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Willesden Cemetery

We arrived at Willesden Cemetery for an afternoon tour on 14 October 2012.  The cemetery was opened in 1873 by the United Synagogue and is the burial place of many well-known members of the Anglo Jewish Community.


As the community grew there was a need for another cemetery and the land was bought for £3500.


Many famous people were buried at Willesden and below are a some of the graves we looked at.


Michael Sobell 

Michael Sobell was born in Boryslav, Galicia in 1892 the only son of Lewis Sobel and his wife Esther.   He came to this country at the age of 11 and lived in Dalston, East London.  At the age of 16, with money provided by his father, he set up as an importer of fancy leather accessories. He and his father subsequently worked as leather goods manufacturers.


Sobell made a fortune as a pioneer in electronics through his Radio & Allied Industries Ltd., a manufacturer of radio receivers that grew to become one of Britain's largest and most successful manufacturers of television sets. His daughter Netta married Arnold Weinstock who joined the company in 1954. In 1961, Sobell's company merged with The General Electric Company plc (GEC) making the family, GEC's largest shareholder.


He set up the Sobell Fund in 1977 which provided financial support to a variety of benevolent causes including medical, educational, and fitness endeavours. Sobell's foundation supported and raised funds for facilities such as Sobell House Hospice, Michael Sobell Sinai School, the Brain Research Trust and the Michael Sobell Sports Centre at Finsbury Park, Islington. The Michael Sobell Leisure Centre in Aberdare, South Wales also carries his name.


He was also an owner and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses, his first major racing winner was London Cry in the 1958 Cambridgeshire Handicap  In 1979, in partnership with son-in-law Arnold Weinstock, Michael Sobell met with his greatest success with the champion colt Troy whose performances made him 1979's British flat racing Champion Owner. Among Troy's wins were England and Ireland's most prestigious races, the Epsom and Irish Derbies, as well as the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.


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SIMEON SINGER 1846 - 1906

Simeon Singer was born in London and after a short stay at a Hungarian school, became a student at Jews' College, of which he was subsequently, for a time the principal.


He was a Jewish preacher, lecturer and public worker.


In 1867 he became minister of the Borough Synagogue, London. In the following year he married. He moved to the New West End Synagogue in 1878, and remained the minister of that congregation until his death. He was the first to introduce regular sermons to children;


His most famous work was his new edition and English translation of the Authorized Daily Prayer Book (first published in 1890), a work which has gone through many large editions and which has probably been the most popular (both with Jews and Christians) of any book published by an English Jew. It remains (in its revised edition of 1992 and more recently 2006) the standard prayer book for most orthodox Jews in Great Britain and for many Jews around the world and is often informally known as the "Singer's Siddur".


In 1892 at his instigation, the first English Conference of Jewish Preachers was held, and some reforms were then and at other times introduced, such as the introduction of Bible Readings in English, the admission of women as choristers and the inclusion of the express consent of the bride as well as the bridegroom at the marriage ceremony.


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Was the son of Nathan Mayer Rothschild and Hanna Barent Cohen, he was a member of the prominent Rothschild family.


In 1847 Lionel de Rothschild was first elected to the British House of Commons as one of four MPs for the City of London constituency. Because Jews were at that point still barred from sitting in the chamber due to the Christian oath required to be sworn in, Prime Minister Lord John Russell introduced a Jewish Disabilities Bill to remove the problem with the oath. In 1848, the bill was approved by the House of Commons but was twice rejected by the House of Lords. After being rejected again by the Upper House in 1849, Rothschild resigned his seat and stood again winning in a by-election in order to strengthen his claim.


In 1850, he entered the House of Commons to take his seat but refused to swear on a Christian Bible asking to use only the Old Testament. This was permitted but when omitting the words "upon the true faith of a Christian" from the oath he was required to leave.


In 1851 a new Jewish Disabilities Bill was defeated in the House of Lords. In the 1852 general election Rothschild was again elected but the next year the bill was again defeated in the upper house.


