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The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England

Sharman Kadish

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 39, 2004 The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England SHARMAN KADISH In his seminal paper 'Anglo-Jewish Architects, and Architecture in the 18th and 19th Centuries', delivered to the Society fifty years ago in 1954, the late Edward Jamilly, RIBA, used the phrase the 'Cathedral Synagogues of England'.1 Since then, the term 'cathedral synagogue' has caught on both in the architectural historical literature and in the popular press. An alterna? tive name, more widespread on the Continent, is 'choral synagogue', in particular with reference to a large-scale urban synagogue in which formal services were held featuring a Hazan and choir. In the present essay, the evolution of the 'cathedral synagogue', both as idea and as bricks and mortar, will be explored. In the light of Jewish architectural history, the current fashionable pejorative usage of the term will be challenged. It should be pointed out immediately that the word 'cathedral' is borrowed from the Christian context, although in the Jewish tradition there is no concept of a hierarchy of synagogues comparable with cathedrals and parish churches. Historically, the so-called 'cathedral' or 'choral' synagogue is associated with the Era of Emancipation in the nineteenth century, when Jews in Europe emerged 'out of the ghetto' and progressed up the social scale.2 Their newly acquired confidence found expression in the construction of large-scale synagogues on public streets. These were prestige buildings, conceived in the grand manner, as symbols of the Jewish presence in the city, a civic function as relevant today as when they were first constructed. The development of the 'cathedral synagogue' was thus rooted in a particular historical era that needs a few words of explanation. In France, after the Revolution of 1789 and more fitfully in Germany during the nine? teenth century, the acquisition of civil and political rights led to the emer? gence of the Jewish community into the modern world. Throughout 1 Edward Jamilly, 'Anglo-Jewish Architects, and Architecture in the 18th and 19th Centuries', Trans JHSE 18 (1958) 127-41. 2 The best texts in English are Carol H. Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe (Cambridge, Mass. 1985, 2nd ed.) and Rachel Wischnitzer, The Architecture of the European Synagogue (Philadelphia 1964). For colour photographs see inter alia Harold Meek, The Synagogue (London 1995); Neil Folberg, And I Shall Dwell Among Them: Historic Synagogues of the World (New York 1996); Samuel Gruber, Synagogues (New York 1999) and Dominique Jarrasse, Synagogues (Paris 2001). 45</page><page sequence="2">Sharman Kadish Europe from the Middle Ages onwards, Jews had been excluded by the Church from Christian society. In some places they lived in quarters surrounded by walls and/or gates, as in the original ghetto of Venice insti? tuted in 1516. Elsewhere, they congregated in a more open Jewish quarter, still largely separated from Gentiles and suffering all kinds of discrimina? tion. The 'Jewish Quarter' had various names in different languages: la Juiverie or la Carriere in France, Judengasse in Germany, Juderia in Spanish, Ulica Zydowska in Poland and 'the Jewry' in medieval England. English Jewry had arrived with William the Conqueror from Normandy in the eleventh century and was expelled en masse by Edward I in 1290. No Jews were officially resident in England for nearly 400 years. In 1656, during the brief period when the country was a republic, Jews were permitted to return and to practise their religion openly - albeit initially in private houses rather than in purpose-built synagogues - in the wake of the petition submitted by the Dutch rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel to Oliver Cromwell. From the time of their Resettlement in seventeenth-century England and even before their formal political emancipation in the mid-nineteenth century, Jews enjoyed advantages over their Continental brethren. By comparison, they suffered fewer restrictions on residence, occupation or even ownership of land. Even so, land acquired by Jews for the purposes of building synagogues or for burial of their dead tended to be leasehold. As foreigners, the founders of Britain's earliest synagogues were barred from owning freehold land. Sometimes it was acquired 'on the lives' of friendly Christians, as was the case in Plymouth in the eighteenth century. The experience of persecution was still fresh. In the ghettos and shtetls (Jewish townships) of pre-emancipation Europe, synagogues were discreetly placed, deferential to the reality of a potentially hostile environment. Even some relatively large-scale synagogues, for example in Vilno, Cracow or Prague, were built under certain restrictions in the Jewish quarter of the town. In England the Jewish community kept a low profile, especially in the provinces. Synagogues, like non-conformist chapels and Catholic churches, tended to be found off the public thoroughfare, tucked up alleyways or in courts. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries even England was not immune from Dissenter riots3 and anti-Popish outbreaks, resulting from the fact that since the sixteenth century the Protestant Church of England has been the officially established Church. 3 Such as those that took place in Birmingham in 1813 when the Severn Street synagogue, along with the nearby Methodist and Baptist churches, had its windows smashed and interior pillaged. See Robert K. Dent, Old and New Birmingham (Birmingham 1880) 221, 364, 395. 