The Hebrew Congregation Cemetery adjacent to Talbot Square is the earliest surviving Jewish cemetery in Norfolk; another of the historic places that make this part of the northern city centre so interesting.
In 1813, influenced perhaps by the example of the Quakers who had established their own burial ground in the Gildencroft in 1670, Norwich's Hebrew Congregation leased a small plot of land in the Gildencroft for use as a private cemetery. The only alternative for non-Anglicans in that era was to bury their dead in Church of England graveyards. This was actually the second Jewish cemetery in the city in the post-medieval era, succeeding a now lost burial ground which is thought to have been situated somewhere near Marinerís Lane, the hillside road off Ber Street.
The Gildencroft plot was leased in the names of three local Elders: Mr Barnett Crawcour (a dentist), Mr Henry Carr (a merchant) and Mr Israel Jacobs (a maker of spectacles), plus a Mr Colman Michael, a merchant from Wymondham. In its early years there was no lane wide enough for a horse-drawn hearse or even a push cart to get to the burial ground, so coffins had to be carried on the shoulders of the mourners walking single-file down a very narrow track from St Martin's Lane. Later this was widened just enough to allow a hand-wheeled bier to be used.
It is thought there were only about 30 burials here during the 40 years it was in use as a cemetery. Here are the graves of several leading Norwich Elders, including Barnett Crawcour himself, who died aged 50 in 1835 (5595 in the Hebrew chronology); Simon Aaron, a jeweller from Elm Hill; and Judah Lieb Ben Mordecai, a licensed butcher or Shochet who died aged 60 in 1833 (5604) and is described on his headstone as ĎA sincere friend to the needy and a well-wisher to all mankindí.
Interments finally ceased in 1854 when The Burial Act prohibited further burials in churchyards and cemeteries located inside the old City boundaries. A new Jewish cemetery was established in the City Cemetery near Bowthorpe Road in 1856.
Henry Levine, The Norwich Hebrew Congregation 1840-1960:
A Short History (1961).
Ernest A. Kent, 'The Gildencroft in Norwich', Norfolk Archaeology, vol. XXIX (1946).
Text © Stuart J. McLaren, 2008, revised 2017
Plaque beside the entrance gate to the cemetery on
St Crispin's Inner Ring Road
Wall at the rear of the cemetery in Talbot Square.
Note: this brick wall is thought to have been built in the 1950s when the Council flats in Talbot Square were built. It was demolished by Norwich City Council in 2008, when it was considered to be in an unsafe condition. It has been replaced by a new brick wall, though without the Star of David seen here.
For more information on the history of the Jewish community in Norwich