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The International Dr. G.W. Leitner Trail
Marcus Roberts & Silvia Dovoli (Oxford University Jewish Country House Project)

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The Anglican Cemetery and Jewish Christian Graves and the Grave of G.W. Leitner
The 'Muhammadan' Cemetery (1889)
Woking Mosque and Lodge - 149 Oriental Rd, Woking

1. The Anglican Cemetery and Jewish Christian Graves and the Grave of G.W. Leitner

The Anglican Cemetery and the Grave of G.W. Leitner - Cyprian's Avenue

Leitner was buried at Woking (where his wife also rests), in a sub-section of the Anglican Cemetery, in a plot not too far from the Muslim cemetery he had established, and he was given a Protestant burial service. This plot is separate from the surrounding Christian burials and many of the burials appear to represent burials of Jewish Christians including that of his wife Olympia Caroline Schwaab, whom Leitner had married in Frankfort and is thought to be of Jewish origin too. Leitner's tomb is somewhat out of the ordinary as it appears to provide a number of cryptic references to key parts of his life and to some extent his beliefs, as there are references to Christianity, Islam and possibly to a Jewish-Christian identity. The location is near to the entrance of Cemetery Pales and off Cyprian's Avenue, at the foot of a large Wellingtonia, one of his favourite varieties of tree (Geo-location 51.300675, -0.629220).

At first glance, Leitner's tomb lacks any overt Christian religious symbolism, even if the other grave markers around his memorial have prominent crosses. However, on closer inspection, the main plaque with the inscription is in the shape of an abbreviated Maltese Cross, and this may be intended in part as an allusion to his time at the Protestant missionary college in Malta. Leitner's Old Testament heritage is reflected in the quotation on a book representing the Bible, which quotes the Old Testament Psalm, 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. There is also an Arabic inscription, 'Al-'ilmu khayrum min al-maali', which translates as, 'Knowledge is better than wealth', representing his Islamic learning and interests.

The most prominent part of the memorial, apart from the bust of Leitner, is a garlanded inscription, arching over the top of the memorial, which reads cryptically 'The Learned are Honoured in Their Work'. This does not appear to be a direct quotation though clearly compliments the Arabic quotation, but also may also be a hidden allusion to the London Society and one of its leading lights, Alexander McCaul, who was a missionary to the Jews, then the head of Palestine Place, in Bethnal Green, the headquarters of the movement as well as a professor of Hebrew at King's College. A search for the closest match to the inscription brought up the sermon by Alexander McCaul (1799-1863) within his polemic against Judaism ('The Old Paths: Or, A Comparison of the Principles and Doctrines of Modern Judaism...'), where McCaul criticises the traditional Jewish Laws of mourning and burial, as he argues that scholars (followed by the rich) should not be given the precedence and distinction demanded in burial by Jewish Law over ordinary people, but that scholars should be valued only for their moral distinction in life. '... After death there is but little difference between the learned and the unlearned, and the real difference is made not by their previous learning or ignorance, but by their moral worth.' This seems to match the sentiment of both the English and Arabic mottos on Leitner's tomb and one suspects that this text would have been on his step-father's bookshelf.

Leitner's actual religious identity and beliefs remains a mystery, though shortly before his death he had a conversation with a Jewish linguist, who reported in his obituary in the Jewish Chronicle that he had been open about his Jewish identity with him, but would not reveal whether his sympathies lay with Islam, Christianity, or Judaism. The evidence suggests that Leitner may have affiliated with the Protestant, Jewish-Christianity of the London Society, as a key formative part of his formative years, and saw himself as having a Jewish identity of some sort, even if he did not have a clear or precise notion of his own ultimate religious identity or 'Jewishness'. As far as any creed or denomination was concerned, it is likely that his actual beliefs were rationalistic, Theistic and non-supernaturalistic, with a belief and faith in the perceived spiritual truth underpinning and uniting different faiths. His writings and memorial gives us the clues that his faith had Christian, Jewish and Islamic components, but with strong sympathies towards Islam.

2. The 'Muhammadan' Cemetery (1889)

The 'Muhammadan' Cemetery (1889) - Pine Avenue, Brookwood Cemetery

It must not be overlooked that Leitner also established the Muhammadan Cemetery in 1889, on the North side of Pine Avenue, (geo-location 51.302750, -0.640550 and 0.54 miles from the entrance to the cemetery) in the famous Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, as an adjunct to the Oriental Institute (not to be confused with the Woking Muslim War Cemetery, now known as The Peace Gardens, in the general vicinity). The establishment of cemeteries for minorities implies the establishment of a community and a degree of permanence. For any Muslim visiting or living in England at the time, the existence of a Muslim place of burial would have been very important and reassuring, as being otherwise unable to receive or to give proper Muslim burial, and to be buried amongst strangers, would be a source of acute distress for a devout believer. The burial ground also had an inscribed commemorative stone (Kibla stone) provided by Leitner, giving instructions as to how to prepare a Muslim for burial, which speaks to the situation of the community at the time. The cemetery, while very small, has an exceptional roll-call of notable Muslims who are buried there and includes notable British converts to Islam, important in the Islamic mission to the West. It is now understood that the grave site of Abdullah Quilliam (1856 - 1932), 'Britain's first Sheikh-ul-Islam, founder of Britain's first mosque and Muslim publication', is in the cemetery. The grave of Muhammad Marmaduke William Pickthall (1875 - 1936) who converted in 1927 and wrote the first English translation of the Qur'an, an English-born Muslim and also a well-known novelist and journalist, is there too. The original Muslim burial ground has now been joined by many additional Muslim burial areas in Brookwood, along Pine Avenue, representing several countries and distinctive groupings.