46</page><page sequence="3">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England The Georgian Synagogue The three-hundred-year-old Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Bevis Marks is not only Britain's oldest synagogue, but also the pre-eminent example of what I shall choose to call 'pre-emancipation' Jewish architec? ture, that is to say, synagogue architecture in the days before Jews achieved social acceptance, let alone civil and political emancipation in England.4 Bevis Marks encapsulates what Dominique Jarrasse, the historian of French synagogue architecture, has termed 'Un espace cache', a hidden space,5 the enclosed sanctuary away from public gaze. Splendid if restrained decora? tion, in accordance with the rabbinic injunction of hiddur mitzvot, 'beautifi cation of the commandments', was hidden behind a sober fa$ade in a quiet courtyard.6 Joseph Avis, the master-builder of Bevis Marks, was apparently a Quaker. Like the Jews, he was a 'Dissenter' from the Anglican establishment. Perhaps the choice of builder reflected the insecurity of the Jewish commu? nity.7 They were not yet confident enough to approach a prestigious archi? tect of the stature of Sir Christopher Wren - for whom Avis had worked on St Bride's in Fleet Street. They could not commission a Jewish architect because there were none. From the Middle Ages Jews in Christian Europe had been excluded from the craftsmen's guilds, undoubtedly an impedi? ment to training as architects or builders. Jewish artistic endeavour was largely confined to calligraphy, printing, silverwork and textiles - books and ritual objects being portable, unlike buildings. Consequently, virtually no synagogues, in Britain or elsewhere in Europe before the nineteenth century, were designed and built by Jews. This fact is sometimes cited, not without some justification, as an argument against the very existence of Jewish architecture. Plymouth Synagogue, built in 1762-3 for an Ashkenazi congregation, is, like the Sephardi Bevis Marks, situated on a side street. It was correctly aligned with its Ark wall facing towards Jerusalem ? i.e. towards the south? east or, as in this case, to the east, with the front door to the west, effectively 'around the back'. The pair of round-headed windows in the east wall 4 Here I diverge from Jamilly (see n. i) 129, who originally used the term 'Cathedral Synagogues' in connection with Bevis Marks and James Spiller's London Great Synagogue of 1790. 5 Dominique Jarrasse, 'La synagogue reflet d'une histoire', in Monuments Historiques 191 (Feb. 1994), [issue devoted to 'Le patrimoine juif francais'] 29. See also his L'Age d'or des synagogues (Paris 1991) and Une Histoire des Synagogues Francaises: Entre Occident et Orient (Arles, Actes Sud 1997). 6 'Beautification of the commandments', see the midrashic remarks in Mekhilta on Exodus 15:2, 'This is my God and I shall extol/beautify Him', from the Song at the Red Sea. 7 Sharman Kadish, Bevis Marks Synagogue, 1701-2001 (Swindon, English Heritage 2001). 47</page><page sequence="4"></page><page sequence="5">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England fronting the street would have made this modest brick, rendered and white? washed building appear to be just another non-conformist meeting-house. But inside, the gilded Ark, likened to the Baroque Arks of the synagogues of Venice, was lavish.8 Synagogues of the Georgian and Regency periods broadly followed this model of discretion. Rare surviving examples are Exeter (1763-4), Ramsgate (David Mocatta, 1831-3) and Cheltenham (W. H. Knight, 1837-9), all Grade IP Listed buildings. The Victorian Synagogue Beginning from the 1830s, but especially after 1850 all over Europe, new? found Jewish confidence, underpinned by economic advancement, expressed itself architecturally in the building of monumental synagogues on public streets. From Berlin to Budapest, Paris to Rome and even as far away as St Petersburg, large-scale synagogues on prominent city-centre sites made their appearance. In Rome the vast new synagogue was more than a metaphor. It was built on the site of the ancient ghetto, swept away after 1870.9 The new fashion did not leave England untouched. England was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and, by the mid-Victorian period, Jewish entrepreneurs were contributing to the development of Britain's growing industrial cities: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Successful Jewish communities made themselves visible. Singers Hill Synagogue in Birmingham was one of the first 'cathedral synagogues' to be erected in this country and is the oldest surviving ex? ample in Britain.10 London's New West End Synagogue, Brighton's Middle Street and Liverpool's Princes Road, to which we shall come in a moment, all date from the 1870s, some twenty years later than Singers Hill. All three 8 Edward Jamilly, The Georgian Synagogue (London 1999); Edward Jamilly, 'Synagogue Art and Architecture', in S. S. Levin (ed.)A Century of Anglo-Jewish Life, 1870-iQjo (London 1970) 75?91; Sharman Kadish (ed.) Building Jerusalem: Jewish Architecture in Britain (London 1996); Sharman Kadish, 'Constructing Identity: Anglo-Jewry and Synagogue Architecture', Architectural History 45 (2002) 386-408. 9 L. Scott Lerner, 'The Narrating Architecture of Emancipation', Jewish Social Studies 6:3 (2000) 1-30. 'CathedraP-type synagogues are also to be found outside Europe in countries to which European Jews migrated in the late nineteenth century, especially, but not only, confined to the English-speaking world, e.g. New York City, Sydney, Buenos Aires. 10 See 'At Risk: Sharman Kadish gives a tour of Singers Hill Synagogue in Birmingham...\ Jewish Renaissance 2:1 (2002) 19-20. For the appearance of the London Great, Hambro and New Synagogues see Peter Renton, The Lost Synagogues of London (London 2000) and Clarence Epstein, 'Compromising Traditions in Eighteenth-century London: The Architecture of the Great Synagogue, Duke's Place', in Kadish, Building Jerusalem (see n. 8) 54-83. 