His­toric ceme­tery to get £2m her­itage facelift

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMUNITY - BY JC REPORTER

A £2 mil­lion plan to re­store the United Syn­a­gogue’s his­toric Willes­den ceme­tery, where many of the com­mu­nity’s most il­lus­tri­ous fig­ures are buried, has re­ceived an ini­tial £321,000 grant from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund.

The scheme in­cor­po­rates a new vis­i­tor cen­tre, a per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion and on­line ed­u­ca­tion project and is one of a num­ber of her­itage pro­grammes the US is look­ing to de­velop over the next five years in time for its 150th an­niver­sary. It will be re­cruit­ing a her­itage staff team and es­tab­lish­ing a her­itage com­mit­tee in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of listed syn­a­gogues.

Willes­den ceme­tery dates back to Vic­to­rian times and those buried there in­clude Tesco founder Jack Co­hen, a New Zealand prime min­is­ter, Julius Vo­gel, the first Jewish MP, Li­onel de Rothschild and sci­en­tist Ros­alind Franklin, a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the dis­cov­ery of DNA. From the arts world, buri­als in­clude band­leader Ger­aldo, ac­tress Yvonne Mitchell, artist Mark Gertler and film di­rec­tor Michael Win­ner. Mr Win­ner’s grave­stone was de­signed by three-time Academy Award nom­i­nee for art di­rec­tion, Crispian Sal­lis.

Al­though it still has the oc­ca­sional burial, the ceme­tery is vir­tu­ally full with 20,000 graves.

The first stage of the project will in­cor­po­rate main­te­nance and the restoration of some key fea­tures. The sec­ond part will in­volve pub­lic ac­cess and ed­u­ca­tion. A bio­di­ver­sity el­e­ment in­cludes t h e p o t e n t i a l re­plant­ing of a Jewish me­dieval gar­den, dec­i­mated in a wartime bomb­ing.

Dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod, the US dis­cov­ered Michael Win­ner’s grave archived files about the orig­i­nal flora, many with Bi­b­li­cal links. The hope is that fur­ther Lot­tery grants will fund the en­tire c o s t o f t he project.

US her­itage c h i e f A l e x G o l d b e r g said it was “look­ing to cre­ate an

u n d e r - stand­ing of our past and what it means for both our con­tem­po­rary com­mu­nity and wider so­ci­ety to­day. That is why along­side ren­o­vat­ing the ceme­tery, we want to use both dig­i­tal and more tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tional tools to tell the story of our com­mu­nity, al­low­ing vis­i­tors to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of where we have come from.”

The US pres­i­dent, Stephen Pack, added that “by learn­ing about our past, we strengthen our fu­ture.

“I am very proud that the United Syn­a­gogue is play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role in en­abling stu­dents from wider UK so­ci­ety to have a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion and insight into our com­mu­nity and

its his­tory.”

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