Thursday, January 24, 2008

One of Liverpool's Forgotten Burial Grounds

This article, written by E A Greene appeared in the Express on July 12th 1933.

I recreate it here for interest.

"Let us talk of graves," as Hamlet said.

A dull subject, perhaps, but a disused cemetery for instance may become an object of deep historical interest.

In a district which, a hundred years ago, was described as a quiet rural hamlet, surrounded by farmhouses, meadows, and market gardens, but which now possesses several cinemas, and whose previous calm is broken by the continuous clanging of numerous tram cars, the old Hebrew Congregation of Liverpool consecrated their third "House of Life".

A few yards from the junction of Kensington and Sheil Road is the old-world residential thoroughfare Deane Road, Fairfield, previously known as Dean Street, Edge Hill and "at the time of the opening of this burial ground about 1835, Fairfield" to quote Mr Philip Ettinger, "was just what its name implies, fields, fair and flowery; a hamlet and rural spot far removed from the city's noise and bustle. We can easily understand harking back to those far off days - days of slow locomotion and easy stages - how it must have seemed, particularly on such mournful occasions as were unfortunately inevitable, a wearisome journey from the city."

At the present day one would pass this "God's acres" (in this case exactly one acre), almost without noticing it, the stone facade of the entrance standing well back from the highway with tall railings and trees screening it from the public view.

Except for the fact that graven over the gate-way are the words "Here the weary are at rest" in English and in Hebrew, "After life's fitful fever they sleep well", it would pass for the entrance to an old manor house, as no sign of tombstones can be seen from the pavement. But if one peers through the old rusty gables, a distant view of a number of head stones can be seen.

The burial ground itself, which once stood entirely alone, is now completely surrounded by houses, built so closely to the high boundary walls, that at no point can any evidence of the cemetery's existence be seen by the passer-by.

How well do Gray's immortal lines apply here:

"Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
or flattery sooth the dull cold ear of death,
perhaps in this neglected spot is laid,
some heart once pregnant with celestial fire."

According to Mr Philip Ettinger in his "Hope Place in Liverpool Jewry", "In 1840 there was in Liverpool and its outskirts few plots of ground consecrated for Jewish burials. Of these the old Hebrew Congregation possessed three and the earliest was the ground at the rear of the dwelling house which had been used as a Synagogue in Upper Frederick Street.

This ground was opened in 1789 and closed in ----, it was only a small plot, actually the garden ---- of the Synagogue premises."

------- his memorials speaks of an earlier cemetery in Derby Street off Whitechapel but little is known of this plot and there are certainly no records today dealing with its history.

Mr Benas in his records of "Jews of Liverpool" quotes Picton thus "Hard by on the south side of Cumberland Street, next to Derby Street stood a small Jewish Synagogue said to have been built by some German Jews in the 18th Century. There must have been a small cemetery attached as fragments of tombstones with Hewbrew inscriptions have been found in the neighbourhood."

But to return to Deane Road. On entering the portals, one finds many fine monuments bearing respected names associated with the city's industries, some of whom it is recorded were born in far-off lands. There are many beautiful epitaphs; some as simple as "At Rest", others eulogistic as:
"Mark the perfect man
and behold the upright
For the end of that man
is Peace" - Psalm 37 verse 37

Another in memory of one who "By industry and integrity, acquired considerable wealth, a portion of which he bequeathed to the Hebrew endowed schools....his ardent desire was the advancement of his Jewish fellow-citizens, combined with his earnest hope that those who, like hinmself, had been successful in life, would also devote a share of their means to equally laudable objects."

And this revered woman should surely rest well, with these expressions of affection engraved on the stone marking the resting place of her mortal remains: "An attached wife and indulgent mother, her admirable disposition endeared her alike to family and friends. This monument is erected by her surviving children as a tribute of filial affection and a record of their irreparable loss."

The inscriptions are in both Hebrew and English and one outstanding epitaph is very striking. It reads "Here lie the mortal remains of Joshua Van Oven, who during a long life rendered eminent services to the Jewish nation. He died on the eighth day of Sharat February 5598 aged 72 years and was buried on the 11th of the same month with great honour by the congregation of Liverpool by whom this tablet is erected to his memory."

A rather unusual inscription runs "Claud Myers of Chicago who died on board the SS Majestic, June 22nd 1891.

...The old Majestic...the wonder ship of our be found mentioned in a retreat like a memory.

Deane Road Cemetery was officially closed for general burial in 1904 but there has been several interments since, one as recently as three or four years ago.

Judging by the general appearance of the neighbourhood, one may hazard a guess that the mortal remains of the "Weary who are at rest" here will be permitted to sojourn in their secluded retreat for many years to come.


JB said...

Fascinating article that Louise, a great piece of 'world in one city' history, thanks for posting it up.

Old Dick said...

It is interesting to know that there is also a native american burial ground somewhere near Tunnel Road, as in the film "Polterghist" when this burial ground was disturbed during the construction of the Job Bank it released countless evil doers into the area.....reaping havoc,on the local populous. I am usng one of my psychic energy machine the last time I was having a meeting in there, and although it did show no signs of intelligetn life, it did signs of a malevolent spirit with two heads and no heart.