Visiting Willesden Jewish cemetery is a little like coming across an ultimate who’s who of notable Jews from the last 150 years.
DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin, Tesco founder Jack Cohen and film director Michael Winner were all among those laid to rest at the Beaconsfield Road site, which is also known as “the Rolls-Royce of London’s Jewish cemeteries.”
Now a fascinating new exhibition at The Library at Willesden Green reveals more details about those who are buried here, as well as the history behind the only Jewish cemetery in England listed on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
Described as a “mini version” of the extensive visitor experience at Willesden Jewish Cemetery funded by a £1.7m National Lottery grant and due to open next spring, the exhibition features a selection of life stories and illustrative objects.
These include sketches by pre-Raphaelite artist Simeon Solomon, a photo of Lord Walter Rothschild – who set up the Natural History Museum at Tring – driving a carriage drawn by zebras and an 18th century set of Tahara ritual tools used in preparing a body for Jewish burial.
Curator Hester Abrams says: “We wanted to open up the history and the heritage, for people to better understand this place.
“Even though many cemeteries are out of sight, out of mind and at arms’ length from where the community lives, it will be worth coming to see this.”
The House of Life runs at The Library at Willesden Green until February 16, 2020, www.theus.org.uk/exhibition