Chatham Jewish Cemetery
A rectangular plot, 31x 27 yards approximately to the rear of the Magnus Memorial Synagogue in High Street, Rochester, administered by the Medway Jewish Community. It is walled on three sides, and is reached by a path which runs along the west side of the synagogue. The cemetery is older than the synagogue, whose foundation stone bears the date 5th October 1865. A previous synagogue on the same site was described in a local directory dated 1847 as 'a small building of brick and wood about one hundred years old'. The books of the synagogue go back only to 1790 and the earliest gravestone decipherable in the adjoining cemetery is dated around this time. It is worthy of note that a combination of synagogue and cemetery is rare. Some of the graves are certainly older and there is evidence of a previous cemetery about half a mile distant on which now stands a cinema. There is a raised area some 7ft wide along part of the rear (south) wall. Near the synagogue there stands a large memorial, with a stepped base and surrounded by chains, to Lazarus Simon Magnus, in whose memory the synagogue was built.
Surveyed by Nicholas De Lange and Julia Neuberger, July 1975. The rows have been lettered alphabetically A to M from the rear (south) wall towards the synagogue.
The foregoing accompanied the incomplete transcription and survey which concluded in 1975 with Row F grave no.19 (Phoebe Solomon).
The survey was resumed during the summer of 1999 and completed in 2000 by Martyn Webster of Brighton who had undertaken a similar survey of the Jewish Cemetery at Dover (Kent Family History Society microfiche no. 1777). Unfortunately as he was not able to read or write Hebrew his survey at Chatham did not follow quite the same format as that of his predecessors. To overcome this shortcoming he decided to photograph all the legible stones so that those knowledgeable in Hebrew may still be able to read the legend without any further loss at this time to weathering and disintegration. He has nevertheless continued the row by row index already started in a manner that follows on as near as possible to the forerunner. This is how the finished work is now presented.
It is important by way of note to record that when this cemetery was first viewed by Martyn Webster in 1999 it was completely overgrown to the point of inaccessibility. Fortuitously in this same year a donation was made to the Medway community for the cemetery to be cleared of undergrowth and made accessible once more. It was in this way that the completion of the survey and transcription was made possible at all. The success of this clearance work may be seen in the before and after photographs in this collection, rendering this unique and fascinating site, unseen and unhinted from the High Street, to its original condition.
Martyn Webster offers his apologies for any errors in his transcripts (which were done to the best of his ability) and donated in 2005 to the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre, Strood as an addition to the already deposited archives of the community.
Please note that illegible stones have not been included in the searchable JCR-UK database.
The full Chatham collection may be viewed in the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain's Library and Resource Centre.
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