Thursday, January 31, 2013

UK: Liverpool's Deane Road Jewish Cemetery Restoration and Conference

Liverpool, UK. Deane Rd. Jewish Cemetery. View during restoration from a large tree that was subsequently removed during the restoration.   Photo: Tom Fowles, courtesy of Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

UK: Liverpool's Deane Road Jewish Cemetery Restoration and Conference

The Deane Road Jewish Cemetery in Liverpool, site of one of Europe's most ambitious recent  Jewish cemetery restoration projects, will be the subject - along with other local cultural heritage efforts - of a one-day conference on heritage restoration on February 27, 2013.  The cemetery's  first burials were in 1837 and continued until 1904.  It was abandoned and overgrown for much of the past century.

Restoration of the site is substantially complete this year, though a rigorous schedule of maintenance and repair needs to be maintained.  The cemetery is still owned by the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation (LOHC), housed in the historic Princes Road Synagogue, one of the grandest Victorian synagogues surviving in the UK and the only Grade I listed synagogue outside of London.  The synagogue has been object of a continuing restoration project since the 1990s and has received several recent grants (2008, 2010) from the Heritage Lottery Fund for roof repair.

The cemetery project is developed with help  by an active group of  volunteers from the congregation and the larger community.  The volunteers maintain an impressive website about the cemetery and those buried there. The cleaning of the cemetery revealed many unknown gravestones and the volunteers have been researching and writing biographies of those buried in the cemetery.

There have been many attempts since the 1970s to clean and restore the 19th-century cemetery, but these have all failed.  A new effort begun in 2003 received nearly £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2010 and this has allowed a full scale restoration to proceed, from the impressive Greek Revival gateway to finally addressing the problem of invasive and destructive vegetation.  The size and scope of the project recalls that undertaken for the old Jewish cemetery in Florence, Italy more than decade ago.

The Liverpool: Conference on Heritage Restoration (Feb. 27, 2013) will conclude with a tour of the cemetery and celebrate its new condition.  Lessons from the project and other local preservation efforts will be discussed at the conference.

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