Page created: 21 August 2005
Most recent revision (re-formatting): 9 February 2016

© David Lewis

THE earliest reference to Jews in Hull is for a resident of 1766. The population grew until it reached a maximum of about 2,000 at the turn of the 20th century. During the large influx of Jews from the Continent in the 1880s, Hull was a main port of entry. The history of Hull Jewry up to 1880 is given in Israel Finestein’s detailed and authoritative account in the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society Vol 35 (1996-1998). Hull has five cemeteries for the Orthodox community and one for the Reform, holding a total of 2,500 burials. The exact year when the first cemetery was acquired is unknown, but evidence suggests about 1780, the date of the opening of the first synagogue. If 1780 is the correct year, this makes it about the ninth oldest provincial cemetery in England. It was in the Manor of Myton and Tupcoates, lying in fields to the west of the town walls, and later it was called Villa Place after the area where it was situated: today it is off Walker Street, half a mile south-west of the city centre.

Care and neglect

It was small, holding 50 burials, and we know only the names and dates of death of four or five Jews buried there. The most notable was Joseph Lyon, a community leader, who died, aged 56, in 1812, the year when the cemetery closed. From 1860, Hull Town Council kept it in order, but its interest waned and it stopped caring for the site in 1891. Subsequently, years of neglect followed until 1946 when Hull City Council began redeveloping the area. Around 1948, a local Jew chanced to be in the cemetery when contractors were clearing the surrounding area. He saw them enter the cemetery and, by mistake, also bulldoze it, and load the rubbish and headstones on to lorries for removal. Paradoxically, this act of desecration saved the cemetery because on three later occasions the council wished to exhume the remains and re-inter them in another Jewish cemetery but, as all evidence of the positions of the graves had gone, this would have involved the council in a systematic search of the whole area to discover the bodies. The cost would have been prohibitive.

In the local government reorganisation of 1974, Hull was included in Humberside County Council which was given the cemetery in 1975. In 1989, Hull City Council sold it and the surrounding area to the National Health Service which built two units on the land for children with mental and physical disabilities. Between these units is a children’s safe play area, with the cemetery in the middle. Its future is now secure as a pleasant meadow surrounded by a wooden fence.

The second cemetery was leased to the Jewish community by William Bell, an auctioneer, in June 1812 and they bought it seven years later. It is 250 yards from the first cemetery and was situated on the south side of Patrick’s Ground Lane, which later became Hessle Road. Today it is known as the Hessle Road Cemetery, and is near to Ropery Street. During the 1840s and the early 1850s pressure built up nationally to deal with the unhygienic conditions of everyday life. One result was that the Privy Council closed many burial sites throughout the country. In Hull, all sites within the built-up area, including Hessle Road, were closed. The order stipulated closure of Hessle Road Cemetery by February 1857, but this did not happen until after May 1858.

The most notable person buried there was Israel Jacobs, another community leader, who died in October 1853 and whose grave is now identified. Worth mentioning for the sublime Hebrew inscription on his headstone is Barnad Barnad, who died in June 1821. Instead of the mundane “he died” we have “he went to receive his blessing”, and “he was buried with honour”.

Clocking out

The burial of Abraham Samuel, a jeweller, is also interesting. He died in Scarborough (40 miles away) at 2 am on Friday, 23 July 1830. His friends, knowing he was “of the Tribe of Israel”, put him in a box and booked him in at the coach station as a clock for the 7 am coach to Hull. When the box arrived at Hull, the grave was dug and the service conducted before sunset, just before the start of the Sabbath. As reported in the Hull Advertiser (30 July 1830) it was all done “without loss of time”. As a former jeweller, it was pertinent that his last journey should have been as a clock!

The maximum number of graves this cemetery could have held is 120, but there is strong evidence that there were no more than about 75. This presents a serious problem: the size of the community was supplemented by many Jewish immigrants and migrants, and we know what the death rate was, so we can show that there must have been at least 180 deaths between 1812 and 1858. It seems likely that another, as yet unknown, site must also have been used as a burial ground.

Today, we know the names and dates of death of 24 Jews who are buried in Hessle Road and a further 17 who died in Hull between 1812 and 1858. Hull was the religious centre for a wide area, and 25 per cent of burials in Hessle Road are of people from outside Hull. In 1860 the Town Council took on the care of the cemetery, as it did for Villa Place until 1891, when the council agreed with the trustees of the cemetery to set it back 16 feet in order to widen Hessle Road. This was done after exhuming and re-interring in the cemetery the one person who was buried in the acquired area. After this, neglect, vandalism and the weather took their toll until today there are only 13 complete standing headstones with the others placed around the perimeter. We can identify 34 graves. During the past three years considerable effort has gone into recording and putting in order what is left of the cemetery.