Finally, in 1858, the House of Lords agreed to a proposal to allow each house to decide its own oath. On 26 July 1858 de Rothschild took the oath with covered head, substituting "so help me, Jehovah" for the ordinary form of oath, and thereupon took his seat as the first Jewish Member of Parliament. He was re-elected in general elections in 1859 and 1865, but defeated in 1868; he was returned unopposed in a by-election in 1869 but defeated a second time in the general election in 1874.


Rothschild was proposed as a member of the House of Lords in 1868, but Queen Victoria refused to elevate him to this status. She denied that this was because Rothschild was a Jew. Instead the monarch claimed it was because of Rothschild's business activities, but few believed her. In 1885 the Queen did raise Rothschild's son Nathan to the peerage. Nathan Mayer de Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the House of Lords.


A fan of thoroughbred horse racing, his colt "Sir Bevys" won the 1879 Epsom Derby.


In 1836, Lionel de Rothschild married Baroness Charlotte von Rothschild (1819–1884), the daughter of Baron Carl Mayer Rothschild of the Rothschild banking family of Naples. They had the following children:


1. Leonora  :  1837 – 1911

2. Evelina  :  1839 – 1866

3. Nathan Mayer  :  1840 – 1915

4. Alfred Charles  : 1842 – 1918

5. Leopold  : 1845  – 1917


Lionel de Rothschild died, after an attack of gout, in 1879 aged 69


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Known as "Natty", he was the eldest son of Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808–1879) and Baroness Charlotte de Rothschild (née von Rothschild), grandson of Nathan Mayer Rothschild after whom he was named, and the great-grandson of Mayer Amschel Rothschild founder of the dynasty.


He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a friend of the Prince of Wales, but left without taking a degree.


On 16 April 1867 he married Emma Louise von Rothschild (1844–1935), a cousin from the Rothschild banking family of Germany in Frankfurt. They had the following children:


• Lionel Walter (1868–1937)

• Charlotte Louisa Adela Evelina (1873–1947)

• Nathaniel Charles (1877–1923)


In 1847, his uncle Anthony Nathan de Rothschild (1810–1876) was created 1st Baronet de Rothschild, of Tring Park. Because Anthony had no male heirs, on his death the baronetcy passed to his nephew Nathan Mayer Rothschild. In 1885, he subsequently became a member of the House of Lords and was created Baron Rothschild, of Tring in the County of Hertford, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. He also was Baron (Freiherr) von/de Rothschild, of the Austrian Empire, a nobility title he had inherited via his father.


Rothschild sat in the House of Commons as Liberal Member of Parliament for Aylesbury from 1865 to 1885, when he was created a peer by Gladstone, and raised to the House of Lords.  Lord Rothschild was the first Jewish member of the House of Lords not previously converted to Christianity. (For example, Benjamin Disraeli had been created Lord Beaconsfield in 1876, but was baptised into Anglicanism  aged twelve.)


In common with the rest of his family, Lord Rothschild joined the breakaway Liberal Unionist Party formed in 1886

He worked as a partner in the London branch of the family bank NM Rothschild and Sons and became head of the bank after his father's death in 1879. During his tenure he also maintained its pre-eminent position in private venture finance and in issuing loans to the governments of the USA, Russia and Austria. Following the Rothschilds' funding of the Suez Canal a close relationship was maintained with Benjamin Disraeli and affairs in Egypt.


Natty also funded Cecil Rhodes in the development of the British South Africa Company and the De Beers diamond conglomerate. He later administered Rhodes's estate after his death in 1902 and helped to set up the Rhodes Scholarship scheme at Oxford University.


A noted philanthropist, Rothschild was heavily involved with the foundation of the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company, a model dwellings company whose aim was to provide decent housing, predominantly for the Jews of Spitalfields and Whitechapel.


He died in London, five days after an operation, on 31 March 1915.

The peerage was inherited by his son Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild.


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Alfred Charles de Rothschild CVO 1842 - 1918 was the second son of Lionel de Rothschild and Baroness Charlotte von Rothschild of the prominent Rothschild family As a young man, Alfred attended King's College London, and subsequently Trinity College, Cambridge, England, where he would study Mathematics for two terms. It was at Trinity College that Alfred formed a lasting friendship with the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. Alfred left Cambridge University without a degree.


At the age of 21 Alfred took up employment at the N M Rothschild Bank at New Court in London. It was there that he learnt the business of banking from his father and made valuable contacts in European banking circles.


In 1869, at the age of 26, Alfred became a director of the Bank of England, a post he held for 20 years, until 1889. In 1892 he was one of those who represented the British Government at the International Monetary Conference in Brussels.


His career at the Bank of England was described in The Rothschilds: A Family of Fortune, by Virginia Cowles (London: Futura Publications 1975) page 159:


Alfred was not only a partner at New Court but a Director of the Bank of England, an appointment he had been given in 1868 because the Governor felt it would not be a bad thing to keep in close touch with the Rothschilds. The relationship came to an abrupt end of 1889, however, over a slightly unorthodox situation. Alfred had paid a very high price for a French eighteenth-century painting after being assured by the dealer that he, too, had been forced to pay an excessive sum for it and was making only a marginal profit. A day or two later Alfred discovered that the dealer had an account with the Bank of England. He could not resist taking a peep to see what, in fact, the man had given for the painting. He was outraged when he discovered that he had been charged a price 'out of all proportion to decency!' He spread the story about London and, not surprisingly, got the sack from Threadneedle Street.


He was the first Jew to be a Director of the Bank of England, and, after his departure, no other Jew was on the directorate for more than fifty years.


Upon the death of his father in 1879, Alfred inherited a 1,400-acre (5.7 km2) estate centered on Halton in Buckinghamshire. As Alfred lacked a country retreat and the Halton estate did not provide one, Alfred set about building a house in the style of a French chateau. Work started around 1880 and Halton House was finished in July 1883. Alfred remained in residence at Seamore Place in London and only ever used Halton House for social purposes.


His part in connection with diplomacy is described by T. G. Otte in "He interviews the Ambassadors": Alfred de Rothschild, High Finance and High Politics in Victorian Britain.[2] After he had served as British delegate at an international conference on bimetallism in 1892, Alfred de Rothschild later facilitated a series of informal meetings between ministers and contacts at the German Embassy with a view to Anglo-German rapprochement. Before the First World War he was Consul-General for Austria in London.


He was made CVO in 1902, awarded the Legion of Honour by the government of France and the 1st Class Order of the Crown by the Kingdom of Prussia, and made Grand Cross of the Order of Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary.

A patron of the arts, he also donated money to the National Art Gallery for acquisitions. He was trustee of both that gallery and the Wallace Collection.


In later life Alfred did not enjoy good health and he died after a short illness on 31 January 1918, aged 75.


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Leopold de Rothschild CVO 1845 – 1917 was a British banker and thoroughbred race horse breeder and was the third son and youngest of the five children of Lionel de Rothschild (1808–1879) and Charlotte von Rothschild (1819–1884). He was educated at King's College School then went on to Trinity College, Cambridge] He entered N M Rothschild & Sons in London, the family's banking business.


In 1881, Leopold de Rothschild married Marie Perugia (1862–1937). She was the daughter of the Trieste merchant Achille Perugia. Her sister Louise married Arthur Sassoon. A close friend, H.R.H. Edward, Prince of Wales attended the wedding at London's Central Synagogue. The marriage produced three sons:


• Lionel Nathan (1882–1942)

• Evelyn Achille (1886–1917)

• Anthony Gustav (1887–1961)


Sons Evelyn and Anthony served with the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry during World War I. Evelyn was killed in action.


