Synagogues and Sites lost since 1999
A case of Jewish Heritage "I told you so". Back in 2002 this was the only site in the country where our Survey couldn't secure access because this was only possible across neighbouring farmland. Rumours then prevalent have proven true that the abandoned private burial ground had been 'acquired' by the neighbouring landowner, a retired policeman who had, coincidentally, presided over the criminal investigation carried out in 1982 when the site had been shockingly desecrated. "Possessory Title" becomes absolute after a lapse of 12 years from the date of registration: August 2012. Unfortunately for him a descendant of the Bright family contacted Jewish Heritage in 2011 and lodged a challenge to the Title with the Land Registry. She also sought to have the highly unusual mausolea Listed by English Heritage. In response, the landowner summarily demolished the structures two days before Xmas 2012, having already put in a bizarre planning application to build his own mausoleum on the site (now dropped). The Local Authority, Peak District National Park, issued an enforcement notice against illegal demolition but failed to follow through on a prosecution. Jewish Heritage alerted the Board of Deputies of British Jews to the serious implications of this case. It demonstrates that any abandoned Jewish cemetery which is privately owned - by a Jewish community as much as by an individual family (as opposed to a Jewish plot in a municipal cemetery) in England - runs the risk of alienation and destruction. The Rodmoor case has highlighted the fact that planning objections regarding such cemeteries on purely religious grounds are inadmissible in English planning law. The outcome of the contested Land Title is awaited.
In March 2011 The London Borough of Tower Hamlets sold the birthplace of thousands of East End Jews to the Peabody Trust for a reported £2.7 million. It was earmarked for residential redevelopment although only one-third of the flats in Brady Mallalieu's scheme (Angela Brady is currently President of the RIBA) were reserved as 'affordable' housing. Veteran local campaigner Tom Ridge garnered 750 signatures in a petition to 'Stop the Demolition' of the original cottages on Underwood Road, which had a distinctive stepped gable. He secured the support of the local press and eventually also the unanimous backing of Tower Hamlets Council. However, by the time an acrimonious public 'consultation' staged by Peabody took place in November 2011 the gable had already been demolished. Clearly, the Planners were determined to bulldoze the opposition despite belately acknowledging that "Mother Levy's" was ‘a non-designated heritage asset’; they failed to place it on the Local List. An earlier ill-advised local attempt to get the site Listed nationally on the English Heritage Register had failed, it being notoriously difficult to justify Listing on social historical rather than purely architectural grounds. This abortive Listing only provided Peabody and Tower Hamlets with ammunition to defend the inevitable total demolition, thus erasing one more landmark of the Jewish East End forever.
Article in the Jewish Tribune 24 November 2011
The only London example by this prolific Newcastle-based Jewish architect in his trademark cinematic style. A sister building to the At Risk Ryhope Road Synagogue in Sunderland and Newcastle’s Jesmond Synagogue. Sold by the Federation of Synagogues in June 2005 to Jewish developers within the strictly Orthodox community in North London. The building was then stripped of its internal fixtures and fittings including the Byzantine style plasterwork Ark, rendering it unlistable according to a conservation appraisal commissioned by the developers from a well established Jewish conservation architect. In July 2006 the synagogue was rapidly demolished apparently through fear of possible Listing initiated by local residents.
A rare intact International Style synagogue that featured a flat roof and rectilinear forms. It had a Star of David worked into the otherwise plain brickwork, exposed brick walls to the interior and unusual timber and glass Ark that looked like a 1930s wireless set. Architect Ernest Joseph had befriended the Austrian émigré Walter Marmorek, a cousin of the prominent Viennese architect Oskar Marmorek, and no doubt learnt about new currents on the Continent through him. The congregation moved to a new synagogue inside a new-build block a short distance away in a lucrative deal with developers. At least the Ark was salvaged.
For full story see News Archive 2006
The first and only purpose-built synagogue in the English 'Potteries' was to be sacrificed to town centre redevelopment (a new bus station) in 2006. In fact, the shell of the building was still standing derelict in 2013. Fortunately, it was fully documented and photographed by the Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage and English Heritage. Furnishings, including the pretty timber classical style Ark and the Magen David (Star of David) on the tower, which is made of Minton tile that is locally-produced, were salvaged and recycled in a small synagogue created in the Ohel (funerary chapel) on the edge of the Jewish section at Coventry's London Road Cemetery, all with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The 'cathedral synagogue' of Ireland was sold to developers for an inflated sum in the overheated Irish property market of the late 1990s. According to his obituary in the Irish Builder, the architect was 'One of the greatest of Irish architects' and a master of the Venetian Gothic style much admired by Ruskin himself (although at Adelaide Road he stuck to a safer Romanesque). Basic recording was carried out by our Survey in association with Dúchas, the Irish Heritage Service, in spring 1999. At the time, legislation providing for statutory protection of historic buildings was making its way through the Dáil Ireland's Parliament. The shocking speed of demolition was reminiscent of the large-scale urban renewal experienced in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s before the conservation movement, spearheaded by the Georgian Group and the Victorian Society, managed to fight back. Irish Jewry is in a serious state of decline, although Irish history is unpredictable. Any future wave of Jewish immigration into the Republic has been deprived of the heritage that this flagship synagogue represented. A small consolation is that the Ark was salvaged and has found a home in a new-build synagogue in Beit Shemesh in Israel.
Copyright © Text Sharman Kadish 1997 to date