An 18th century Jewish cemetery in Cornwall joins churches, a mosque, Canterbury Cathedral, and Stonehenge on Historic England’s list of Top 10 Places of Faith and Belief.
The Top Ten were chosen by the Faith & Belief category judge, The Very Reverend David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, from a long list of public nominations as part of the project “A History of England in 100 Places.”
The aim of the project was to engage the public in creating “a list of the 100 places, buildings and historical sites that tell the remarkable story of England and its impact on the world.”
The cemetery in question is that at Ponsharden, Penryn, Falmouth, Cornwall.
The cemetery opened in 1780 and closed around 1913. It is one of only 25 extant Jewish burial grounds nationwide founded before 1830. It lies adjacent to a Congregationalist cemetery founded the same year. The fact they were established next to each other tells us how society was increasingly accepting minority religious groups outside of the Established Church during the 18th century. “They are not only an important reminder of how different faiths commemorate their dead,” Historic Enland states, “they can also tell us about the growth and change in England’s religious communities and how this shaped the country.”
The cemetery is listed by Historic England as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The listing says:
The Falmouth Jewish cemetery in particular provides a good, relatively little-disturbed example of such a burial ground, situated outside the urban area as required by Jewish law and with simple upright gravestones in the Ashkenazi tradition but unusual in its NNE-SSW orientation of the graves, against the tradition of aligning graves towards Jerusalem. The surviving evidence for an ohel is very rare. The cemetery also provides important evidence of the social development of the Jewish community both nationally and locally. The well-documented circumstances surrounding its foundation confirm its origins in the mid-18th century expansion of the Jewish community from London into the English provinces.
The web page on the Cemetery Scribes web site lists burials and has photos of many of the gravestones and epitaphs.
In addition to the Jewish cemetery, the other sites in the Top Ten list for Faith and Belief include:
- Stonehenge and its landscape, Amesbury, Salisbury
- Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland
- Brick Lane Mosque, Spitalfields, London
- St Andrew’s Church, Ongar, Essex
- Canterbury Cathedral and St Martin’s Church, Canterbury, Kent
- Lady’s Well, near the village of Holystone, Northumberland
- Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, near Birmingham
- Farfield Quaker Meeting House near Ilkley, West Yorkshire
- Fountains Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire