The Hebrew Congregation Cemetery adjoining Talbot Square is the earliest surviving Jewish cemetery in Norwich; another of the features that makes this part of the northern city centre so interesting historically and culturally. Although strictly speaking it is located in the Church of England parish of St Martin at Oak, the construction of the Inner Ring Road in the late 1960s effectively cut off the Jewish cemetery from St Martin's and today it more logically fits within the ambit of
the St Augustine's area.
In 1813, perhaps influenced by the example of the Quakers who had successfully established their own burial ground in the Gildencroft in 1670, Norwich's small Hebrew Congregation leased a small plot of land in the Gildencroft for use as a cemetery. This was the second known Jewish cemetery in the city, succeeding a now lost burial ground in Marinerís Lane, a hillside road off Ber Street to the south of the city centre.
The Gildencroft plot was acquired in the names of four local Jewish elders: Barnett Crawcour (a Norwich dentist), Henry Carr (a Norwich merchant), Israel Jacobs (a Norwich optician) and Colman Michael (a merchant from the market town of Wymondham in Norfolk).
In the early days there was no road or track to the plot wide enough for a cart or hearse, so coffins had to be carried on the shoulders of pall-bearers down a narrow path from St Martin's Lane. Later this path, known as Quaker Lane because it leads to the Quaker Meeting House and Burial Ground in the Gildencroft, was widened to allow wheeled biers to be trundelled along to the grave side. It is thought there were about thirty interments in this cemetery during the forty-year period when it was in use.
Interments in the Gildencroft plot ceased in 1854 when a new Burial Act forbad burials in churchyards and cemeteries within the City walls. A new Jewish cemetery was opened in the City Cemetery off Bowthorpe Road
Although no longer used for interments, a local man was employed by the Hebrew Congregation as a gardener and caretaker until the 1940s. Now rather overgrown, it contains the graves of a number of 19th-century Norwich's Jewish communityís leading elders, including Barnett Crawcour, the dentist, who died aged 50 in 5595 (1835 CE), Simon Aaron, a jeweller of Elm Hill, and Lyon Mordecai, also known as Judah Lieb Ben Mordecai, a licensed kosher butcher or Shochet, who died aged 60 in 5604 (1844 CE) and is described on his tombstone as
Ďa sincere friend to the needy
and a well-wisher to all mankindí.
Henry Levine, The Norwich Hebrew Congregation 1840-1960:
A Short History. (Published 1961. The Millennium Library's Local Studies Centre at the Forum in Norwich has a copy of this rare book)
Ernest A. Kent, 'The Gildencroft in Norwich', in Norfolk Archaeology, vol. XXIX (published 1946).
Text © Stuart J. McLaren, 2008
Plaque at the entrance to the Jewish Cemetery
Star of David at the rear of the Jewish Cemetery in Talbot Square
(see note below)
The wall shown above is thought to have been built in the 1950s when the council flats of Talbot Square were being built. It was demolished by Norwich City Council's Property Services Department in 2008, after they decided it was in an unsafe and unrepairable condition. It has since been replaced by a new brick wall, though without a Star of David.
For more information on the history of the Jewish community in Norwich
For more information on the Gildencroft Jewish Burial Ground
To see a photograph of the Gildencroft Jewish Cemetery taken in 1936
(it's the 11th
photo down the page)