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

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

Around Mile End with the the Sephardim (Spanish & Portuguese Jews)


Old Velho & Novo Velho cemeteries - Mile End Place - Albert Stern House

MILE END 1922 -The 2 patches of green on this 1922 map are, left to right, old Velho and Nuevo Beth Chaim cemeteries - double click to enlarge.

Queen Mary's College now covers a large part of Nuevo Beth Chaim Cemetery

Moving North from Stepney brings you into the vicinity of Mile End.  There is much to see if you know where to look - especially if you look behind Queen Mary's college in the Mile End Road!  Several treasures are hidden here. Firstly, if you turn off the Mile End Road and head North into Bancroft Road then turn almost immediately West into the grounds of Queen Mary's college, and then walk as far West as you can through Queen Mary's college, you will arrive at an old brick wall quite out of keeping with the modernity through which you have just walked.  The wall stretches a hundred yards or so to the North, and is the Eastern boundary of the Old Velho Sephardi Cemetery.  It is the oldest known Jewish cemetery in the UK.  It was opened in 1657 and closed in 1742.  It was the first Jewish cemetery to be opened following the readmission of Jews to this country under Oliver Cromwell.  A particular feature of Sephardi (Spanish and Portuguese) cemeteries are the laid flat tombstones.  This symbolises that all are equal in death - rich or poor, high or low - and you will see this in the photos below.  Abraham Fernandez Carvajal, the founder of the modern Anglo-Jewish community, is buried here as are Haman David Nieto, one of the greatest Sephardic spiritual leaders, and physician Dr. Fernando Mendes.  The map above shows you how the area around the cemeteries looked in 1922

Eastern boundary wall of Old Velho Sephardi Cemetery looking towards the former Sephardi old people's home at 253 Mile End Rd (Albert Stern House).

The 'street' running alongside the wall used to be callled Grafton St before its 'rearangement' by the Luftwaffe during WW2

Looking through the fence into the Old Velho Sephardi Cemetery. Note the tombstones are lying flat in the Sephardi tradition.

A favourite photo - another glimpse into the Old Velho Sephardi Cemetery - note the wildlife!

Old Velho Sephardi cemetery & Mile End Place:

On the far side of the Old Velho cemetery are the back gardens of the Victorian cottages in Mile End Place - one of London's hidden gems - and the place for a grandstand view of this remarkable cemetery.  Mile End Place is the narrowest of turnings off the Mile End Road just before the Sephardi Old Peoples Home at 253 Mile End Road.  Its entrance is under a narrow archway that opens up into a gas lamp lit semi rural idyll.  Blink as you go down the Mile End Road and you will miss it.  At the top (North) of the street runs the boundary wall of Alderney Road Ashkenazi Cemetery.  It is the place to live if you are interested in cemeteries!

Mile End Place looking North. The ancient wall at the top is the Southern boundary of Alderney Rd Ashkenazi Cemetery.

The Old Velho Cemetery is located immediately Behind 253 Mile End Road - Albert Stern House - the former Sephardi old people's home and hospital

Albert Stern House, Mile End

a 'Big Willie' tank being loaded onto a railway wagonFormer Sephardi old people's home and hospital, Albert Stern House at 253 Mile End Road (located in front of the Old Velho Sephardi cemetery) is well worth a visit.  Currently used as student accommodation for Queen Mary's College, it was named after Lt Col Sir Albert Gerald Stern.  During World War One Sir Albert Stern was secretary of the Landships committee responsible for the overseeing the development of the tank.  He confirmed the order with William Foster & Co Ltd of Lincoln for 'Big Willie' - the first tank.  A 'Big Willie' type tank is shown in the photo on the left being loaded onto a railway wagon.

The inscription on the plaque (photo far right below) outlines the history of the building and the origins of the Sephardi community in the UK.  The inscription reads as follows:
"This building erected in 1913 formerly housed the Beth Holim or hospital and old people’s home of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ congregation.  The hospital founded in 1748 was first established in Leman Street, E1, then in 1790 was transferred to this site.  In 1977 it was removed to Forty Avenue, Wembley where it now flourishes.  Behind this building lies the first cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled from the persecutions of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition to find religious toleration and freedom in this realm.  They founded in the City of London in 1650 the congregation called Shaar HaShamayim-The Gate of Heaven-which is still in existence.  It was the first professing Jewish community in the British Isles established in Modern times and formed the origin of the present Jewish community of Britain as a whole.  For admission to the old cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews apply to: The Secretary, Spanish & Portuguese Jews congregation……..etc."

Albert Stern House, 253 Mile End Rd. Two plaques adorn the building's front wall.

The right hand plaque begins with the inscription: "Foundation stone laid by Edward Lumbruzo Mocatta, Treasurer, Feb 1913"

Rear of Albert Stern House showing the cemetery - a nice view for an old people's home!

Plaque to the left of the red entrance door to Albert Stern House - former Sephardi old people's home and hospital, 253 Mile End Rd.

Another view of Albert Stern house - now used as student accomodation for Queen Mary's College

Left hand plaque on front of Albert Stern house - enlarge to read the inscription telling you all about Albert Stern House and the cemetery behind it.

Right hand plaque on front of Albert Stern house - 'This stone laid by Edward Lumbrozo Mocatta..Feb 1913...etc.'

The Mocatta banking family left their mark all over the Jewish East End - from the Mocatta drinking fountain in Aldgate, to Mocatta buildings in Brady Street and more

Novo Beth Chaim Sephardi cemetery

Moving East down Mile End Road along the front of Queen Mary's college for a quarter of a mile or so brings you to a small length of old brick wall.  This is a remnant of the boundary wall of the Sephardi Novo Beth Chaim cemetery that replaced the Old Velho Cemetery.  This cemetery would be located at 320 Mile End Road were it still to have a main road frontage.  However much of the cemetery was removed in the 1970's, and only some 2000 graves now remain from the original  9500.  The remnant lies hidden in the grounds of Queen Mary's College.  To gain access, turn left (North) off Mile End Road into Westfield Way.  Turn left again into the staff car park behind Queen Mary's Faculty of Arts building and you will come to an old brick wall.  Look over the wall and there is the cemetery.  It is called Novo Beth Chaim.  It was opened in 1733 and closed in the 1920s. Much of the original cemetery was excavated and removed to provide building land for Queen Mary's college. Note the laid flat tombstones (Sephardi style) in the photos below:

Plaque commemorating the 1733 opening of the Novo Cemetery off Westfield Way, Mile End

Remaining portion of boundary wall of Novo Cemetery on the Mile End Rd by Queen Mary's College

The grave of Isaac Cohen Belifante of 67 Brick Lane - died 1904

Isaac Cohen Belifante's house, 67 Brick Lane, is now The Brick Lane Brasserie

Novo Beth Chaim Sephardi Cemetery in grounds of Queen Mary's college, Mile End

Grave of Reverend David Piza - for 44 years the minister of the Spanish & Portuguese congregation (Bevis Marks). He died in 1890

Graves of two Montefiores - a famous name in Anglo Jewish history

Star of David outline with raised platform in middle, located at the Northen end of the cemetery.

Plaque located at Novo Cemetery, Mile EndThe plaque on the left is located on the Southern edge of the Novo Beth Chaim Cemetery, Mile End.  The inscription on it reads: "This cemetery, called the 'Novo' Cemetery belongs to the Spanish and Portugese Jews of London and is the remaining portion of their second burial ground, opened in 1733 and enlarged in 1855."


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