plymouth Synagogue and is locked but visits can be arranged. Last year an audio trail was created, thanks to funding from Vital Sparks, a Plymouth Culture project led by the Council and funded by Arts Council England. The scheme awards bursaries to community, youth and residents groups and is designed to inspire arts, culture and creativity in local neighbourhoods