Bath cemetery £50,000 facelift

By John Adler, January 14, 2010

The first stage of the £50,000 restoration of the old Jewish cemetery at Combe Down in Bath has been completed.

Disused for nearly a century, the Grade II-listed site with its re-roofed prayer house dates from 1812 and has 40 discernible Jewish headstones.

The restoration has been overseen by the Friends of Bath Jewish Burial Ground, a collaboration between Combe Down Preservation Society and members of Bristol’s Progressive and Orthodox communities. Support has also come from Bath Council and the Board of Deputies.

There are plans to use the tiny prayer house for an exhibition about Judaism and the history of Bath Jewry. The Friends also organise periodic openings of the cemetery to the public.

The restoration group is headed by Bath-based Alex Schlesinger, who said the project had been a focal point “for a mini-revival of Jewish life in Bath. It has brought several Jewish people out of the woodwork who I didn’t previously know.

“I became interested in the project because the cemetery is such an extraordinary relic of 19th-century Jewry. It’s like a setting from Dickens — literally a time capsule. Considering how long it has been disused, it is in remarkably good condition.”

Jewish life flourished in Bath during the mid-18th century. The organised community disbanded in 1904 through a combination of flooding at the city’s Corn Street Synagogue and an expired lease. The last burial in the cemetery was in 1942.

Last updated: 4:15pm, January 14 2010