BRITAIN’S TOP TEN HISTORIC SYNAGOGUES RECEIVE EUROPEAN ACCOLADE

Princes Road Synagogue Open Day

September 2011

One of the European 'Top Ten' British synagogues, the Grade I Listed Princes Road Synagogue in Liverpool welcomed three tours of over 70 people each on national Heritage Open Days on 11 September 2011

Ten of the finest synagogues in Britain have been nominated for the European Routes of Jewish Heritage, Jewish Heritage UK has announced.

Included in the Council of Europe’s programme ‘A Common Heritage’, the Jewish ‘Routes’ have been awarded the prestigious status of ‘Major Cultural Route’, one of only seven such routes being created across Europe.

Jewish Heritage’s Director Dr Sharman Kadish said ‘The British synagogues chosen hold their own against major Jewish landmarks in Europe, amongst them Prague’s medieval Altneuschul, Amsterdam’s Esnoga and the Ghetto of Venice. Unlike them, our synagogues have remained in use since they were built. They celebrate Jewish continuity as well as our architectural heritage’.

The nominations coincide with this year’s Heritage Open Days that concluded on Sunday 18 September. Since the launch of the European Jewish Heritage Day (European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage) by B’nai B’rith in Britain, back in 2000, historic synagogues all over the country have thrown open their doors to the public and attract an average of 10,000 visitors each year. They participate not only in the Jewish event, but also in national Heritage Open Days (sponsored by English Heritage), Open House London and Scottish Open Doors, on successive Sundays in September.

The Top Ten list (see below), drawn up on the basis of age and architectural beauty, includes Britain’s oldest synagogue, Bevis Marks in the City of London and Scotland’s High Victorian Garnethill Synagogue. If you missed the Open Days, all of these buildings may be visited by appointment - details are in the full colour leaflet [PDF file (5.54MB)], published by Jewish Heritage UK to mark the nominations. Individual guides to each building are in the pipeline, as are plans to designate them with a special plaque.

The Top Ten Synagogues are

LONDON Bevis Marks Synagogue
Britain’s oldest synagogue, opened 1701. A hidden gem in the City of London. Designed by master builder Joseph Avis, the style was influenced both by Wren City churches and the Portuguese Great Synagogue of Amsterdam, the parent congregation of the English Sephardim.
Tel: 020 7626 1274
www.bevismarks.org.uk

LONDON The New West End Synagogue
London’s most splendid synagogue interior. Opened in 1879, and designed in High Victorian Oriental style by Liverpool-based Scottish architect George Audsley, for the social élite of Anglo-Jewry. Has much in common, both inside and out, with its ‘older sister’, Liverpool’s Princes Road Synagogue (see below) – designed by the same architect.
Tel: 020 7229 2631
www.newwestend.org.uk

LIVERPOOL Princes Road Synagogue
The most lavish High Victorian Oriental synagogue in England, older sister of London’s New West End and designed by the same architect, George Audsley. Opened 1874 and Grade I Listed despite losing its turrets in the 1960s. Gorgeous mint green, stencilled and gilded décor contrasting with the rich jewel colours of the domed and turreted Ark.
Tel: 0151 709 3431
www.princesroad.org

BRIGHTON Middle Street Synagogue
Opulent jewel in the crown of the South Coast’s most elegant Regency resort. Opened  in 1875 to serve the spiritual needs of holiday-making Goldsmids, Rothschilds and Sassoons.  By Thomas Lainson with a lavish interior to rival the splendour of the Prince Regent’s Royal Pavilion.
Tel: 01273 888 855 (West Hove Synagogue)
www.bhhc-shul.org/middlestreet

RAMSGATE The Montefiore Synagogue and Mausoleum
Regency style synagogue of 1833 designed by the first Anglo-Jewish architect David Mocatta, and the curious last resting place of Sir Moses and Lady Judith Montefiore, built in 1862, modelled on Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem.
Tel: 020 7289 2573 (Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation)
www.montefioreendowment.org.uk/sirmoses/ramsgate

PLYMOUTH Synagogue
Oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in Britain and oldest in the English-speaking world. Built in 1762-3, a year before EXETER Synagogue (1763-4) [Tel: 01392 251 529  www.exetersynagogue.org.uk], both now 250 years old. Rare Georgian synagogues designed in low-key fashion like non-conformist chapels in the era before Jewish emancipation in Britain (1858), with gilded Baroque Arks.
Tel: 01752 263 162
www.plymouthsynagogue.com

BIRMINGHAM Singers Hill Synagogue
The earliest functioning ‘cathedral synagogue’ built in the era of Jewish emancipation in Britain, now over 150 years old. Designed in 1855-6 by leading civic architect Henry Yeoville Thomason, who was responsible for Birmingham’s Council House and Art Gallery, also in Italian Renaissance style.
Tel: 0121 643 0884
www.singershill.com

BRADFORD Synagogue
Oriental gem of 1880-1, in the heart of Yorkshire, built for the German Reform community of woollen merchants, who pre-dated the Orthodox in the city. By local church architects the Healey Brothers, featuring such exotic touches as striped brickwork, horseshoe arches and a decorative cornice, inspired by a mixture of Mamluk Egypt, Moorish Spain and Mogul India.
Tel: 01274 728 925
www.bradfordsynagogue.co.uk

MANCHESTER Jewish Museum
housed in the former Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue of 1874 in Cheetham, once the hub of Manchester Jewish life. Built in Moorish style, the architect was Edward Salomons who was of German Ashkenazi background. Permanent collection documents the history of Manchester Jewry, while special exhibitions often focus on the cultural diversity of present day Cheetham.
Tel: 0161 834 9879
www.mjm.org.uk

GLASGOW Garnethill Synagogue
The A-Listed ‘cathedral synagogue’ of Scotland, located in the heart of the city close to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous Glasgow School of Art. By John McLeod, 1877-9, and now home to the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre - a must for family history buffs with roots north of the border.
Tel: 0141 332 4151; 0141 332 4911 (Archives)
www.sjac.org.uk/archives/garnethill.html