49</page><page sequence="6">Sharman Kadish Plate i Singers Hill Synagogue, Birmingham (Henry R. Yeoville Thomason, 1855-6). Photograph by Peter Williams ? English Heritage. and several others now enjoy enhanced Listed status (Grade II*), reflecting belated recognition of the architectural and historical importance of these surviving but threatened buildings to the national heritage. Singers Hill is an important building not only in the history of Anglo Jewry, but in the context of the urban history of the City of Birmingham. Singers Hill was designed by the leading municipal architect Henry R. Yeoville Thomason (1826-1901), who was afterwards responsible for the Council House (1874-8) and City Art Gallery (1881-5). Indeed, his corpora? tion Banqueting Room, with its barrel-vaulted ceiling and superimposed order of Corinthian columns with gilded capitals, bears a striking resem? blance to Singers Hill. Both for civic buildings and the synagogue the archi? tectural style chosen was Italian Renaissance, Thomason's favourite. This was becoming fashionable for synagogues, and Singers Hill was compared by contemporaries with the London New Synagogue opened in Great St Helen's in Bishopsgate in 1838, whose architect was the classicist John 50</page><page sequence="7">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England Davies. An engraving of the interior of the New Synagogue was featured in H. Melville's andT H. Shepherd's London Interiors (1841), which achieved wide circulation. The New Synagogue, with its apse at the Ark end, itself owed a debt to James Spiller's Great Synagogue in Duke's Place of 1790. However, externally, both buildings remained low-key and fairly out of sight. In Birmingham, the prominent site in Singers Hill had been acquired in 1853 around the corner from the old and much more discreet Regency synagogue in Severn Street, the Grecian-style interior of which survives today as the Masonic Hall. The foundation stone at Singers Hill was laid on 20 April 1855 and the new building consecrated by Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler on 24 September 1856, in a ceremony reported in detail not only in the Jewish Chronicle but in the local press, a pattern that became typical throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.11 Such ceremonies were frequently attended by the town's mayor and other digni? taries, and speeches were invariably made praising the religious tolerance of England and the contribution of Jews to English society. Besides the syna? gogue itself, with seating for 1000, schoolrooms were built at the rear of the site in Ellis Street for the 350 pupils of the Birmingham Hebrew Schools, now the communal hall. Two houses for the resident ministers were included in the complex, the whole forming three sides of a quadrangle around a courtyard. Singers Hill is built of red brick with stone dressings. In the central range, the generous vestibule lined with donors plaques, a feature of many large-scale synagogues of the later nineteenth century, is set back behind an arcaded porch below an enormous wheel window filled with red and blue glass. The main prayer hall was built on a basilican plan, with the 'nave' separated from the side aisles by arcades. This plan was to become a hall? mark of the 'cathedral' synagogue. Comparable examples of the plan are Liverpool's Princes Road (1874-5) and London's New West End syna? gogues (1877-9), both of which had a clerestory. In England such syna? gogues were never designed with a transept, with the symbolic overtones of the 'crossing' to be found in Christian cathedrals. At Singers Hill the mahogany Ark is set in an apse in the east wall and backlit from above by three round-headed windows worked in a rich diaper pattern with the Luhot, 'Decalogue', in the centre, separated by Corinthian pilasters in a composition probably inspired by Davies' New Synagogue. The basilican plan with built-in Ark apse, usually semi-circular, is found in 11 Arts Gazette 22 Sept. 1856 p. 2; Jewish Chronicle [hereafter JC] 20 April 1855, pp. 138-9; 3 Oct. 1856, pp. 746, 750-2; Illustrated Midlands News 1:2, n Sept. 1869, p. 1. Harry Levine, A Short History of the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation 1836-1936 (Birmingham 1956) 8 shows an architect's perspective of the facade at the opening on 24 Sept. 1856 (misattributed to^C, source at present unknown). 5i</page><page sequence="8">Sharman Kadish Plate 2 Singers Hill Synagogue, Birmingham (Henry R. Yeoville Thomason, 1855-6). Photograph by Peter Williams ? English Heritage. the archaeological remains of synagogues in ancient Israel and there was no doubt a 'trade-off between the design of these buildings and early churches. So the 'cathedral' synagogue was perhaps, in this respect, not a new invention. In England, the concept of a built-in Ark as an architectural feature integral to the wall nearest Jerusalem had, as mentioned already, begun with James Spiller's Adamesque rebuilding of the Ashkenazi London Great Synagogue in Duke's Place in 1790. The Ark at Bevis Marks and in the Georgian synagogues was a freestanding closet. The interior of Singers Hill has been redecorated a number of times. The Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage discovered in Birmingham City Archives original sketches in poor condition of successive colour schemes for the Ark made by the architect himself. Funds were found to carry out a complete conservation of the delicate drawings. Thomason's decorative programmes for the Ark employ colour wash and are thus particularly valu? able for modern restorers working on the building.12 Singers Hill retains its original splendid ornamental gas chandeliers. In the 1870s a fire broke out in the building, apparently caused by overheating due to the presence of 336 gas lighting jets. Temperatures regularly reached 88 degrees Fahrenheit in the gallery, no doubt, it is said, causing some of the ladies to faint on Yom Kippur. Ventilators were installed and eventually, in 12 Birmingham City Archives, Thomason MS 1460/5 Acc 89/32 9 sheets. 