|320 Mile End Road|
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Greater London England
Postal Code: E1
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Mile End is the name for the area one mile from the boundary of the City of London at Aldgate, and the name goes back to the twelfth century.The original milepost was removed when Stepney Green station was built on top of it, and in fact Mile End as now understood is about half a mile further east.
The area was for a long time largely Jewish, and there are in fact, apart from the Old Velho Sephardi Cemetery, two further Jewish Cemeteries, just a block away -now closed but under the care of the United Synagogue. They are Alderney Road Jewish Cemetery and Bancroft Road. The New Spanish and Portuguese burial ground, (originally 4¾ acres.) was opened in 1733 when the old one (about 400 yards to the west) became full after only about seventy years. The site, when purchased in 1724, was called the "Cherry Tree" or "Hardy's Garden", but became known as the "Novo" cemetery. It was not needed until 1733, when it was enclosed, so until this time it continued as an orchard of cherry, apple and pear trees. This cemetery, like so many churchyards, was a target for body snatchers. In April, 1786 several bodies were stolen. The Times of April 24th 1786 reports that 'carrion hunters' dressed up a corpse as a man, then two of them taking it between them, conducted it to the house of the purchasing surgeon, as if intoxicated. A regular watch was held, the watchmen being armed with blunderbusses and used a special wheeled wooden hut, equipped with alarm bells, which was placed over each new grave. Body snatching only ended with the Anatomy Act of 1832. Burials in the new cemetery included those of the D'Israeli (Disraeli) and Montefiori families. For example Jacob Montefiori (1801-95) is there and he was the last surviving of the commissioners appointed by King William IV for the colonization of South Australia. The cemetery was enlarged in 1849 and remained in regular use until 1899, when the Golders Green Cemetery came into operation, though it was not officially declared full until 1922. In 1941 three large bombs fell in the cemetery destroying or damaging 80 graves and leaving huge craters. In 1972 the cemetery was purchased by Queen Mary College and it now lies within the Queen Mary and Westfield College grounds. The new college buildings are largely built on the older part of the cemetery. Some 7,500 remains and tombstones of people buried between 1734-1876 were moved, under justifiable protests, to a new site in Coxtie Green near Brentwood in Essex - see Brentwood Jewish Cemetery - where they were reburied in treble tiers. Sadly no photographs were taken of this section of the Cemetery prior to its destruction. The old boundary wall still stands on the western side in an unsafe state. The college agreed at the time to retain the surviving part of one acre (1/4 of the original site), as a garden, on a lease of 999 years. Interestingly, as with Brady Street Jewish Cemetery less than a mile to the west, there was an interment in 1998; this was a contrivance under law to protect burials for 100 years, so even if the College reneges on its agreement, the earliest that the rest of the cemetery can be destroyed is in the year 2088. 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 there is the cemetery,fenced off but not at all securely.The tombstones are laid flat (Sephardi style)and in spite of this, and their age remain in remarkably good condition.
(text by Geoffrey Gillon)