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Sephardi Velho (Old) Cemetery (also known as Spanish and Portuguese Jews Cemetery)


The Old Burial Ground lies behind Albert Stern House and is shown as 'Jews Burying Place' on Joel Gascoyne's 1703 map. The cemetery was enclosed by high brick walls on all sides, and a stone tablet on the north wall is inscribed in Portuguese, reading in translation ‘the first stone of this wall was laid on 21 Tamuz or 7 June 1684'. A number of the gravestones are elaborate, with fine carving and interesting motifs, one such found on a number of tombs being that of an axe striking a tree.

Spanish and Portuguese Jews came to this country fleeing from religious persecution and established themselves in Mile End in 1656. The Sephardi Velho (Old) Cemetery opened in 1657, the first Jewish cemetery to be established with Oliver Cromwell's approval. The land was formerly part of a garden and orchard. It was extended in 1670 and again in 1684 and eventually closed in 1737 after it was full, when a new cemetery opened nearby, the Sephardi Nuevo (New) Cemetery. Many prominent Sephardi Jews were among those buried here. The Beth Holim or Hospital and Old People's Home of Spanish and Portuguese Jews moved here in 1790, with the cemetery used partly as a garden. In 1912 Albert Stern House was built and in 1977 Beth Holim moved to Wembley, and Albert Stern House is now a student hostel.

Sources consulted:

Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons, 'London Cemeteries, An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer', 4th edition (The History Press, 2008); Mrs Basil Holmes, 'The London Burial Grounds' (Fisher Unwin, 1896); Tom Ridge, Central Stepney History Walk (Central Stepney Regeneration Board), 1998; ‘From Palace to College, an illustrated account of Queen Mary College', G P Moss & M V Saville (published by QMC, 1985). Other refs quoted in QMC book: R D Barnett, ‘The Burial register of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, London, 1687-1735'; Jewish Historical Society, Miscellanies, 6 (1922) 1-72.; A S Diamond, ‘The Cemetery of resettlement', Jewish Historical Society, Transactions, 19 (1960), p163-190; Cemetery Scribes website, 'History - the Old and New Spanish and Portuguese Cemeteries - off Mile End Road' courtesy Marcus Roberts; LB Tower Hamlets, 'Carlton Square Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Guidelines', October 2007; Dr Sharman Kadish, 'Jewish Heritage in England' (English Heritage, 2006)

For more information see

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

Access by appointment with Spanish & Portuguese Jews Congregation


Tube: Stepney Green (District). Bus: 25, 205


Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation

Features & Designations


  • Conservation Area

  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: Velho Burial Ground; Tablet on north wall recording first stone of wall; Albert Stern House (formerly Beth Holim) and Annex to rear
  • Grade: II
Key Information


Funerary Site


Sacred / Ritual / Funerary

Principal Building

Religious Ritual And Funerary



Open to the public




  • London Parks and Gardens Trust