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Jewish and Congregationalist cemeteries at Ponsharden

A Scheduled Monument in Falmouth, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.1635 / 50°9'48"N

Longitude: -5.0893 / 5°5'21"W

OS Eastings: 179461.432268

OS Northings: 33846.335754

OS Grid: SW794338

Mapcode National: GBR ZC.GY1H

Mapcode Global: FRA 087L.743

Entry Name: Jewish and Congregationalist cemeteries at Ponsharden

Scheduled Date: 17 October 2002

Last Amended: 20 December 2019

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020815

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15581

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Falmouth

Built-Up Area: Falmouth

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Budock

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a Jewish and a Congregationalist cemetery, both
founded in about 1780 on a small spur at Ponsharden between Penryn and
Falmouth on the south coast of Cornwall. The Jewish cemetery served the
late 18th to mid-19th century Falmouth Jewish community. Extending to the
east and south, the larger Congregationalist cemetery served that
Nonconformist group in this area from the late 18th to early 20th century.
Each cemetery contains a single grave added later in the 20th century.
These cemeteries were established in about 1780 on land granted jointly to
both religious communities by Sir Frances Basset, Lord de Dunstanville.

The Jewish cemetery has a roughly rectangular plot, up to 22.5m WNW-ESE by
19m NNE-SSW, on the spur's western slope; the Congregationalist cemetery
extends along the spine of the spur and is also near-rectangular, up to
48m NNE-SSW by 25m wide overall, truncated on the north west side by the
Jewish cemetery. A steep scarp defines both cemeteries on the NNE side
where the spur was cut back prior to 1841 to level the adjacent main road
from Penryn to Falmouth; the scarp also created a small off-road bay,
which in included within the scheduling but which now forms part of the
adjacent verge, to serve the cemeteries' needs.

The entrance to the Jewish cemetery is near its north west corner in a
short wall extending from the NNE scarp. This wall and the entrance
doorway show several structural phases relating to a former building
considered to have been a small funerary chapel called an `ohel', shown
behind the entrance on mid-19th - early 20th century maps. Surviving
remains of this building include its initial-phase brick north wall and a
later-phase rubble east wall. Beyond this entrance area, the Jewish
cemetery is defined on the WNW and much of the SSW by mortared rubble
walls up to 1.25m high. Its joint boundary with the Congregationalist
cemetery is a hedgebank up to 1.3m high, with traces of rubble facing on
each side. A low rubble wall also follows the top of the NNE scarp above
its coursed vertical rubble revetment.

The Jewish cemetery contains over 50 recorded burials, of which over 30
have in-situ legible gravestones along with several fragmentary or
illegible gravestones, some displaced. The burials range from the unmarked
grave of Esther Elias in about 1780, with the 1790 burial of Isaac son of
Benjamin providing the earliest in-situ gravestone, which is Listed Grade
II, to the gravestone of Gershan Elias dated 1868. From 1790, recorded
burials number two to six per decade with peaks of eight and ten during
the 1790s and 1830s respectively. Some unidentified graves are expected to
date from the cemetery's earliest period before 1790. In 1913, long after
the Falmouth Jewish community had dispersed, permission was given for the
interment of a local Jewish publican, Nathan Vos.

The graves are aligned NNE-SSW, arranged in six neat rows ESE-WNW across
the plot. The earliest graves are in the SSW row and the date-range in
each row generally becomes later towards the NNE, allowing for subsequent
gravestone displacements and occasional later burials inserted into
earlier sequences. The gravestones are all upright, mostly of local slates
but some of fine grained sandstone, and most have curvilinear upper edges
similar to some of the area's non-Jewish gravestones at those respective
dates. Inscriptions employ Hebrew script, exclusively so before 1838 but
from that year most also include, in English, the name of the buried
individual and the year of death in the Jewish and/or Civil Calendar, a
shift in emphasis more evident by the last gravestone of 1913 which has
more text in English than Hebrew.

This cemetery served the Jewish community that developed in Falmouth from
about 1740 when Alexander Moses, later known as `Zender Falmouth', settled
there as a silversmith. In 1759 he petitioned the Bassett Estate for land
for a Jewish cemetery, apparently unsuccessfully. The cemetery was granted
20 years later and includes the grave of Alexander Moses who died in 1791,
by which time Falmouth's Jewish community numbered 10 to 12 families. The
headstone of his grave is Listed Grade II. The community broadened its
economic base into shipping and related trades, also becoming prominent in
local social organisations. However Falmouth's economic fortunes declined
as national communications improved by the mid-19th century; members of
the Jewish community took opportunities elsewhere. Only three families
were left by 1875 and the synagogue closed in 1879.