52</page><page sequence="9">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England 1904, the gasoliers were converted to electricity. Brighton's Middle Street Synagogue also has splendid light fittings, electroliers rather than gasoliers. It claims to be the earliest synagogue in Britain to install electricity in 1892, beating the New West End by two years. However, the latter building possesses both some of its original gasoliers, designed by Hart Son Peard &amp; Co., and original electroliers installed in 1895. The 'Golden Age' of the 'Cathedral Synagogue' The 1870s and 1880s may be called the 'Golden Age' of synagogue architec? ture in High Victorian Britain. A key factor was the foundation of the United Synagogue. Provision was made under its Deed of Foundation and Trust for the centralization of resources to finance the construction of new synagogues in London, home to two-thirds of Anglo-Jewry throughout the modern period. More synagogues were therefore constructed in the capital than anywhere else in the country. Whereas in France and Germany the impetus to centralization had come from above - the Consistoire and Gemeinde were structures imposed by the State to exert political control over a religious minority - in Britain the United Synagogue was set up by an Act of Parliament initiated by the Jewish community itself. Yet, the archi? tectural effects were the same: the erection of large-scale synagogues both for London and for provincial congregations that recognized the jurisdic? tion of the Chief Rabbi. The grand so-called 'cathedral synagogue' became the favoured architectural type for the United Synagogue.13 Synagogue buildings became larger and more complex. In addition to the traditionally adjoining Bet hamidrash, 'study house', and perhaps school? rooms either upstairs or in the basement, a typical structure would include cloakrooms, vestry, offices and a kitchen. A minister's and caretaker's house might be integrated into the design or built next door. Rarely, however, was there a mikveh, 'ritual bath', despite the high priority accorded it in Jewish law. The emergence of the 'cathedral synagogue' went hand in hand with the development of what is known as Minhag Anglia (the Anglo-Jewish rite), which was originally imported by Ashkenazim from Hamburg and was developed to its highest degree in the nineteenth century by Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler and his son Hermann, who dominated the religious 13 Judy Glasman, 'Synagogues in the late 19th century: Design in Context', London Journal 13:2 (1988) 143-55; Judy Glasman, 'Assimilation by Design: London Synagogues in the 19th century', in Tony Kushner (ed.) The Jewish Heritage in British History (London 1992) 171-209; Edward Jamilly, 'An Introduction to Victorian Synagogues', Victorian Society Annual 1991, pp. 22-35 ana* nis tw0 contributions to Kadish, Building Jerusalem (see n. 8). On the relationship of the synagogue with the mikveh see Sharman Kadish, 'Eden in Albion: A History of the Mikveh in Britain', in Kadish, Building Jerusalem (see n. 8) 101-54. 53</page><page sequence="10">Sharman Kadish life of Anglo-Jewry throughout the reign of Queen Victoria. Adlerian Orthodoxy meant traditional Jewish content dressed up in English packag? ing: formal dress such as top hats and dog collars worn by clergy, profes? sional Hazanim leading choral services in an aesthetically pleasing environment. Such genteelly decorous proceedings were calculated to appeal to English-born Jews. The recipe was effective; it staved off the inroads of Reform Judaism until well into the twentieth century. The United Synagogue is still looked on as 'centrist Orthodoxy', the Jewish equivalent of the Church of England, and its 'Chief Rabbi', the Chief Rabbi, the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the late nine? teenth century the United Synagogue built big as a statement that the Jews had 'arrived' socially. Synagogues could now compete for attention with city churches, especially during the Victorian religious-building boom that affected all Christian denominations. Jewish emancipation in the mid-nineteenth century coincided with the Age of Historicism in architectural history, a period when Europe as a whole looked for inspiration to Classical, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles. Paradoxically this was also a period of great technologi? cal advance when new building materials such as cast iron were put to use in the reinterpretation of traditional styles. In the era of emancipation, accul turated Jews sought a 'Jewish' style of architecture, capable of constructing a modern Jewish identity on the Gentile street. British Jews, like their Continental counterparts in Western and Central Europe, expressed them? selves in the fashionable architectural idiom of the day. As a result the Victorian 'Battle of the Styles' took on a peculiarly Jewish dimension.14 Until the 1850s Italianate was the most popular style for synagogues, harking back to Spiller's Great Synagogue. Singers Hill is a unique example to survive from this period. Of its contemporaries, Manchester's Great Synagogue (Thomas Bird, 1857-8, Grade II) has been demolished and Liverpool's Hope Place (Thomas Wylie, 1856?7) is scarcely recognizable in its new guise as the Unity Theatre (see below). Vestiges of Davies' New Synagogue, notably the concave mahogany Ark, live on in the successor building at Egerton Road, Stamford Hill (Joseph &amp; Smithem, 1915, Grade II), itself now no longer in use as a formal worship space in the way origi? nally intended, and currently on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register. In the second half of the nineteenth century the whole gamut of fashion? able Revival styles was toyed with, both by Gentile architects commissioned to design for Jews and by the coterie of Jewish architects then emerging, which included H. H. Collins, Nathan Solomon Joseph, Davis &amp; Emanuel 14 The issue of style is explored more fully in my paper on 'Constructing Identity' (see n. 8). 