Novo Cemetery at Queen Mary

In the middle of the Queen Mary campus, there is a cemetery. The gravestones are flat and worn, the history crying out to be explored.


In the middle of the Queen Mary campus, there is a cemetery. The gravestones are flat and worn, the history crying out to be explored. The Novo cemetery is one of the two exclusively Sephardic Jewish cemeteries in England. Sephardi (Spanish and Portuguese) Jews came to England in the 1600’s, at the time of Oliver Cromwell. They thrived in London, building the first synagogue in Creechurch Lane (near Aldgate station). The cemetery was opened for Sephardi Jews in 1733, and became the site for almost all Sephardi burials in London for 150 years. 

Notable burials in the Novo cemetery include Daniel Mendoza, the first Jewish English heavyweight champion, and Benjamin D’Israeli, grandfather of the Prime Minister by the same name.  

By the 20th century, the cemetery was almost full, and was closed. By this time, the Sephardi community had mostly moved away from the area. During WWII, the cemetery was bombed several times. Today, a large concrete circle marks the area in which gravestones were destroyed. 

To the side of the cemetery, you will see a circular washing basin and washing cup. There is a Jewish custom to wash one’s hands after visiting a cemetery, and to not dry your hands in order to not wipe away the memory of the deceased. 

I encourage you to take a few minutes to walk amongst the gravestones, looking at the epitaphs of one of the oldest immigrant communities to Mile End. The jobs people had, the families people created, the lives people lived is all a part of Jewish history. The Sephardi Jewish community is still thriving in London today! 


Recent News

QMSU's support for the current QMUCU strikes

Fri 27 Jan 2023

This is a statement of Queen Mary Students’ Union’s solidarity with the current QMUCU strike action.

Take Part In Our Cost Of Living Survey

Wed 18 Jan 2023

As Students' Union's, we want to understand you and your experiences so that we can better represent and suppo

Course Rep Of The Month - November Winners!

Mon 19 Dec 2022

Course Rep of the Month is our scheme designed to recognise and reward the hard work that our amazing Course R

Students' Union Winter Opening Times

Thu 01 Dec 2022

As we head towards the end of term, our shops and venues will be changing their opening times.

Queen Mary Students' Union to disaffiliate from the NUS

Fri 16 Dec 2022

National Union of Students logo

The Board of Trustees have released a statement on the Students' Union's disaffiliation from the National Unio

see more news