On the passing of his uncle Baron Mayer de Rothschild in 1874, Leopold became head of the family's banking business in London and took over most of his uncle's public offices.  ]He also inherited Ascott House in Ascott, Buckinghamshire. He later purchased Gunnersbury Park, an estate that at one time had been the residence of Princess Amelia, daughter of George II. The mansion today houses the Gunnersbury Park Museum.

An avid sportsman, Rothschild established Southcourt Stud in Southcote, Bedfordshire. He assembled a stable of some of the best thoroughbreds in Europe, his horses winning a number of prestigious races including the Epsom Derby, St. Leger Stakes and the 2,000 Guineas.


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Simeon Solomon 1840 – 1905 - Artist

He was born into a prominent Jewish family. He was the eighth and last child born to merchant Michael (Meyer) Solomon and artist Catherine (Kate) Levy. Solomon was a younger brother to fellow painters Abraham Solomon (1824–1862) and Rebecca Solomon (1832–1886).


He received lessons in painting from his older brother around 1850. in 1852 he started attending Carey's Art Academy. His older sister first exhibited her works at the Royal Academy during the same year.


As a student at the Royal Academy Schools, Solomon was introduced through Dante Gabriel Rossetti to other members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, as well as the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne and the painter Edward Burne-Jones in 1857. His first exhibition was at the Royal Academy in 1858. He continued to hold exhibitions of his work at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1872. In addition to the literary paintings favoured by the Pre-Raphaelite school, Solomon's subjects often included scenes from the Hebrew Bible and genre paintings depicting Jewish life and rituals. His association with Swinburne led to his illustrating Swinburne's Lesbia Brandon in 1865 In 1873 his career was cut short when he was arrested at Stratford Place Mews, off Oxford Street, in London and charged for indecency he was fined £100.  He was arrested again in 1874 in Paris, after which he was sentenced to spend three months in prison.


In 1884 he was admitted to the workhouse where he continued to produce work; however, his life and talent were blighted by alcoholism. Twenty years later in 1905, he died from complications brought on by his alcoholism.


Twenty years later in 1905, he died from complications brought on by his alcoholism. Examples of his work are on permanent display at the Victoria and Albert Museum and at Leighton House. In December 2005/January 2006, there was an important retrospective of his work, held at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and in London at the Ben Uri Gallery in October / November 2006.


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Harris Lebus

Harris Lebus was born in Hull in 1852 and came to London as a child. He left school whilst still a boy.  Through hard work he became a very large furniture manufacturer and wholesaler based in the East End of London in Tabernacle Street with a factory in Tottenham. The firm supplied stores such as Maple and Co., mainly producing bedroom and dining cabinets.


During the period of its finest output in the 1900s, the style of furniture is closely associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement, identified by overhanging cornices, inset door panels and square to turned legs with pad feet in the manner of William Birch of High Wycombe. The off the peg hardware is unfussy and stylistically well designed. These pieces are highly sought after.


As with many larger firms their designers are kept anonymous. This prolific manufacturer had more to do with bringing the Arts and Crafts style to the masses than any other.


In later years Harris Lebus became a household name as one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the world. During the Second World War the firm produced the Airspeed Horsa glider [2] and became part of the government scheme to produce utility furniture bearing the CC41 mark. The firm finally closed in 1969.  Harry Lebus died in 1907.


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Marcus Samuel, 1st Viscount Bearsted JP known as Sir Marcus Samuel, Bt between 1903 and 1921 and subsequently as The Lord Bearsted until 1925, was the founder of the Shell Transport and Trading Company, a precursor to Royal Dutch Shell.


