Photo archive allows virtual tour of Leeds cemetery

Relatives of people buried at the Leeds Hill Top cemeteries can now visit their graves online as the result of a photographic archive.

As the name implies, the cemetery — containing the burial grounds of a number of synagogues past and present — has a high location, above a labyrinth of mining tunnels and shafts.

In 2006, six graves and headstones in the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol part of the cemetery collapsed 30 feet into a suspected mineshaft, forcing Leeds Jewish Orthodox Cemeteries to close the site for repairs. The burial grounds reopened in June 2007 with assurances about their safety. However, following further subsidence, the site was deemed unsafe a year later and is now closed to the public.

Prior to the closure, the headstones were digitally photographed by Malcolm Sender and Lee White. An active Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain member, Alan Tobias, subsequently suggested that these be made available online through the society’s JCR-UK project.

When a user finds the name of a loved one, an image of the headstone is displayed together with some of the details from the inscription. It is also possible to take a “virtual walk” along the cemetery row to see who is buried in adjacent graves.

Mr Tobias said that positive early feedback had included compliments “from people who have seen the headstones of their grandparents for the first time”. The site would also be important to those who had moved way from the area, or were researching family history. “There can be a lot of useful information on a headstone.”
Work on incorporating burial details from other Leeds cemeteries is in hand.

Last updated: 11:23am, August 9 2012