Historic value of Willesden Cemetery is recognised by the award of a Grade II listing
- Credit: Historic England, Chris Redgrave
It is the first Jewish cemetery to have funerary buildings listed
The cemetary, in Beaconsfield Road, is the first United Synagogue (US) to be recognised by Historic England and is one of five buildings to gain this status, marking 70 years of the organisation’s role in protecting England’s historic past.
Each of the cemetery buildings plays a specific role in Jewish burial practice, from the central Prayer Hall where the coffin is received, to the Cohanim Room which was used only for those believed to be descended from the High Priest Aaron.
Speaking about the announcement, United Synagogue’s director responsible for burial, David Kaplan, said: “I’m delighted that our beautiful Willesden Cemetery has received this recognition from Historic England.
“Willesden Cemetery contains many significant figures and a wealth of history which is now protected and as a result will ensure that we can continue to showcase the Jewish contribution to British society for generations to come.”
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Debbie Mays, Head of Listing at Historic England said: “The diverse character of our land and its people is marked in the fabric of England’s buildings and places. For 70 years the most special historic sites have been protected through listing so they can be enjoyed by future generations.
“Born from the destruction of the Second World WarWorld War Two, listing has allowed us to ensure thousands of places keep their special interest and help to tell England’s extraordinary story.”
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In addition, campaigners want to open the cemetery graveyard as a site of heritage and need £200,000 to open up the historic site to the public. The cemetery sits within 21 acres and has over 26,000 graves, and is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the UK.
Hester Abrams, project development manager at the cemetery, said: “It’s still an active burial ground but there are very few active burials a year.
“We were thinking what can we do with the cemetery, could we invite people in to explore and find out more about the place? It’s like an encyclopedia, a kind of Who’s Who of the Jewish community in London over 200 years.”