We were recently contacted by Nicola Tucker, an art historian and artist with a passion for historic buildings. Nicola alerted us to the Newport Synagogue and Cemeteries Open Day being held on 22nd September 2019 and provided the following information:
Discover the unknown History of the Jews of Newport!
Newport Synagogue is a unique building surrounded by a peaceful green space and beautiful woodland cemetery, with fascinating memorials that are not normally open to the public. The Synagogue evokes the history of this nearly extinct community. Come and meet and greet people who want to nurture and sustain this building for the future, and explore the synagogue, cemeteries and its heritage.
The land and congregation date back to the Victorian era (1850s) when the Jewry thrived due to opportunities provided by a surge in trade, bolstered by the construction of new docklands. However, the community declined throughout the 20th century. After the war, families looked to the bigger cities for better career choices and economic security.
Since the 1850s, this particular community has had three synagogues, with the previous and largest being Queens Hill. However, on account of dwindling numbers, they moved to the Risca Road synagogue, which was subsequently converted from a cemetery prayer hall to what now stands today. Here there are two buildings: the synagogue and the ‘Ohel’ (prayer/burial hall) as well as two adjoining cemeteries.
The synagogue is a unique hexagonal building, extended by two small wings and fine double doors that open out on to the street. The main space has a domed ceiling designed to reverberate sounds of prayer and worship, as well as a stained glass window and a vintage Menorah. Items of interest also include the Victorian Chuppah (wedding canopy), as well as two Oak warden’s chairs, carved with Stars of David. There are also several framed tributes and plaques dedicated to members of the congregation. Some artifacts, including the original Minute Book and Torah scrolls, have been re-housed for conservation. This is probably the smallest synagogue in the country and one of only two in the UK with a cemetery directly adjacent.
The original cemetery (1859) is set in ‘Jews Wood,’ and its public walkway leads to the second cemetery (initially developed in 1946) with its grounds encompassing the grave sites of several generations.
Tours will take place every half hour from 10-4pm, as well as meet and greets with archivists and curators, displays of ephemera and much more. Traditional kosher refreshments will be served throughout the day.
Three shallow steps lead into the synagogue, and there is near level access at the rear door. The side lane has some uneven ground, and the modern cemetery is partly set on a slope. There is ample parking within the area (approx. 2 minute walk) and a toilet on site (non-disabled).
Please use the Contact Us if you would like contact details for the cemetery or to arrange tours.