He was born into a Baghdadi Jewish family in Whitechapel, London. His father, also Marcus Samuel, ran a successful import-export business, M. Samuel & Co., trading with the Far East and sold seashells to London collectors, which Marcus carried on with his brother, Samuel Samuel. Marcus Samuel realised the potential of the oil trade during a trip to the Black Sea in 1890, he realised that oil in barrels took up a lot of space and designed tankers to hold large volumes of oil.   The first tanker he commissioned which was Murex (Latin for a type of snail shell), by 1907 he had a fleet.   His were the first such ships to satisfy the Suez Canal company of their safety, allowing him to ship his product to Bangkok and Singapore. In 1897 he formed Shell, after his first business, which sold painted seashells. every ship carries a MOLUSC on board


Although for several decades the company had a refinery at Shell Haven on the Thames, there is no evidence of this having provided the name.


The Shell logo is one of the most familiar commercial symbols in the world. This logo is known as the "pecten" after the sea shell Pecten maximus (the giant scallop), on which its design is based. The yellow and red colours used are thought to relate to the colours of the flag of Spain, as Shell built early service stations in California, previously a Spanish colony.


He was knighted in 1898 for assisting in the salvage of HMS Victorious, which had grounded and was pulled to safety by the Shell tanker SS Pecten.


In 1907, Samuel's company combined with the Royal Dutch Company of the Netherlands to create the company today known as Royal Dutch Shell. M. Samuel & Co., having transformed over the years to a merchant bank, merged in 1965 with Philip Hill, Higginson, Erlangers Ltd to create Hill Samuel, which is now a part of Lloyds TSB.

Samuel was elected an Alderman of the London ward of Portsoken in 1891, Sheriff of the City of London in 1894, Lord Mayor of London from 1902 to 1903, and received the traditional Baronetcy in 1903. In recognition of Shell's contribution to the British cause in World War I, he was created 1st Baron Bearsted of Maidstone in the County of Kent in the 1921 Birthday Honours.  In 1925, he became 1st Viscount Bearsted. Lord Bearsted was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law (LLD) from the University of Sheffield during his lifetime.  His son, Walter Horace Samuel, succeeded him both in his titles and as Chairman of the Shell Transport and Trading Company.


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Rosalind was born into an established Ashkenazi family.  Her father was Ellis Franklin who worked as the family bank Keyser’s and was active in Jewish communal affairs. She pursued a career in biophysics and chemistry against her father’s wishes and was invited to research at King’s College, London. Her notebooks of 1953 contained important discoveries and unbeknown to her, her colleague Maurice Wilkins shared her findings with James Watson and Francis Crick in Cambridge who subsequently concluded the evidence for DNA.  They and Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962 but Franklin’s contributions to the discovery are often overlooked. 


Arnold Weinstock 1924 – 2002 Chairman of GEC and racehorse owner

Arnold Weinstock, Baron Weinstock was a businessman, the son of working class Polish-Jewish immigrants, he was best known for building GEC into a major conglomerate, which at the time of his retirement had become one of the UK's largest companies.  He was educated at the London School of Economics (of which he was made an Honorary Fellow in 1985).


In 1949, he married Netta Sobell, the daughter of industrialist, Sir Michael Sobell. In 1954 he joined his father-in law's electronics company, Radio & Allied Industries Ltd., and in 1963 orchestrated its merger with General Electric, becoming the largest shareholder of GEC. He transformed the firm, raising its turnover from £100m in 1960 to £11bn at his retirement in 1996. He was noted for holding his counsel during the disastrous dismantling and subsequent collapse of GEC (renamed Marconi plc) under his successors.


He was a director of Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd from 1971 to 1973. He was a significant investor in London Weekend Television at its launch in 1968. He was Vice-President of the Friends of the Ravenna Festival, 1993–1994, a trustee of the British Museum, 1985–1996, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Foundation Fund, 1984–1992. He became a friend of the conductor Riccardo Muti, whose recordings he chose on Desert Island Discs. ] He was also senior trustee of the Next Century Foundation, a peace process organisation he helped establish. He established the Weinstock Fund, a charitable foundation that supports a variety of benevolent and cultural causes.


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Willesden Cemetery
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