Thursday 25 July 2019

Ireland's oldest Jewish cemetery to re-open to the public

Ireland's oldest Jewish burial ground – Ballybrough Cemetery, in Dublin 3 – is to be refurbished and reopened to the public more than 40 years since its closure.

Ownership of the cemetery, on Fairview Strand, passed to Dublin City Council a few years ago when the practical and financial realities of maintaining the graveyard and mortuary chapel became too much for the Dublin Jewish Board of Guardians.

This is how the cemetery looked when it was last
actively maintained. It is now considerably overgrown
One of earliest surviving Jewish burial grounds in Ireland and Britain, the cemetery was founded in October 1718 after a small group of Jewish families, some of them from Spain and Portugal, settled in the area. They leased and subsequently bought the 2,500sqm site, and, in 1857 built the mortuary chapel or gatehouse. The latter notes the construction date as 5618, the Hebrew equivalent of 1857.

Burials continued in the cemetery until 1900 (and, for one family, until the mid-1950s), when Dolphin's Barn became the main place of rest for Jews in Dublin.

Within the dilapidated boundary wall are more than 200 graves, most dating from 1800 to 1900; about 150 have headstones.

Although the cemetery has been on the Record of Protected Structures since 1991, it is now in a very sorry state, as you can see from the Google Street Map pic below.

No budget has yet been set by Dublin City Council for the conservation and restoration work to be carried out prior to the cemetery re-opening.

Ballybough cemetery mortuary chapel.
(Photo courtesy Google Street Map)
Fergus O’Carroll, Senior Executive Parks Superintendent of DCC's North City Parks District, told Irish Genealogy News that the first steps have been to carry out the condition survey and conservation plan; that plan will be presented for approval to councillors and the public in the coming months.

"The majority of the works in the first phase will be carried out on the building and boundary wall," he said. "Conservation of the monuments will be a longer term objective carried out with the involvement of the City Conservation Officer and City Archaeologist. It is intended to carry out minimal interventions to the landscaping and return the grounds to grass."

For more information about Ballybrough Cemetery and the Jewish community in the area, see 5618 and all that – The Jewish Cemetery, Fairview Strand, by Diarmuid G. Hiney, published in the Old Dublin Society's Dublin Historical Record in 1997 and available free at JSTOR.