Lottery grant will restore cemetery

CLEAN UP: Saul Marks with some of the rubbish collected

HISTORIC Deane Road cemetery, where some of the seminal figures of 19th century Liverpool Jewry are buried, has been awarded a £494,000 grant to restore it to its former glory.

Today’s announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund will ensure that the cemetery is fully accessible and can be opened to the public. This will include new landscaping, a seating area for contemplation and a visitors centre. There will be a full restoration of the ornate Grade II listed archway on which is inscribed ‘Here the weary are at rest’ and the re-erecting of fallen gravestones.

Deane Road, which is off Edge Lane, was bought by the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation which held its first burial there in 1837, continuing on a regular basis until 1904 running alongside the reign of Queen Victoria [who reigned 1837-1901 - Ed]. The final recorded burial was in 1929.

Many of those buried there are some of the early leaders of the Liverpool Jewish community, industrialists, entrepreneurs, civic leaders and philanthropists, who made an impact locally, nationally and internationally. They include department store founder David Lewis and Charles Mozley, Liverpool’s first Jewish Lord Mayor. [Actually, Mozley, who was mayor in 1863-64, was not Lord Mayor, as that office was not created until Liverpool became a city in 1893 - Ed]

For Saul Marks, chairman of the Deane Road cemetery committee, the announcement is the culmination of more than six years’ work. He said: “I am thrilled that the work on such a worthy cause has come to fruition. It is a wonderful achievement for a band of very determined committee members who have worked very hard. One of the factors that made this project appealing to HLF was that it ticked so many boxes – Jewish history, heritage, architecture, environment, urban regeneration, community use and it will appeal to a whole range of people.”

There had been previous attempts to clean up and restore the cemetery which were unsuccessful until revived interest was shown by the Groundwork Trust in 2002. The cemetery had been subject to petty vandalism and fly tipping, some tombstones had toppled and Japanese knotweed and other foliage covered much of the site, in some places six feet high.

In 2007, a committee was formed which included Louise Baldock, Labour councillor for Kensington and Fairfield. As project co-ordinator she was successful in obtaining a £220,000 HLF grant [in fact, this grant was £13,800- Ed] which paid for consultants to help plan the vision for the cemetery which led to today’s announcement.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled, everyone has worked so hard. This will be something that can be used by everyone. And for all those people who do the lottery every week, this is one of the good causes where your money goes.”

Cllr Baldock described the many uses envisaged for the cemetery, once restored. She said: “It will be visited by school groups to learn about the Jewish faith and the Victorian era and about the people buried there who were influential in building our city. It will be used by genealogists and those tracing their Jewish ancestry, it will welcome artists and photographers, and for the people of Kensington, most of whom live in terraced houses with no gardens, it will be somewhere where they will be able to sit in contemplation.”

The bid was backed by five patrons, solicitor and philanthropist Rex Makin, a Freeman of Liverpool, actress Miriam Margolyes, Dame Lorna Muirhead, the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, and local Liverpool MPs Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger in whose constituency the cemetery is sited. [The cemetery is in Luciana's constituency, which is adjacent to Louise's - Ed]

Also buried at Deane Road are Moses Samuel, whose descendents founded the H Samuel chain of jewellers; John Raphael Isaac, an heraldic designer, lithographer and portraitist; Jonathan [actually Jonas - Ed] Reis, a banker and bullion merchant; Abraham Saqui, the famed Princes Road choirmaster and liturgical composer; and merchant banker Israel Barned, who died in 1858. He was chairman of the committee which bought the land on behalf of the Seel Street Synagogue, forerunner of Princes Road, which is responsible for the site. His name is also on the foundation stone of the Liverpool New Synagogue in Hope Place, which seceded from Seel Street and which is now the Unity Theatre. [Actually, Hope Place Synagogue was the third home of Liverpool New Hebrew Congregation. It was completed nearly 20 years after the secession from Seel Street - Ed]

The history of Deane Road has become a labour of love for Mr Marks, who originates from Little Sutton, near Ellesmere Port. A professional genealogist, he first became interested in the cemetery when he was asked to translate some tombstones [actually, I offered, I was not asked - Ed] and when he returned to Merseyside in 2004. He was encouraged by the late Princes Road senior warden Ronnie Bracey to become involved in plans to restore the site and launched what he dubbed The Payback Project. By now resident in the area, he organised teams of volunteers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to begin clearing years of refuse which had gathered on the site, much of it thrown over a high wall from homes on neighbouring Chiswell Street. Since then, the site has been maintained with help from the Probation Service, the Liverpool Youth Offending Team and dedicated volunteers.

Mr Marks, who in 2006 became Princes Road’s youngest warden since 1872, said today’s announcement sends out a clear message to the Liverpool Jewish community: “This should be a beacon for us when so many are negative and pessimistic about our future. When people are passionate and determined, anything can be achieved.”