London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

The curious story of Bancroft Rd cemetery in Mile End, & Maiden Lane Synagogue, Maiden Lane, Covent Garden.

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Bancroft rd with the Mile End hospital in the background - formerly the Mile End InstitutionMaiden Lane Synagogue's Bancroft Rd cemetery (Globe Fields)Explorers of the Jewish East End may have come across a desolate Jewish cemetery at the side of the Mile End hospital in Bancroft Road, Mile End.  This ragged patch of black railing fenced land is the abandoned cemetery of long closed Maiden Lane synagogue of Covent Garden.

21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden - now Porterhouse Restaurant - site of of Maiden Lane Synagogue and birthplace of artist J.W.TurnerMaiden Lane, Covent Garden 2007This is the story:  In the early 1800's a dispute between members of the Westminster Synagogue - located in Denmark Court, the Strand - led to the foundation in 1810 of a break away congregation in Brewer Street.   They established themselves under the title of 'Amude Yesharim' (The Pillars of the upright).   By 1819 the community had moved to Queen Street, Golden Square. Numerous attempts at reconciliation between the Westminster (later known as the Western Synagogue, and today known as the Western Marble Arch Synagogue) and the break away congregation failed.  By 1826 the situation between the Westminster and Green plaque on wall of 21 Maiden Lane: "Joseph Mallord William Turner RA 1775-1851 -Artist- was born in a house on this site"Queen street synagogues was temporarily resolved when Queen Street's insolvency forced their closure and the auctioning of their assets.  Three years later the break away congregation reappeared under the name of 'Maiden Lane Synagogue' at a new site at 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden - the property where in 1775 the artist J.W.Turner was born - see photos left and view of Maiden Lane right. The synagogue was consecrated in April 1829.  Maiden  Lane is recorded as being a small place with seating for no more than 150 men plus 100 women in the ladies' gallery.

Bancroft Rd cemetery, just 1600sq yds in sizeThough never rivalling the Westminster in size, the break away congregation was able to purchase its own cemetery at Globe Fields, Bancroft Road, Mile End. Their new cemetery - just 1600 sq yards in size - had its first burial in 1811.  The Jewish Chronicle reported that by 1884 it had fallen into a state of disrepair and by 1895 it was practically filled up.  A contemporary London County Council report in a 'Return of Burial Grounds' describes the ground as: 'Crowded with upright stones, the grass neglected and having no paths between the graves'.  Meanwhile, the distinguished city solicitor and President of Maiden Lane synagogue, Mr Henry Harris, purchased land from the financier Samuel Montagu for a new cemetery in Edmonton and donated this to community.  Bancroft Rd closed except for reserved burials.   Maiden Lane's declining membership, combined with the responsibility of maintaining their cemeteries, brought on a financial crisis, and by 1907 they were bankrupt.  Terms were agreed with the Westminster Synagogue (by then known as the Western Synagogue) for a take over, and 100 years of separation were at an end.  The little synagogue at 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden closed forever.  One of the conditions of the take over was that the Western Synagogue would not be responsible for Bancroft Rd cemetery.  Notes in Arthur Barnett's book 'The Western Synagogue through two centuries' suggest responsibility for Bancroft Rd cemetery was transferred to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. 

Headstone of Ernest M Lazerick, member of Maiden Lane Synagogue, who died aged 27 in 1890Bancroft road cemetery was bombed during World War Two and little now remains accept for two or three intact headstones, broken masonry, broken bottles and other refuse that has been lobbed over the cemetery fence.  One headstone I was able to read was that of Maiden Lane member Ernest M Lazerick who died in 1890 at the age of 27 - see photo on the left.  Ernest M Lazerick is mentioned in the March 15th 1889 edition of the Jewish Chronicle as having played the viola in an orchestra playing sacred music at a concert at Jews' College.  One year later at the age of 27 he was gone.  The Jewish Chronicle of 3rd October 1890 records his death as follows:  "On 22nd September at 175 Westminster Bridge Road. Ernest M, the beloved son of Moritz and Pauline Lazereck aged 27 years...Mr & Mrs Moritz Lazereck and daughter return thanks for kind visits, letters and cards of condolence received during the week's mourning for their beloved son and brother"

An interesting footnote to the story of Maiden Lane and their Bancroft rd cemetery is the co-operation between them and the early Reform movement. In the Jewish Chronicle of 27th December 1907, under a paragraph entitled 'The Western and Maiden Lane Synagogues' , it says:

Bancroft Rd cemeteryIn 1842 the Maiden Lane Synagogue was enabled to render an important service to the Reform Synagogue in Burton Street.  This newly established synagogue had no burial ground of its own.  When Mrs Horatio Montefiore, sister in law of Sir Moses Montefiore and wife of one of the founders died, application to bury her was made to Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue and refused.  Thereupon the West London Synagogue entered into an arrangement with the Maiden Lane Congregation, and agreed to pay 50 per year for the right of interring its members at Globe Fields (Bancroft Rd cemetery).  Mrs Horatio Montefiore was, however, the only Succeeder buried there, as in 1843 the West London Synagogue acquired a burial ground of its own at KIngsbury Road off Ballspond Road, Islington.

Maiden Lane, Covent GardenIf you visit London's West End, don't miss the opportunity to take a stroll through the quaint alleyways of Covent Garden and Maiden Lane; and If you visit Bancroft Rd in London's East End, pay your respects to those still resting there.

Queen's Elm, Cemetery, Brompton Rd.  The inscription reads: 'This monument is erected to the memory of Rev Moss Barnett Levy, in testimony of the affectionate esteem of the members of the Western Synagogue St Albans Place for the faithful and zealous discharge of his duties as minister for 23 years.  He departed this life deservedly regretted the 6th December 5634/1873 aged 49 years'Postscript:  in 1815 The Western Synagogue - from whom Maiden Lane broke away - opened their own cemetery in Queen's Elm, Brompton Rd, Chelsea.  At that time they were located in Denmark Court and had been since 1797.  With the expiry of the lease on these premises a new synagogue was built in St A view across the Western Synagogue cemetery, Queen's Elm, Brompton Rd, ChelseaAlban's Place, Haymarket.  It was consecrated in 1826.  The St Alban's address is recorded on the inscription on the monument to the right - recently photographed in Queen's Elm Cemetery, Brompton Rd.  Rest your mouse on the photo to read the inscription.  Another view of the Queen's Elm cemetery is on the left. This cemetery closed in 1884 to be replaced by a new one in Edmonton, North London.  In 1991 the Western Synagogue merged with the Marble Arch Synagogue to form the Western Marble Arch Synagogue.  Their address is 332 Great Cumberland Place, London W1.  A notable feature of the location is the statue of Raoul Wallenberg in the street outside their building.

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Sources of information are various archive editions of The Jewish Chronicle, Arthur Barnett's wonderful book The Western Synagogue through two centuries (1761-1961), and personal observation.

website copyright Philip Walker