Prayer Hall Building, Hoop Lane Jewish Cemetery


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Hoop Lane, Golders Green, London


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Statutory Address:
Hoop Lane, Golders Green, London

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Barnet (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Ohel (Jewish prayer hall) building, providing both Reform and Sephardi prayer halls, built by 1897 in an eclectic style combining elements of Romanesque, Byzantine and Arts and Crafts; the architects were Davis and Emanuel.

Reasons for Designation

The prayer hall building at Hoop Lane Jewish Cemetery, built in 1895-1897 to the designs of Davis and Emmanuel, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a distinctive Jewish funerary building in a well-detailed and successfully eclectic style combining Romanesque, Byzantine and Arts and Crafts elements, by the prominent Jewish architectural practice Davis and Emanuel;

* the form of the building, combining prayer halls for both Reform and Sephardi congregations, is unique in the country;

* the balanced prayer halls, linked by a carriage arch, make an imposing portal to the burial areas;

* the building survives very well.

Historic interest:

* the double form of the building reflects the remarkable collaborative enterprise of the cemetery, shared from the first between the Reform and Spanish and Portuguese congregations;

* Jewish Ohels, or funerary prayer halls, survive in relatively small numbers; the eastern section of the building represents the only surviving Ohel in the country dedicated specifically to Sephardi use;

* the scale and quality of the building reflect the status of the cemetery, which served as the primary burial place for both congregations.

Group value:

* the prayer hall building forms the focal point within the landscape of Hoop Lane Jewish Cemetery, registered at Grade II, and has a close relationship with the site’s entrance gateway, listed at Grade II. The listed buildings of the 1902 Golders Green Crematorium immediately opposite respond to the slightly earlier cemetery building; the crematorium landscape is registered at Grade I; immediately to the south-west of the cemetery is the Grade II-listed Roman Catholic Church of St Edward the Confessor. Within the Reform part of the cemetery is the unlisted tomb of Henry David Davis, one of the architects of the ohel building.


The West London Synagogue of British Jews was established in 1840 as a breakaway congregation by 24 disaffected members of the Bevis Marks Synagogue – the principal synagogue of the Sephardi Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent – and the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place, which served the Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. The intention was to form a prayer group for ‘neither German nor Portuguese but British Jews’; this congregation would go on to become the first in Britain to adopt Reform Judaism. Its founders, who included individuals from the wealthy and influential Mocatta and Goldsmid families, were initially prompted by the refusal of the City synagogues to countenance a West End congregation, but reforms to synagogue ritual and religious observance were soon adopted. Services were no longer conducted solely in Hebrew but in a mixture of Hebrew and English, prominence was given to moral commands over ritual observances, meaning, for instance, that it was permissible to drive to the synagogue on the Sabbath; and some sections of liturgy were omitted if they no longer corresponded to the beliefs of the congregation.

The Burton Street Chapel, Bloomsbury, was converted for use as a synagogue and consecrated in January 1842; this was succeeded in 1849 by the Margaret Street Synagogue, probably another conversion, overseen by David Mocatta. By the mid-1860s, a larger building was required, and the firm of Davis and Emanuel was engaged to build the synagogue in Upper Berkeley Street, completed in 1870 and still in use today. Both Henry David Davis (1839-1915) and Barrow Emanuel (1841-1904) were members of the West London Synagogue. This was their first commission for a religious building; they would go on to design the East London Synagogue at Stepney Green (1876-1877) – built under the auspices of the Ashkenazi United Synagogue – and also the Sephardi synagogue at Maida Vale (1896), as well as the prayer hall or ‘ohel’ building at Hoop Lane Cemetery.

The West London Synagogue opened its first burial ground in 1843, having secured a plot of land at Balls Pond Road, Islington (the cemetery is officially known as Kingsbury Road). By the late 19th century a larger burial ground was needed and a site of some 15 acres of farmland was found on the north side of Hoop Lane, near the hamlet of Golders Green; this was purchased for £3000 in 1894. Discussions had been underway for some time with the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation about the possibility of the two communities maintaining a site together; in 1896 eight acres were sold for Sephardi burial, and the two cemeteries were established, divided by an avenue. Davis and Emanuel’s Ohel building was designed to provide two prayer halls, one for each community. The building has been described as being ‘the closest Anglo-Jewry got to the Continental model of an architect designed Jewish cemetery complex fronting a public street’, though it is noted that ‘the complex is set well back from the street, unlike equivalent examples in Germany’ (Kadish, Jewish Funerary Architecture in Britain and Ireland since 1656, 2011). The Jewish Chronicle noted that 'Both congregations are mutually appreciative of the courtesy and good feeling extended to each by the other, and have expressed resolutions expressing this, and also the hope that they may long continue to co-operate for the benefit of a common Judaism'. The first interment, in the Reform section, took place in 1897. Hoop Lane became the primary burial place for both communities, though the Sephardi Novo Cemetery in Mile End remained open for adult burials until 1906, and for child burials until 1918, whilst reserved plots at Balls Pond Road continued to be taken up until 1952. A Conjoint Committee of the two synagogues was set up to administer the ground, with rules established relating to grave sizes, and approval to be sought for tombstone designs. At first, only the southern sections were laid out, with the cemeteries gradually developing northwards into the site as more grave spaces were required. Two plots have been sold at the northern end of the cemetery: in 1935-1936 the North Western Reform Synagogue was built at the end of Alyth Gardens to the west, and in the 1970s housing was built to the east.

