On 20th May 2009 David Snapper (who used to live, and work as a dentist, on Mapperley Road) took a group of us round the two old Jewish cemeteries. Generations of David’s family have been prominent members of the Nottingham Jewish congregation since the early nineteenth century.
For a history of Jews in Nottingham, see ‘Eight Hundred Years: The Story of Nottingham’s Jews’ by Nelson Fisher, published in 1998.
Briefly, Jews lived in Nottingham from the time of the Norman Conquest until 1290, when they were expelled from the country by Edward 1. They lived in the shadow of the castle, in St Nicholas’ parish.
Jews were allowed back into the country by Oliver Cromwell around 1657, and there is some evidence that individuals were in Nottingham over the next hundred or so years. The community began to grow, though, in the late eighteenth century, and by 1815 there was a synagogue (though this did not have a permanent building until 1890).
The community in general was not a prosperous one, but in the 1830s and 40s a number of merchants and hosiery and textile manufacturers came here from Germany, some of whom stayed to become prominent members and benefactors both of the Jewish and of the general Nottingham community.
In 1822 the town council leased 144 square yards to the community for a burial ground at the top of North Sherwood Street.
By the 1860s a new cemetery was required, and in 1869 Jacob Weinberg purchased land on the corner of Hardy Street and Southey Street and sold it to the congregation for five shillings. This served the community until the middle of the twentieth century, since when part of the Wilford Hill cemetery has been used.
David Snapper took us into both local cemeteries.
Some gravestones (mostly those made of slate) in the North Sherwood Street site are very well preserved, showing text in Hebrew and English (in one case in German). Otherwise they are mostly undecorated except for a Star of David at the top, containing the letters P.N. which stands for ‘To the Memory of..’
A notable exception was a pitcher and ewer, denoting the grave of a Levite (a hereditary position, servant to the priest or Cohen).
In the Hebrew text the Hebrew name is given: the first name and a patronymic, but the English text gives the usual forename(s) and surname. One grave is that of David’s great-grandfather, the Rabbi Rev. Lewis Goldberg.
We then walked along Forest Road to the Hardy Street site, which we found behind gates covered in sheet metal defaced by graffiti.
This covers a considerably larger area, part of which, adjoining neighbouring houses on Waterloo Crescent, is only grass. Here the graves are generally better preserved and provide a record of the community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with many family names still well-known in Nottingham.
Most of the photographs were taken by Kathryn Twigger ©.