300-year-old cemetery hidden in the heart of Dublin’s Fairview
Ireland’s oldest Jewish cemetery has been handed over to Dublin City Council
While this pebble-dashed time traveller may not have landed back from the future, it is something of a Tardis, hiding behind its walls something far bigger, older and more unexpected than most passersby would predict.
The house is the gate lodge of Ireland’s oldest Jewish cemetery, which will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2018. Both have recently been handed over to Dublin City Council by the Dublin Jewish Board of Guardians.
The gate lodge was built in 1857 – 5618 in the Hebrew calendar – 139 years after the cemetery first opened, as a defence against grave robbery and the theft of headstones.
The cemetery has almost 150 headstones with inscriptions in both Hebrew and English, but it is understood to hold about 200 graves. It was in use from 1718 until the end of the 19th century, when the Jewish community moved to the south side of the city and established a new cemetery near Dolphin’s Barn.
Just a handful of burials took place in Fairview in the early years of the 20th century, in old family plots.
In recent years, the grounds have become overgrown, and the board of guardians has lacked the resources to continue maintaining the house and cemetery.
“The Jewish community in Dublin is very much diminished, as are our funds. We decided the maintenance of the cemetery wasn’t the best use of funds, and the council expressed an interest in taking it over,” said Lance Grossman, chairman of the board.
He said he hoped the cemetery would be open to the public once it is restored.
“I’d hope it would be kept as an archaeological monument. I think it’s of historical interest. We’ve seen what the council did with the old cemetery near Kevin Street [now St Kevin Park], and I think if it was turned into a park like that nobody would be disappointed.”
The gate lodge and cemetery are both on the council’s record of protected structures. The council said detailed plans for their future use would be presented to local councillors once they had been prepared.
Local Independent councillor Damian O’Farrell welcomed the fact the council had taken over the cemetery ahead of next year’s anniversary.
“Dublin City Council have confirmed that detailed plans will be prepared for the upgrading/renovation of the house and graveyard. This will be an excellent addition to the historical and cultural offerings of the area and has been welcomed by the Ballybough North Strand Local History Group, the Marino Local History Society and local business interests,” he said.
“I will be following up with the parks department to ensure that a sensitive, constructive and professional plan is put in place, and I know that my fellow councillors will be supportive of any suitable plan.”