Taharah house

The third cemetery is called Delhi Street, situated at the corner of Delhi Street and Hedon Road, 2˝ miles east of the city centre. The original plot was augmented by adjacent land to the east and, at a date between 1894 and 1908, by land to the north. In 1908, the council acquired a southern strip of land needed to widen Hedon Road. The taharah1 house in the south-western corner was rebuilt and the remains of people in the acquired land were exhumed and re-interred in the cemetery.

In 1865, there was a dispute as to whether Joel Farbstein or Lewis Marks was the president of the community. When Max Cohen sought to bury his infant son, he asked permission from Mr Farbstein. The boy was buried on Sunday 19 February, and on Thursday 23 February a letter was received by Mr Cohen from a solicitor for Mr Marks saying that the infant had been buried without Mr Marks’s authority. It threatened that unless Mr Cohen paid Mr Marks damages by 6 pm that night, the body would be disinterred. Mr Cohen believed the letter was an empty threat, but that same night a man gave Mr Cohen’s servant a box containing the body. A magistrate issued a summons against Mr Marks for this “great outrage”, and at the hearing committed him to the Sessions Court.2

When the Western Synagogue (Linnaeus Street) split from the Hull Hebrew Congregation in 1902, the Western acquired the northern part of Delhi Street cemetery. The Hull Hebrew Congregation moved to Osborne Street in 1903 and became the Old Hebrew Congregation and used the land in the rest of the cemetery which has been in continual use since 1858. Today it contains 1,240 burials.

Bomb damage

In 1941 a German bomb exploded in the cemetery, destroying the oldest (1858-1866) graves. The area is the grassed rectangle fronting Hedon Road. Sadly, all synagogue records of these graves, and records of Villa Place and Hessle Road have long since disappeared, but two of the earliest burials were of Catherine Daniel, September 1858, wife of Isaac, jeweller and silversmith, and a Mr Levi, November 1858, an interpreter at the police court. The professions of these two men encapsulate an important characteristic of the community at this time—many were jewellers/silver and goldsmiths, and many residents were from the Continent, or were continental migrants.

The Old Hebrew Congregation and the Western Synagogue merged in 1994 and today burials take place in the northern part: the cemetery is 94 per cent full. The rebuilt brick taharah house became dilapidated and was pulled down in September 1999. In January 2002 vandals attacked about 110 graves, causing a lot of damage.

Hull has always looked favourably on its Jewish community, and one mayor and three lord mayors are buried in Delhi Street. Pride of place, however, must go to Bethel Jacobs (1812-1869), son of Israel. He was a charismatic and gifted leader of the community, who was greatly respected throughout Hull.

In May 1889, Ella Street, the fourth cemetery, was consecrated by the Central Hebrew Congregation (Cogan Street, then Park Street, which disbanded in 1976). It is located in the Avenues area of Hull, which is 1˝ miles north-west of the city centre. A caretaker’s house and a taharah house used to stand near the main entrance but these have now gone and today a wooden taharah house (built in 1971) stands near the centre of the cemetery.

In 1928, the New Congregation (the Fischhoff Synagogue) in Lower Union Street was formed which also used Ella Street until it was disbanded in 1941. The site occupies 1.8 acres, holding 740 burials. It has sufficient unused space to become the main cemetery for the community. Notable persons in Ella Street include Miss Annie Shinrog, the celebrated headmistress of the local Jewish girls’ school (who died in 1985, aged 94), and Dr Mendel Lurie, President of the Western Synagogue for 26 years (who died in 1995, aged 98).

Lack of space in its part of Delhi Street led the Old Hebrew Congregation to seek a new site next to St. Giles Church in Church Lane, Marfleet. It is known as the Marfleet Cemetery, and is three miles east of the city centre. As the congregation was a charity, in 1935 it was able to buy the ground from an oil company at below market price. The earliest stone dates from 1935. Today there are 450 neatly ordered burials, the name, date of death and age of each person is archived and the archives can be accessed through the Hull Hebrew Congregation. The extensive unused (eastern) part has always been and still is rented out to a gardener.

By the entrance is a brick built taharah house of June 1973, which replaced an adjacent earlier one. Among the people buried here is Phineas Hart who died in 1952 aged 80. He was a saintly man who helped the many, often destitute, continental immigrants as they disembarked at the docks.

The sixth and most recent cemetery is for the Reform Congregation: it is situated in Tranby Lane, Anlaby, four miles west of the city centre. Today this holds 27 graves, the first dated February 1975. The land is owned and maintained by East Riding of Yorkshire Council for use by the Reform community.

REFERENCES    (returns to main text)

  1. The taharah house: a place where the body is purified and prepared for burial.

  2. Hull and Lincs News, 25 February 1865.

Back to Hull Jewish Community home page

Reformatted David Shulman, 2011, 2016



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