The Congregationalist cemetery is defined on the east side by a mortared
rubble wall, 1.5m high with chamfered granite coping where it stands to
full height. Lower rubble walls follow the NNE scarp crest and the south
and west sides up to the joint boundary with the Jewish cemetery as
described above. Its entrance is on the north east side where the roadside
scarp has a mortared rubble facing around a brick-arched doorway, which is
included in the scheduling. From the doorway a flight of steps, revetted
to each side by rubble walls, rises about 3m to the cemetery interior.

Beyond the top of the steps, remains of a mortuary chapel abut the
cemetery's east wall. Largely brick-built and plastered internally, it is
3.65m long NNE-SSW, by 2.55m wide internally; a doorway faces the entrance
steps while its long side facing into the cemetery has an opening 2.3m
wide. A levelled path passes the chapel, curving south west into the
cemetery. The Congregationalist cemetery contains over 100 graves, of
which about 65 have in-situ gravestones or more elaborate grave-markers,
with at least ten further fallen or displaced gravestones. The other
graves are evident as unmarked elongated low mounds. The densest
distribution of marked graves is in the centre and east of the cemetery,
while smaller numbers occur in the northern section, to the west of the
entrance steps, and over the western and southern peripheries, but
unmarked graves are also evident in these sectors. The graves in this
cemetery are also aligned NNE-SSW and roughly arranged in WNW-ESE rows,
but the rows are short with examples stepped out of line, and they are
discontinuous to each side of the cemetery's path. The grave-markers are
diverse. Upright gravestones predominate but with a variety of upper edge
shapes and worked in various stones including slates, sandstones, marble
and granite. Several are combined with kerbing along the sides and foot of
the grave; at least one grave is marked by a raised flat slab. Two graves
with collapsed surfaces reveal brick-lined grave cuts. There are four
elaborate mid-19th century family tombs: two have large kerbed plots with
iron railings, one containing separate upright grave slabs, the other, an
incised panelled plinth. The other two each comprise a sturdy, flat-topped
squared pillar with incised marble panels in each face; one, in the south
west section of the cemetery, is surrounded by tall railings.

Of 55 marked graves with readily decipherable inscriptions, all but one
record an initial interment in the period from the 1810s to the 1880s,
with subsequent interments occurring, in one case, up to 1905. There is a
clear mid-19th century bias, with eighteen graves from the 1850s and seven
to nine from each of the decades 1840s and the 1860s to 1880s. There is no
obvious chronological sequence across this cemetery; the earliest marked
graves are widely spaced suggesting an initial allocation of family plots.
The lack of marked burials from the cemetery's earliest decades is partly
a product of changing funerary fashions, with early burials to be expected
among the many unmarked graves. The exception to the 19th century marked
graves is that of Alfred Cook and his wife dated 1963, also anomalous in
its position in the cemetery's south east corner, well apart from the
earlier marked graves. Grave inscriptions often give the place of origin,
trade or profession of the interred, showing a wide catchment including
Falmouth, Penryn, Flushing and the Roseland peninsula; the burials include
at least one Congregationalist minister and several surgeons, such as John
Symons, buried in 1837. The Congregationalists, also known as
Independents, were an old Nonconformist group, emerging from the religious
debates after the English Civil War. They formed a very small proportion
of the population in Cornwall for most of the 18th century, focussing on
the few urban centres and attracting craftsmen and merchants. As with
other Nonconformist groups, especially the newer Methodist churches, they
had a revival in the later 18th and early 19th centuries, but they
retained their urban emphases. By the 1851 census, at their peak of
attendance, Congregationalists comprised 2.8% of Cornwall's population but
about 6.4% of the population of Falmouth. They declined in the later 19th
century and increasingly so through the 20th century, until in 1972 most
Congregationalists joined nationally with the English Presbyterian Church
to form the United Reformed Church.