3. Woking Mosque and Lodge - 149 Oriental Rd, Woking

Leitner's 'Oriental Institute' and Mosque at Woking (149 Oriental Rd, Woking, GU22 7BA, Geo-location 51.322635, -0.544497)

In 1882 Leitner was instrumental in securing university status for the University of Punjab (and is regarded as a founder) and from 1882 -1884 he went back to England on sickness furlough and established his Oriental Institute at Woking, which was affiliated to the University of Punjab and awarded University of Punjab degrees. Along with his new college, he established his museum of Gandharan Art and built the first purpose built mosque in England, in 1889, as part of its campus.

The architect for the mosque was Mr W.I. Chambers, who is said to have copied an architectural design from a French book of architecture (though one must also observe that the mosque does have some real similarities with the famous Badshahi Mosque in Lahore itself, a major local landmark, which would have been very familiar to Leitner). The architectural drawings came from the notable and influential publication, L'Art arabe d'après les monuments du Caire depuis le VIIème siècle jusqu'à la fin du XVIIIème siècle. It is of interest that the style adopted refers more to Egyptian and Middle Eastern styles than the India sub-continent, which seems odd given Leitner's commitment to India, but it may perhaps have been partly chosen to illustrate Leitner's educated taste, by chiming with popular Islamic styles, know to the cognoscenti of the period. It may well have been intended to also to be part of the established genre of Oriental-inspired buildings in England, of which the Sassoon Mausoleum of 1892, in a Mughal style, in Kemptown, Brighton, is a Jewish example which was intended to evoking the Oriental and Bombay origins of the family (it was described as, 'a dignified building comparing favourably with other mock Oriental buildings of the same period ... as pretty as the Brighton Pavilion'). Thus, while it was an exotic addition to the hinterlands of Woking and Woking station, it was not without architectural precedents in England.

The mosque is highly elegant with a central cubic space with ornate parapets, small finials working as stylised minarets and a central onion dome, once blue and gold, supporting a golden crescent. It is surrounded by a garden and fronted by a courtyard, with a central fountain or ablution pool. The decorative architectural details, both inside and out, are very fine and the painted decorations and calligraphy within are beautiful, with much use of green, the colour said to have been favoured by the Prophet. One notable feature are the windows, whose latticed, stone traceries are complex patterns of stars of various forms, reminiscent, if not duplicating, Stars of David, possibly another deliberate allusion to Leitner's own Jewish heritage. A similar incorporation of a Jewish motif by a Jewish owner can be seen in the mosaic decorations in the recreation of a classical Greek villa, Villa Kerylos, in the South of France, which use the Star of David alongside classic Greek motifs. Leitner additionally provided the furniture of the Mosque and it was opened in late 1889.

The facilities of the Institute, including the aforementioned mosque, were a museum, guesthouse, library, and publishing house. The mosque was used a place of worship, not only by the students at the institute, but also by Indian, Afghan, Turkish, Egyptian, and Syrian Muslims, residing in, or visiting London. The Institute mostly served the Muslim intelligentsia and trained resident Asians for the professions, but it also specialised in studies of linguistics and culture, and taught languages to Europeans who wished to travel to the East. The existence of these facilities and access to London, via the local railway station, with fast and regular connections to central London, made it important to British Muslims and attracted Muslims to Woking. It even received a degree of Royal recognition, as Queen Victoria's India Muslim retainers at Windsor attended the mosque.

The Lodge adjacent to the mosque functioned as an Oriental Museum, and contained Leitner's pioneering collection of Gandharan Art, which was said to have contained probably the most interesting collection in the possession of any private individual in this country.

In a letter to The Times describing his visit to the Oriental Institute, G. R. Badenoch gave an account of the museum and the collection that Leitner had assembled there:

'Dr. Leitner has so arranged every department that you can trace at once the influence of Greek art on the art of India. He has done this by bringing within a 'chair's length' the sculpture, the literature and the coins of the period .... There is another species of exhibit which struck me ... a large collection of Punjab fabrics .... I was also struck by the large collection of Indian manuscripts and books, some of them proving that India possessed the art of printing long before its invention in Europe .... I considered that India is greatly indebted to Dr. Leitner. There is a beautiful home where the highest in that country can go and live, and study all the great scientific appliances which England can produce, without coming into any sort of contamination, as they may consider, with European manners and customs. He can, moreover, study the history of his own country from specimens of art, coin, manuscripts and books, the like of which I have never seen. I believe also that he can be examined and become a graduate of the Punjab University ....' (27 August, 1884).

What is unique about Leitner's Oriental College was his desire to create a genuinely multi-faith community of students, with places of worship for all faiths. The fact that only the mosque was built on site gives an inaccurate impression as to what was planned or desired. He intended that there would also be a synagogue, Hindu temple and church on campus too, but while the foundations for the Hindu temple may have been laid, the other plans were never realised at all, largely due to his premature demise, though a church, St. Paul's Church on Oriental Road, was eventually built on the plot of land provided, by the raising of additional funds collected by William Hamilton. It was completed on 29 November 1895.

The mosque was built first largely because he had motivated backers and funders for the Islamic facilities, with funding for the land and building, from His Highness the Nizam of the state of Hyderabad, who gave the land, and Her Highness, the Begum Shah Jehan, ruler of Bhopal State, who gave the buildings. The residence which was constructed next to the mosque (the Sir Salar Jang House) was another gift, from Sir Salar Jang, then Prime Minister of Hyderabad State, and is in the form of an Indian colonial villa. The first floor balcony is also replete with a design reminiscent of 'Jewish' Stars, which again suggests that these were introduced by Leitner as a nod to his Jewish origins. There were other benefactions too, from Indian Muslims.

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