54</page><page sequence="11">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England and Edward Salomons in Manchester.15 Architects experimented with a range of styles and, more often than not, with a mixture of styles within the same building. Eclecticism was a hallmark of the 'cathedral synagogue'. Romanesque was as popular as Italianate. The best surviving example is Chatham Memorial Synagogue (in Rochester, 1865-70), recently upgraded to Grade II* largely for the quality of its decorative interior. This synagogue was designed by the senior Anglo-Jewish architect of the Victorian period, Hyman Henry Collins (1832/3-1905), whose family name had originally been Kalisch and whose preferred style was Italianate (for example at Bristol, 1870-1, and London St John's Wood, Abbey Road, 1880-2, now the New London Synagogue). Chatham, by contrast, with its gabled roof, sported a fifty-foot Romanesque tower, spire and finials. Nevertheless, in contrast to Singers Hill, and other examples presented here, it is not really 'cathedral' either in scale or plan. It lacks a nave and aisles and has only a single gallery located at the west facing the Ark.16 Chatham was built under the private patronage of wealthy Naval Agent Simon Magnus, who bought the freehold of the site of an earlier synagogue and dedicated the new build? ing to the memory of his son. Brighton's Middle Street Synagogue hides behind a low-key Italian Romanesque facade on a narrow street built on a bed of shingle - a source of concern ever since. Close examination of the front elevation reveals the use of expensive stone - polished Aberdeen granite for the main columns with Portland stone bases. The window shafts are of red Mansfield stone with Bath stone caps and bases. The wheel window in the gable with stone trac? ery is set off in the white brickwork of the front, with a jolly note of colour injected by the red-and-blue-glazed brick dressings over the windows and along the cornice. But nothing prepares the visitor for the sumptuousness of the interior: a riot of marble, brass, mosaic, stencilling, gilding and stained glass, much of it donated by the Sassoon family, the synagogue's chief patrons. The richly decorated capitals of the iron columns that support the gallery are individually fashioned from hammered iron and copper; each sports a different representation of flora from the Land of Israel. 15 Jamilly, 'Anglo-Jewish Architects, and Architecture' (see n. i). In addition, the late Mr Jamilly made a special study of 'Hyman Henry Collins', Quest [New London Synagogue] i (Sept. 1965) 41-5; Rhona Beenstock, 'Edward Salomons - A Sociable Architect', Manchester Region History Review 10 (1996) 90-5. The present writer has recently completed a number of entries on Anglo-Jewish architects for The New Dictionary of National Biography, in press (Oxford 2004). 16 See below for discussion of liturgical arrangements. One sheet of Collins's original colour-wash drawings is on display in the vestibule at Chatham. Engravings appeared in The Builder 10 Sept. 1870, pp. 725-7 and see also 77?^ Builder 17 Oct. 1868, p. 767 and JC 16 Sept. 1870. 55</page><page sequence="12"></page><page sequence="13">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England Middle Street Synagogue was designed by the Brighton architect Thomas Lainson in 1874?5,17 known to the Jewish community through his work for Sir Francis Goldsmid as Surveyor to the Wick Estate, laid out in Hove under Goldsmid commercial patronage. Indeed, Brighton and Hove can probably boast more streets named after Jewish notables than any other town in Britain.18 Other examples of the use of Romanesque in the exteriors of important synagogues include Newcastle's Leazes Park (John Johnstone, 1879-80). The facade, with a strongly Lombardic feel, remains, but the interior is sadly lost. London's Bayswater Synagogue, Chichester Place, 1862-3 (by N. S. Joseph with Edward Salomons), is now completely demolished. Mention should also be made of Dublin's Adelaide Road (1892), designed on 'Eastern Romanesque' lines by J. J. O'Callaghan, which was the 'cathedral synagogue' of Ireland until its closure in 1999 and shocking demolition.19 O'Callaghan's obituary in The Irish Builder dubbed him 'One of the greatest of Irish architects' and a master of the Venetian Gothic style, much admired by Ruskin himself.20 Glasgow's Garnethill Synagogue (John McLeod in association with N. S. Joseph, 1877-9) was less thoroughly Romanesque, but has happily survived through the dedicated efforts of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre and with the support of Historic Scotland. Garnethill features a glass-roofed semi-dome in the Ark apse, similar to Middle Street, although there is no direct evidence that the architects were influenced by the Brighton example. Skylights were a characteristic feature of Glasgow buildings. This and other features of Garnethill were later repeated in a watered down version at Queen's Park (Ninian MacWhannell, 1925-7, closed 2003). One architectural style conspicuous by its absence from the repertoire of nineteenth-century synagogue architects in England was the Gothic Revival. Thanks largely to Pugin, Gothic was identified as Christian and English, religion and nationhood being inextricably linked, a circumstance that excluded Jews. Therefore English Jews, by and large, avoided the Gothic for their synagogues. In this, the Jewish community found common 17 East Sussex County Record Office, Lewes Ref: DB/D7/1223. 'New Synagogue, Middle Street Brighton' signed 'Th. Lainson, Architect, 170 North Street, Brighton' dated August 1874. Drawings 'missing' in Sept. 2002, old photocopies kindly supplied by Gordon Franks. Press: JC 20, 27 Nov. 1874, 24 Sept. 1875, The Builder 4 Sept. 1875, p. 803; Brighton Examiner 28 Sept. 1875; Brighton Guardian 25 Nov. 1874; 22&gt; 29 Sept. 1875; Brighton Herald 28 Aug., 25 Sept. 1875. 18 David Spector, 'The Jews of Brighton', Trans jfHSE 22 (1970) 42-52 and 'Brighton Jewry Reconsidered', Trans jfHSE 30 (1989) 91-123. 19 JfCg Dec. 1892; Sharman Kadish, 'Dublin Jewry's lost opportunity',23 July 1999, p. 27. 