Inventory Site Record

Western Synagogue Cemetery (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

The site at Queen's Elm was purchased for the Western Synagogue cemetery in 1815 and it opened as the first Jewish burial ground west of the City, then known as Brompton Cemetery. The Western Synagogue dates from 1761 and is the oldest surviving Ashkenazi Synagogue. The cemetery closed in 1885, although burials in reserved graves continued until at least 1910. It became dilapidated after closure, but in 1897 Mr Ellis Franklin paid for its restoration, which was completed in 1898 and its maintenance was later provided for by the Adel Hopkins (nee Rootstein) Estate. The cemetery remains hidden behind high brick wall, but a number of taller monuments and its mature trees are visible.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Western Cemetery; Western Jewish Cemetery; Brompton Cemetery
Site location:
Fulham Road/Old Church Street, Queen's Elm
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: South Kensington (District, Circle, Piccadilly)
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

The small site was known as 'Queen's Elm Chelsea' after an elm tree nearby under which Queen Elizabeth I was said to have sheltered from the rain; the area was also known for its mulberry trees and the silk industry. The site here was purchased for £400 in December 1815 by the Western Synagogue and opened that same year as the first Jewish burial ground west of the City, and at that time it was known as Brompton Cemetery. An advance was provided by Abraham Rees and the names on the original Deed of Purchase were Victor Abraham, Moses Solomon, Philip Phillip, Aaron Lazarus, Emanuel Harris and Nathan Lewis. The Western Synagogue dates from 1761 and is the oldest Ashkenazi Synagogue that survives. There was formerly a small prayer hall and office building near the entrance, since demolished, and by the mid C19th the burial ground had been extended to the whole of the current site - compare Thompson's Map of 1836 which marks the 'Jewish Burial Ground' with the OS of 1894 or 1916 where the southern boundary is shown as South Parade.

There were at least 300 burials here and tombs are inscribed in Hebrew and English; among those buried are Solomon Hart (1806-81), artist and the first Jewish member of the Royal Academy, and Professor of Painting at the RA from 1854-63; Joseph Waley (1818-1873), first president of the Anglo-Jewish Association in 1870 and Professor of Political Economy at London University; Simon Waley (1827-75), stockbroker, pianist and composer; Zadok Jessel (1792-1864), merchant and father of Sir George Jessel, Master of the Rolls. According to Weinreb and Hibbert, 'special manuscript copies of prayers inscribed on vellum, for use at the burial services, were presented by Mr Victor Abraham' and were in use until the cemetery closed in 1885 by an Order of Council, although burials in reserved graves continued until at least 1910.

In 1884 the Western Synagogue had purchased land in Edmonton for a new cemetery for general burials (q.v.). The old cemetery soon became dilapidated after its closure, a situation that wasn't rectified until 1897 when a Mr Ellis Franklin, whose parents were buried here, paid for its restoration, which was completed by 13 July 1898. A sum of £20,000 was later provided from the Adel Hopkins (nee Rootstein) Estate for its ongoing maintenance, and a plaque erected at the gate on the corner of Fulham Road and Old Church Street inscribed: 'Western Cemetery maintained by The Rootstein Hopkins Foundation in loving memory of Adel Hopkins'. The cemetery remains hidden and is inaccessible to the public, the boundary with Fulham Road has a high brick wall, with numerous mature trees including ash and plane, but a number of taller monuments are visible. Meller describes this unexpected cemetery here as 'more typical of Prague than London'. Maintenance is currently undertaken on a regular basis, and the Western Cemetery Synagogue Superintendent is required to make monthly visits.

Sources consulted:

Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons, 'London Cemeteries, An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer', 4th edition (The History Press, 2008); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), p109; Chelsea Park / Carlyle Conservation Area Proposals Statement; David W Weatherill, article in monthly newsletter of the Genealogical Society of Victoria, August 2006; Arthur Barnett, The Western Synagogue Through Two Centuries (1761-1961); Cemetery Scribes website, www.cemeteryscribes.com: 'History - Brompton (Fulham Road) Cemetery'

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ268783 (526812,178307)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Western Marble Arch Synagogue
Site management:
firm contracted by Western Marble Arch Synagogue
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Chelsea Park / Carlyle
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.