Silently slumbering in suburbia with a pebble for remembrance – Part 1 of a visit to Golders Green, London

Golders Green Jewish cemetery

I was in Hoop Lane, Golders Green for an organised visit to Golders Green Crematorium which had been organised by the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery.  But I had arrived early and so decided to explore the Jewish cemetery that was opposite its gates. Golders Green has a large Jewish community and so I wasn’t surprised to find such a large cemetery.  I’ve never visited one before and thought that it would be an interesting contrast to the Crematorium.

The Jewish Cemetery is an imposing, large space, bordered on three sides by suburbia and on the fourth the Lane.    It’s owned jointly by the West Synagogue of British Jews  and the Spanish & Portuguese Jews Congregation and managed on their behalf.  The first burial was in 1897 and it’s still in use today.

When I visited I noticed that in one large section, the East side,  that all the tombstones were horizontal and on the West side that they were all upright.   It wasn’t until doing the research for this piece that I discovered that the East Side belongs to the Spanish and Portuguese Jews and the West Side uprights are the province of the West London Synagogue.

The cemetery is one of the few London Sephardic Jewish cemeteries and this is a form of Judaism particular to Spanish and Portuguese Jews.  There are some very well know names buried here which include Jacqueline du Pre the cellist, Jack Rosenthal the playwright, Marjorie Proops the doyenne of agony aunts and Erich Segal author of the tear-jerking 1970’s best seller, ‘Love Story’.    Although I didn’t have much time to explore it fully I did find two famous names inscribed on a horizontal tombstone – Saatchi and Saatchi.

Two familiar names from the world of advertising and art. copyright Carole Tyrrell
Two familiar names from the world of advertising and art.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

The cemetery also contains 24 Commonwealth Service Personnel  graves here which are maintained by the  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.   There’s 10 from the First World War and 14 from the Second World War.  I didn’t see them on this visit but next time I will make sure that I have more time to look round.

Near the entrance I noticed a bowl on a stand which contained small stones and pebbles. These are for visitors to place on their loved one’s grave.   It’s part of the Jewish faith and it’s customary for  people to leave  small stone on a grave.  I had already noticed several placed on various graves as I’d walked around the cemetery.     The protocol is for the visitor to position the stone on the grave using his or her left hand.  This demonstrates to other visitors of family members  that a grave has been recently visited and that the deceased hasn’t been forgotten.

There is a small building just inside the cemetery, near the entrance, which contains two halls for burial services but it wasn’t open when I visited.    It seemed a very plain cemetery without many floral tributes in evidence but I always find it fascinating how other cultures  and faiths bury and remember their dead.

I visited here in 2013 and despite my intentions to return I haven’t done so – yet.

©text and photographs Carole Tyrrell


2 thoughts on “Silently slumbering in suburbia with a pebble for remembrance – Part 1 of a visit to Golders Green, London

  1. I have heard of leaving coins on a tombstone but never just stones. Yet I have never visited a Jewish cemetery. Interesting that some markers were upright and some horizontal. Erich Segal I remember but not would have known about the agony aunt. I like the idea of a bowl of stones. Good post!


  2. Dear Coastal Crone
    Thank you for your kind comments. I wasn’t able to find out the reason for the upright stones on one side and horizontal ones on the other. It was quite deserted when I visited on a weekday and seemed quite empty without flowers and plants.


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