20 The Irish Builder &amp; Engineer 16 Dec. 1905. Garnethill was illustrated in The Builder 5 March 1881 and see 7C 10 Aug. 1877, 12 Sep. 187Q. 57</page><page sequence="14">Sharman Kadish ground with many non-conformist Christians who, by the late Victorian period, came to associate Gothic with the established Anglican Church.21 Orientalism Moorish (Moresque) or so-called Saracenic, as well as Islamic or Byzantine and even Assyrian and Mogul-inspired styles, sporting domes, turrets and minarets, made a confident statement of the Jews' supposedly eastern origins. Orientalism in synagogue architecture enjoyed a vogue all over Europe in the late nineteenth century. In Britain, fine interiors replete with polychromic decoration in paint, stencilling and mosaic may be seen at Princes Road in Liverpool (1872-4) and its sister building in London, the New West End Synagogue (1877-0). Today, in a multicultural society where other immigrant groups can claim more immediate links with the east than European Jews, the nineteenth century fashion for 'orientalism' in synagogue architecture strikes one as slightly ironic. Indeed, several 'orientalist' synagogues have been success? fully turned into mosques, the Brondesbury Synagogue of 1904?5, by Frederick W. Marks, with its copper-covered onion domes and horseshoe arcades, is now described as 'the premier Shi'a mosque in the city [London]'.22 As the current mosque-building boom alters the skyline of British cities, it requires a leap of imagination to understand why Victorian Jews preferred supposedly 'eastern' styles of architecture. Domed syna? gogues - although never with minarets - were built in Muslim countries, based on local forms. But, in the context of nineteenth-century Europe, the point of such 'exotic' styles was that they were un-Christian. To push the argument further: in British India, wealthy Jews, particularly those hailing from Iraq (Baghdad), like the Sassoons, living in a majority Muslim and Hindu society, preferred Gothic to the Orientalist for their synagogues.23 Princes Road in Liverpool and the New West End Synagogue in St Petersburgh Place were essentially the work of the Liverpool architect George Audsley (1838-1925), although in London Nathan Joseph had a hand. Recent research in the synagogue's archives by Simon (Joseph) Mirwitch has shown beyond doubt that the New West End Synagogue was 21 See Kadish, 'Constructing Identity' (see n.8). In the period before Pugin, when Gothic was still spelt 'Gothick', we have evidence of English synagogues built in this style at Ipswich (1792) and Sheerness (1811). Sheffield, North Church Street (John Brightmore Mitchell Withers Senior 1872), is a unique example from the second half of the century. See Kadish, The Synagogues of Britain and Ireland: An Architectural History (forthcoming). 22 Fatima Gailani, The Mosques of London (Henstridge 2000). Press: JfC 14 April 1905, The Architect and Contract Reporter 7 July 1905, p. 8 - both illustrated. 23 Jay A. Waronker, 'In Search of India's Synagogues: Their Architecture and History', in Shalva 58</page><page sequence="15">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England Audsley's creation and that Joseph played very much a secondary role, acting as site supervisor.24 Audsley, in keeping with his total-design philo? sophy, designed the Ark, Bimah, original pulpit and even the gas-light fittings himself and engaged other firms of craftsmen to execute the pieces. Some Liverpool firms known to Audsley were employed on the London commission: Norbury, Upton &amp; Paterson made the Bimah and pulpit, and both were gilded by J. Wannoss &amp; Son. Neither firm is recorded as having worked on Princes Road synagogue, although Audsley did once again use Jones &amp; Sons of Liverpool to make the pews (that still survive), R. B. Edmundson of Manchester to make the original stained glass and the London firm of Hart Son Peard &amp; Co. to make the original gas burners, as in the Liverpool synagogue. The foundation stone of the New West End Synagogue was laid on 7 June 1877 (now hidden inside the back office), the site having been purchased with the help of Rothschild patronage and a loan from the United Synagogue. The synagogue was consecrated by the Chief Rabbi on 30 March 1879 at a final cost, including the site, of just under ?25,000, more than double the ?10,000 spent mostly as charity on East London Synagogue in Stepney Green that had opened two years earlier. The New West End was built for the social elite of West End Jewry and its lavishness befitted their wealth. Two different drawings of the front elevation appeared in The Builder and in the less-well-known Building News.25 In both London and Liverpool, as in Brighton, fabulous decoration is confined largely to the interior, masked behind more restrained, if stylistically eclectic, facades. Jewish symbolism on the facade was low-key: a discreet Star of David over the doorway in Liverpool (later picked out in gold) and the Luhot high up on the gable turret in Liverpool, but above the doors at St Petersburgh Place. This latter symbol began to appear on the facades of large synagogues in the nineteenth century where, on a church, one would expect to find the cross. It had been used internally above the Ark in Europe certainly since the seventeenth century, Bevis Marks being the earliest example in Britain. Similar Tablets of the Law are found on the altar pieces of a number of Wren churches),26 but did not 'go public' until after the French Revolution. 24 Simon (Joseph) Mirwitch, 'The New West End Synagogue, St Petersburgh Place, London, W2: An Account and an Appreciation of its Architecture', Unpub. draft 2003 kindly loaned by the author. Press: JC 8 June 1877, 28 March, 4 April 1879. 25 The Builder 27 July 1878 and Building News 13 July 1877. 26 Kenneth Rubens, 'Bevis Marks Synagogue and the City Churches', Trans JHSE 37 (2001) 117-31. Regarding the Magen David (lit. 'Shield of David'): North London Synagogue, Barnsbury (H. H.Collins, 1868, demolished) had a Star of David in a cartouche gable over the main entrance, the earliest example in England of its public use as an exclusively Jewish symbol that I have been able to find, Illustrated London News 3 Oct. 1868, reproduced in Anne and 59</page><page sequence="16">Plate 4 The New West End Synagogue, St Petersburgh Place, Bayswater, London, W2 (George Audsley with Nathan S.Joseph). Front elevation, from The Building News 13 July 1877. Photograph by Bob Skingle ? English Heritage.