In 1902 London’s first crematorium was established on the south side of Hoop Lane. In 1907 the London Underground transport network was extended to Golders Green, following which the fields surrounding the cemetery were developed for housing, with Hampstead Garden Suburb immediately to the north and east. Jews began to settle in Golders Green just before the First World War and by 1930 the area was known being as a place with a large Jewish population. The Hoop Lane Jewish Cemetery remains open for new burials, mainly in reserved plots. A jointly-administered successor ground opened at Edgewarebury in 1973.


Ohel (Jewish prayer hall) building, providing both Reform and Sephardi prayer halls, built by 1897 in an eclectic style combining elements of Romanesque, Byzantine and Arts and Crafts; the architects were Davis and Emanuel.

MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond, banded with sandstone, with terracotta ornament. The deep pitched roof is covered with plain tiles; there are brick chimney stacks with octagonal shafts, and stone shoulders and capping. Over each Ohel is a small gabled ventilation opening, with a finial. Running beneath the roof eaves is a decorative terracotta Lombardy frieze. The building retains the original metal-framed windows with cathedral glass and coloured marginal lights.

PLAN: the building is a long rectangle, set on a west/east axis, with the central porte-corchère aligned with the main cemetery entrance immediately to the south. To the west is the West London Synagogue prayer hall; to the east is the Spanish and Portuguese prayer hall. Each prayer hall is entered from the carriageway, with coffins escorted for burial through doorways to the north.

EXTERIOR: the tall round-headed archway of the central porte-corchère is framed to both south and north by a pedimented frontispiece enriched with terracotta tiles, with a band of Moorish ornament running beneath the pediment. To either side, squared pilasters flanking the archway rise into octagonal columns, topped by ogival lantern finials in stone. Similar finials mark the corners of the building. The prayer halls are each of three bays, the round-headed windows with rubbed-brick arches separated by sturdy buttresses with shouldered off-sets; on the north elevation the central bay to each prayer hall is occupied by a round-headed doorway containing original panelled double doors beneath a sunburst fanlight. The west and east elevations have terracotta to the gables, the banded brick of the walls pierced by a single large round-headed window beneath a hood-mould. Within the carriageway the roof is vaulted, with roughcast panels above the Lombardy frieze. The square-headed entrances to the prayer halls hold panelled double doors, beneath mullioned fanlights. Modern hand-washing facilities have been installed within the carriageway for mourners to wash their hands before returning to the Ohel for prayers following the interment, or before leaving the cemetery, with a large granite basin set centrally at the north end.

INTERIOR: the prayer halls are similarly and simply appointed. The barrel roofs have exposed arched trusses with metal ties, resting on moulded timber corbels. The walls are lined with glazed brown brick to dado height, with glazed terracotta dado rails and door and window surrounds, and both halls have wood parquet flooring. In both halls the original shallow timber benches are fitted around the walls; both have modern lighting. In the Sephardi hall, a hearth-stone indicates the former position of a stove. The walls of the Sephardi prayer hall are bare, apart from a single commemorative plaque, but those of the Reform hall carry a number of memorials, including a timber First World War memorial. A smaller plaque commemorates those lost in the Second World War, dedicating the hall to their memory, and there is a plaque to the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Shoah, or Holocaust. A number of tablets of various dates commemorate individuals.


Books and journals
Bernard, P. (author), A Beacon of Light: The history of the West London Synagogue, (2013)
Cherry, B, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England. London 4: North, (2002), 136
Historic England, Introduction to Heritage Assets: 'Anglo-Jewish Burial Grounds: The Post-Resettlement Period' (2020), pp 9, 11, 12, 16
Hoop Lane Jewish Cemetery: Assessment of Significance (Historic England, 2017)
Paul Van der Hulks and Linda Stone, Hoop Lane Historic Jewish Cemetery Golders Green (nd)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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