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Campaign pays off as Victorian Jewish burial ground earns Grade-II listing

MP Corbyn opposed plan to exhume bodies and build a housing estate on site of cemetery

13 November, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

The Balls Pond Road Burial Ground

A VICTORIAN Jewish cemetery has been awarded Grade II-listed status by Historic England after community groups campaigned for years to protect the site.

The Balls Pond Road Burial Ground, also known as the West London Reform Cemetery, which holds many prominent Victorian Jews was granted Grade II listing on Friday.

Local politicians and Jewish figures celebrated the announcement this week, saying they hope it can now spark investment in the site to open it up for visitors and even potentially build a museum.

Councillor Jenny Kay, who represents Mildmay ward in which the cemetery lies, told the Tribune: “I’m thrilled that years of work with the West London Synagogue for British Jews and the Islington Heritage team has paid off.

“It’s very significant that Historic England have listed the whole site and recognised its historic importance.

“We’ll be accelerating the work we’ve been doing with Mildmay residents and the synagogue, and seeking funding to make the site a community asset.”

The cemetery in Kingsbury Road was founded in 1843 and is owned by the West London Synagogue.

Prominent early WLS members such as the de Stern, Goldsmid and Mocatta families, are buried there.

Other notable burials include the ashes of poet and novelist Amy Levy, who was the first Jewish woman to attend Cambridge University.

The listing was awarded because it is the first cemetery of the Jewish Reform Movement in Britain and the last resting place of those who inspired and shaped the modernising movement including its founders, wealthy patrons and religious leaders.

It is also widely regarded as “the most significant Jewish Reform Cemetery in England”, the Historic England citation says, and it reflects a period of “considerable and significant” social change for Jews in England.

WLS volunteer coordinator Linda Stone said: “We are very excited after all this time it has come through and we are looking forward to working with Islington in the future.”

Town Hall crime chief Cllr Sue Lukes, who is Jewish, said: “The Jewish Cemetery near Balls Pond Road has finally been ­listed.

“Thanks especially to Jeremy Corbyn who fought so hard to save it from demolition.”

She added: “Now to see how we celebrate its importance in the history of British Jews and especially our women leaders.”

In the mid-1980s there was a plan to exhume the bodies from the cemetery and build a housing estate in its place.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn backed the opposition to this scheme. Hearing that the site had now achieved listed status, he told the Tribune: “I think it is absolutely brilliant news and I am really pleased for all those involved in the campaigns through the years.”

He added: “It’s a lovely spot and it says a great deal about the staying power and vibrancy of the Jewish community in London and the contribution they have made. I will support any campaign to get more resources into the cemetery.”


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