The United Synagogue has been given more than £320,000 to restore Willesden Cemetery, one of London’s most important Victorian Jewish landmarks.
The money from the Heritage Lottery Fund is part of a £2m grant proposal that will pay for renovations as well as for a new visitor centre, a permanent exhibition and an online educational project.
Willesden contains the graves of Julius Vogel, the first Jewish Prime Minister of New Zealand; Lionel de Rothschild, the first Jewish Member of Parliament and his son, the first Member of the House of Lords; Jewish scientist Rosalind Franklin who helped discover DNA; Hannah Rosebery, once the richest woman in the world; and Jack Cohen, founder of Tesco’s, among other notable names.
Ahead of the organisation’s 150th anniversary, United Synagogue bosses said they were delighted with the financial help to revive the cemetery, with President Steve Pack calling on Jewish families to “get involved”.
US Heritage Chief Alex Goldberg said the money would help save Willesden for future generations. “We are looking to create an understanding of our past and what it means for the both our contemporary community and wider society today,” he said.
“That is why alongside renovating the cemetery we want to use both digital and more traditional educational tools to tell the story of our British Jewish community, the lives, culture and religion of those buried there.”
The project includes an initiative to increase the cemetery’s biodiversity and replant the Jewish medieval garden, after newly-discovered archived files revealed the original flora planted, many of which have links to Biblical or Psalmic references.