The roadside sign and its posts and the Jewish cemetery's timber door and
its fittings are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath
them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The disused Jewish and Congregationalist cemeteries at Ponsharden survive
substantially intact despite some limited damage due to prolonged neglect
and minor vandalism. Their joint land grant provides an excellent example
of the increasing acceptance of, and provisions for, minority religions
and religious groups outside the Established Church during the later 18th
century. The duration and pattern of use of each cemetery reflect well the
periods of the growth, the flourishing and decline of their respective
religious communities, each of which played an important and distinctive
part in the economy and the social history of the area for which these
cemeteries provide one of the few tangible survivals in the present
landscape. Each cemetery also has features of significance in its own

The Jewish cemetery is one of only 25 such extant burial grounds
nationally whose foundation pre-dates 1830, of which the seven in the
south west of England form the richest and best preserved regional group
outside London. The Falmouth Jewish cemetery in particular provides a
good, relatively little-disturbed example of such a burial ground,
situated outside the urban area as required by Jewish law and with simple
upright gravestones in the Ashkenazi tradition but unusual in its NNE-SSW
orientation of the graves, against the tradition of aligning graves
towards Jerusalem. The surviving evidence for an ohel is very rare. The
cemetery also provides important evidence of the social development of the
Jewish community both nationally and locally. The well-documented
circumstances surrounding its foundation confirm its origins in the
mid-18th century expansion of the Jewish community from London into the
English provinces. Genealogical studies of those buried in this cemetery
have revealed valuable information on family and economic relationships
between the Falmouth Jewish community and those elsewhere in England and
beyond. Similarly important is the evidence for the community's cultural
development, in the clear influence of local non-Jewish traditions in some
of the gravestones' shaping and in the gradual introduction of English
onto the gravestones after 1838. Similar considerations apply to the
significance of the Congregationalist cemetery. Although more frequent
than Jewish cemeteries, the rapid decline in use of this cemetery in the
late 19th century has, unusually, allowed the overall layout of its
surviving physical features to remain unaltered since its detailed mapping
in 1880. The presence of this cemetery on the edge of one of Cornwall's
few substantial urban areas characterises well the urban social context in
which this religious group most flourished, in contrast with most other
Nonconformist denominations in south west England. The gravestone
inscriptions, and particularly the named occupations and places of origin
of those interred, provide valuable information on the otherwise
poorly-documented social composition of this religious group at its peak
of popularity.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dawkins, E G , The Jewish History of Falmouth 1740-1880, (1997)
Kadish, S, Falmouth Jewish Burial Ground, (2001)
Kadish, S, Falmouth Jewish Burial Ground, (2001)
Kadish, S, Falmouth Jewish Burial Ground in the Regional And National Context, (2002)
Pearce, K, Fry, H (eds), The Lost Jews of Cornwall, (2000)
Pearce, K, Fry, H (eds), The Lost Jews of Cornwall, (2000)
Pearce, K, Fry, H (eds), The Lost Jews of Cornwall, (2000)
Pearce, K, Fry, H (eds), The Lost Jews of Cornwall, (2000)
Orme, N , 'Exeter Studies in History' in Unity & Variety: A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall, , Vol. 29, (1991)
Orme, N , 'Exeter Studies in History' in Unity & Variety: A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall, , Vol. 29, (1991)
Orme, N , 'Exeter Studies in History' in Unity & Variety: A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall, , Vol. 29, (1991)
Orme, N , 'Exeter Studies in History' in Unity & Variety: A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall, , Vol. 29, (1991)
Orme, N , 'Exeter Studies in History' in Unity & Variety: A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall, , Vol. 29, (1991)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 18567, (2002)
Dated 5/12/00 & mentioning 1829 lease, Malcolm H J Summers Utd Reform Ch Admin Offcr, Letter from Utd Refm Chch to Penryn Town Clrk re disused bur grd, (2000)
Dated 5/12/00 & mentioning 1829 lease, Malcolm H J Summers Utd Reform Ch Admin Offcr, Letter from Utd Refm Chch to Penryn Town Clrk re disused bur grd, (2000)
Dr Sharman Kadish, Emailed comments re small building mapped in 1841 & 1880/1907, 2002, Dated 10/5/02 as appended to SM data
Most 2000-1 & in data appended to SM, Dawkins, Eric G , Corresp between Eric Dawkins & DCMS, Carrick DC, Utd Refm Church,
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SW 73 SE
Source Date: 2002

Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map of area around Falmouth Jewish Cemetery
Source Date: 1880

Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map of area of Ponsharden disused cemeteries
Source Date:
1880 & 1907 editions
Title: Tithe Apportionment Map for Penryn Parish
Source Date: 1841
Microfiche copy at CAU offices
Title: Tithe Apportionment Map for Penryn Parish
Source Date: 1841
Microfiche copy at CAU offices

Source: Historic England

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