</page><page sequence="17">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England Luhot appear in glass, as we have seen, over the Ark at Singers Hill in the 1850s, but the earliest known examples in stone on the front of the building in nineteenth-century England are at Middle Street, Brighton, at Princes Road, Liverpool, and at the New West End Synagogue, St Petersburgh Place, in the 1870s. Princes Road from the 1840s was a fashionable tree-lined boulevard in the up-and-coming Toxteth district of the City of Liverpool. Six architects were invited to compete for the synagogue commission. The practice of holding competitions for major synagogue projects began with the London New Synagogue in 1838, won by John Davies, but remained rare until the 1870s. An acrimonious dispute between rival Jewish practices over the outcome of the competition held for the West London Synagogue in 1868 was fought out in the pages of The Builder. In Liverpool the first place was awarded to the non-Jewish Audsley brothers who had previously won the competition for the Welsh Presbyterian Church (1865-8) on the other side of the street, now sadly neglected. They went on to build several other churches in Liverpool before emigrating to America in the early 1890s. George was an organ builder and prolific writer on applied ornament, who produced a series of high-quality pattern books that drew on diverse stylis? tic sources. He was an expert especially on Japonisme - a style strangely enough absent from his synagogues. The applied decoration at both Princes Road and St Petersburgh Place owed more to his colleague Owen Jones and perhaps also, as Mirwitch has argued in his as yet unpublished research, to Alexander 'Greek' Thomson of Glasgow. 'A form of Greek Revival with a dash of Egyptian' is how Mirwitch describes George Audsley's 'preferred style' - which is especially apparent in the internal door cases in both build? ings. The brilliance of the largely forgotten Audsley brothers is now being rediscovered and they have recently been celebrated in the Masters of Victorian Design exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.27 The Princes Road synagogue itself is set to benefit from Liverpool's designation as 'European Capital of Culture 2008'. The Audsleys justified their eclectic choice of style for Princes Road because it 'Blended together ... enough of the Eastern feeling to render it suggestive, and enough of the Western severity to make it appropriate for a Roger Cowen, Victorian Jews through British Eyes (Oxford 1988) in. The Star of David became much more popular when it was adopted as an emblem of the nascent Zionist movement after 1897. 27 See note 24. The Audsleys: Masters of Victorian Design, colour leaflet and unpublished inven? tory of buildings, compiled by Alyson Pollard, curator of the exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 17 May - 7 September 2003, with acknowledgements. Compare with Gavin Stamp, Alexander 'Greek' Thomson (London 1999). 6i</page><page sequence="18">Sharman Kadish street building in an English town'.28 One infers that they meant it to be 'suggestive' of the Jews' supposedly 'eastern' origins, while not so alien as to make it - or the Liverpool Hebrew Congregation - out of place. The 'Western' element was largely in the facade, now more 'early 13th century' (as Pevsner deemed it)29 than ever, shorn of the six turrets declared unsafe in i960. However, the deep arched portal is in shape more horseshoe than Gothic or Romanesque, and is of several orders. The shape of the portal is repeated later at St Petersburgh Place. So too is the huge rose window above, set within a lobed arch. However, the Audsleys asserted that 'The Moresque style, which has almost universally been adopted for modern synagogues, is in [our] building entirely absent, the architects believing that this style is both unsuggestive and inappropriate for a Jewish place of worship'. This is at odds with Nathan Joseph's expressed view that 'the Moresque' was the most appro? priate style for synagogue architecture, given 'its Eastern origin'.30 The Audsleys claimed alternative influences. The 1860s was a period of archaeological exploration in Jerusalem, including Charles Warren's work around the Temple Mount. Perhaps the Audsleys had seen Charles Melchior de Vogue's reconstructions of Herod's Temple in Le Temple de Jerusalem, published in Paris in 1864.31 This posited a mixture of Assyrian and Grecian forms. Other contemporary descriptions of Princes Road and St Petersburgh Place characterized them as 'Saracenic', 'Byzantine', or 'Graeco-Byzantine'. Even Pevsner's The Buildings of England was confused. Mirwitch is right when he says of the New West End: 'Clearly this is not a building that easily fits within any easily identifiable stylistic category'. More illuminating was the passing reference made by the Audsleys to 'the Temple in Berlin'. Edward Knoblauch's Oranienburgerstrasse Synagogue, with its huge dome, was opened in 1866 and became one of the most celebrated expressions of 'orientalism' in synagogue architecture in the second half of the nineteenth century. This building, which was featured in the Illustrated London News32 had a triple-arcaded entrance 28 Quoted from JC 4. Sept. 1874. See also JC 1 Oct. 1875; The Builder 6 Jan. 1872, p. 5, 4 Jan. 1873, p. 13, 12 Sept. 1874, p. 773; Building News 3 Nov. 1882, p. 538 illustrated; ShoppelTs Owners and Builders Magazine (New York) 2 no. 5 (May 1908) front cover and pp. 8-9, with acknowledgements to Bernard Newman and Joseph Sharpies. David Hudaly, Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation ij8o-igj4 (Liverpool 1974). 29 Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England: Lancashire South (London 1969) 245-6. 30 JfC 4 Sept. 1874. Nathan S. Joseph, 19 Dec. 1867 in Report No. 1: Central Branch Synagogue, Report of the Building and Finance Committees ... 2 February 1868 inserted inside Central Synagogue Building Sub-Committee minute book 1866?71 in London Metropolitan Archives, United Synagogue Archives Acc 2712/CRS/001. 31 Helen Rosenau, Vision of the Temple (London 1979) Plate 150. 32 Illustrated London News 22 Sept. 1866 reproduced in Cowen (ed.) Victorian Jews through British Eyes (see n. 26) 155 and see Krinsky and Jarrasse (see n. 2). 