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History of the Jews in Coventry

Visit to the current exhibition in the Herbert Gallery and to the London Road Cemetery

Thursday 23 May, 2pm-ca. 4pm, meeting point at Herbert Gallery

Guided by local historian Mark Johnson, this excursion will take us first through the small temporary exhibition on Coventry’s Jewish history currently shown in the Herbert Gallery (2pm-ca. 3:15pm), and then to the Jewish section of the nearby London Road Cemetery (ca. 3:30-4pm). Please see more detail below

Mark Johnson is a local historian and author of Hidden Histories: Coventry Jewish Watchmakers. See also this short interview on BBC Coventry.

Meeting point at 2pm will be in the foyer of Coventry’s Herbert Gallery near the bookshop (note: there are two main entrances). Transfer to the cemetery will be on foot (ca. 20 minutes), by bus or through rideshare with those who come by car. Please bring sensible footwear, the cemetery is rough terrain.

This is a unique chance to see the otherwise closed Jewish cemetery!


Mark will introduce participants to the rich history of Coventry’s Jewish community as one of the important contributors to the city’s history of migration. We will learn about Coventry’s Jewish watchmakers, e.g. Alfred Fridlander, producer of some of the world’s finest watches and progressive philanthropist, and his children, the suffragist Annie Fridlander and the poet and artist Ernest David Fridlander. Mark will also talk about other members of the Jewish community who left their mark on the life of the city, such as philanthropist and quill maker Joseph Levi or Mayor and founder of Triumph Motor Cycles Siegfried Bettmann, who had to step down from his post in 1914 as an ‘enemy alien’. We will hear about the history and present of Coventry Synagogue, about George Eliot’s close links with Jewish fellow citizens, their impact on her Jewish writings, and the influence of Eliot’s work on the Zionist movement, and about the heritage of the Holocaust, including the 50 children coming to Coventry on the Kindertransport, alongside many other examples for this rich and complex part of Coventry’s history and of Jewish history in Britain.

London Road Cemetery - photo by Derek Robinson