the former

Burgess Hill Jewish Community

West Sussex




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Town of Burgess Hill

Burgess Hill is a town in West Sussex, close to the East Sussex border. It is 40 miles south of London and just 10 miles north of Brighton. Post World War II, it has been one of the fastest growing towns in south east England, its population exceeding 33,000. Since 1974, Burgess Hill has been within the local government District of Mid Sussex, the most easterly district of the county of West Sussex. It was previously the Urban District of Burgess Hill within the county of East Sussex.

 The Jewish Community

During World War I, religious services were held for Jewish soldiers at Burgess Hill.(ii) In the early 1930s, a Jewish convalescent home, which subsequently moved to larger premises in Wyberlye, Burgess Hill (see below), was established. In early World War II, this acted as a religious and social centre for Jewish residents in and around Burgess Hill.

Congregation Data


Burgess Hill Jewish congregation(iii)

Formation and Address:

From Autumn 1939, Wyberlye Convalescent Home, Leylands Road, Burgess Hill, a Jewish convalescent home (see below), acted as a religious and social centre for Jewish families living in, or evacuated to, Burgess Hill and neighbouring areas. There were regular Shabbat and Festival services, religion classes, distribution of kosher food, etc.(iv)


Date of closure uncertain. By 1941 the Wyberlye Convalescent Home had been requisitioned by the army.(v) However, in May 1941 it was reported that a bar mitzvah ceremony took place at "Burgess Hill synagogue."(viii) No address is given. This may refer to new premises or perhaps the room(s) in the recently requisitioned Home were still being used.


None known.


Ashkenazi - Orthodox


Rev. Aron Secemski was described as being of Burgess Hill in 1944 and may have served the local community.(ix)

Lay Officers:

None known

Registration District (BMDs):

West Sussex (since 1 April 2010)(x)- Link to Register Office website.

Cemetery Details

There is no Jewish cemetery in Burgess Hill. However, the Jewish cemeteries in Brighton was only some ten miles away.


Online Articles and Other Material relating to relating to
the Burgess Hill Jewish Community

on Third Party Websites

  • Research article by Lesley Urbach, author of "Wyberlye Ladies Convalescent Home, Burgess Hill" - an oral history project about the 50 Jewish refugee girls at Burgess Hill, which was published in Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, Volume 51, 2019.

  • See below for online material relating to the murderer, Jacob Harris.

Notable Jewish Connections with Burgess Hill

  • Jacob Harris (or Hirsch), a pedlar who in 1734 was convicted of murdering the landlord, the landlord's wife and maid of the Wayside Inn on Ditchling Common, about two miles east of Burgess Hill. What reputes to be the gibbet post (used for his public execution) is located near the murder site. The story of Jacob Harris gave rise to antisemitic songs and verse in the 19th century. Conversely touching the gibbet post was believed by some local people to grant miracles and cures. See also the following online material relating to Harris:


Other Burgess Hill Jewish Institutions & Organisations

  • Wyberlye Convalescent Home.(xi) In 1931, the Grand Order of Sons of Jacob opened a convalescent home for women in Burgess Hill. In 1935/6 larger premises were acquired nearby at Wyberlye, Leylands Road. These premises were consecrated by the Chief Rabbi in the presence of 800 guests. The new Home was able to accommodate 500 patients a year.
    In 1939 an additional wing was built to accommodate 50 refugee girls who had come to Britain on the kindertransport. During the early part of World War II, it acted as a religious and social centre for Jewish residents in Burgess Hill and district, and was used on Sundays for "the provision of Kasher meat for the local residents, Hebrew education for children and social activities for the younger generation and the local community generally." However, by 1941 the property was requisitioned by the army.
    In 2019, an information board was placed at Marle Place Park, the former location of the Wyberlye Home. The board details the history of the Home. It was donated by Lesley Urbach, whose mother was amongst the kindertransport girls who found refuge there.


Notes & Sources
( returns to text above)

  • (i) Reserved.

  • (ii) Inter alia, Jewish Chronicle reports of 16 April 1915 and 4 October 1918.

  • (ii) The precise name of the congregation is not known.

  • (iv) Jewish Chronicle report of 10 November 1939.

  • (v) Jewish Chronicle reports of 9 May 1947 and 3 March 1950.

  • (vi) and (vii) Reserved.

  • (viii) The Bar Mitzvah of Lionel Peter Levene of Burgess Hill and Poplar, reported in the Jewish Chronicle of 9 May 1941.

  • (ix) Jewish Chronicle report of 4 February 1944.

  • (x) Previous Registration Districts: Lewes from 1 July 1837 until 1 April 1935; Cuckfield from 1 April 1835 until 1 October 1980; and Haywards Heath from 1 October 1980 until 1 April 2010. Any registers would be held by the current register office.

  • (xi) The above research article by Lesley Urbach forms the source of information on the Convalescent Home.

Jewish Congregations in West Sussex

Jewish Communities of England homepage

Page created: 7 March 2023
Page most recently amended: 8 March 2023

Research by Steven Jaffe
Formatting by David Shulman

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