62</page><page sequence="19">^^^^^ Plate 5 Princes Road Synagogue, Liverpool (William &amp; George Audsley, 1872-4). The great west portal. Photograph by Peter Williams ? English Heritage.</page><page sequence="20">Sharman Kadish porch which was repeated in many lesser synagogues into the twentieth century in Britain and elsewhere. Paired towers over the stairwells, topped by turrets, small onion domes and even minarets, was another fashion in nineteenth-century synagogue architecture all over Europe, probably started by the vast and hugely influential Dohany Temple in Budapest (Ludwig von Forster, 1854-9), recently lovingly restored by the World Monuments Fund. Such towers were, according to fashionable archaeolog? ical theory, based on the pair of columns included in Solomon's Temple, named Yahin and Boaz. The tripartite facade with twin-tower motif finds echoes in both Liverpool and London. Thus, one can see striking parallels between Princes Road and St Petersburgh Place, that was completed four years later, in the eclectic tripartite red-brick front elevation with corner turrets, the wheel window set within a cusped horseshoe arch and the cusped horseshoe-shaped portal dominating the facade. There are variations, particularly if one looks closely at the detailing: the arcaded windows in the upper side bays at St Petersburgh Place are almost Gothic in their points, whereas in Liverpool these are segmental. Indeed, George Audsley claimed that his 'eclectic ... chiefly Saracenic' design for St Petersburgh Place displayed also a 'fusion of the Gothic element ... in the proportions and disposition of the main portions of the buildings, and in such features as the rose windows and circular, foiled, clerestory lights'.33 Inside, the parallels continue: the basilican interior with arcaded aisles in five bays carried on octagonal columns, the turreted gilded Assyrian Ark set within a large horseshoe arch, cusped in Liverpool, the arch being repeated at the other end of the space. The turreted Arks are similar and comparable too with that at Glasgow's Garnethill, a building on which Nathan Joseph was engaged at the same time as St Petersburgh Place. The lavish marble Bimah in both Liverpool and London is slightly displaced to the west, while that at Princes Road (as, incidentally, also at Middle Street) is unusually accessed from the rear rather than from either side. Princes Road and St Petersburgh Place each possess a delightful wall clock with Hebrew face, the shape of which is modelled on the Ark. When the New West End was opened the interior was plainer than it is today. The walls were painted 'a cream colour' with decorative friezes running only along the top. The octagonal columns were of plain black iron? work. The colour scheme of alabaster, green and gold we see today, which used the Ark as the chief reference point, was carried out in 1895,34 when the costly marble cladding of the columns and walls was also introduced. 33 See n. 24. 34 JfC 13 July 1894, 5 April 1895; Ephraim Levine, The History of the New West End Synagogue 1879-1929 (London 1929). 64</page><page sequence="21"></page><page sequence="22">Sharman Kadish This, a mixture of Derbyshire alabaster and green Cipollino marble from the Rhone Valley in the Alps, was carried out under the supervision of Sir Isidore Spielmann, the noted impresario, exhibition organizer and art critic of late Victorian and Edwardian London. The arabesque decoration of the arch spandrels also dates from this period, each carved in a different design, for which various stylistic references were claimed, including St Sophia and Ravenna. The Jewish Chronicle judged that they were, either way, 'pure Byzantine design'. Originally the windows along the long walls were not filled with the stained glass which was a novel feature of the nineteenth-century 'cathedral synagogue'. Bevis Marks and the synagogues of the Georgian and Regency periods were originally lit naturally through large round-headed windows filled with clear glass, as was fashionable particularly for non-conformist churches of the day. By contrast, the 'cathedral synagogues' frequently have dark interiors on account of the Victorian penchant for stained glass, a retro-fashion harkening back to the cathedrals of the Gothic High Middle Ages.35 A few 'cathedral synagogues' started life with stained glass, but this was usually added later, often donated by patrons such as Sassoons in Brighton and Rothschilds at St Petersburgh Place. Middle Street's original windows were of 'rough plate-tinted cathedral glass' leaded in geometrical designs, some of which survives on the west front. The stained-glass panels were introduced between 1887 and 1912. Most of the stained glass at St Petersburgh Place was commissioned from Nigel Westlake and installed between 1905 and 1907 so was not part of the original scheme. The east rose window, by the Hungarian Jewish refugee glassmaker Erwin Bossanyi, was commissioned by Rozsica Rothschild, nee Wertheimstein, a fellow Hungarian, in 1935. It incorporates classic Jewish symbols such as a Sefer Torah, Luhot, Menorah, Shofar, Spice box, Lulav and more, and the window is signed in the bottom-right-hand corner by the artist. At Singers Hill the glass arrived as late as the 1960s, made by Hardman Studios of Birmingham, and includes human figures in biblical scenes, which are rare, but not unknown, in Jewish art.36 Synagogue glass is often inscribed with memorial dedications to departed family members of the donor. However, the dates given there are often earlier than the date when the window was installed. Stained glass in synagogues is 35 Evidence for medieval precedents for synagogue stained glass are known from rabbinical responsa, e.g. in Cologne and Vienna from c. 1200. See Vivian B. Mann (ed.) Jewish Texts on the Visual Arts (Cambridge 2000) 71-6. The use of stained glass as opposed to clear glass was an artistic expression of theological debates within the Church. 36 E E. Sawyer, The Churches of Brighton (n.d. c. 1981-2) 384. [Anon] 'The Rothschild Window', New West End Synagogue Newsletter (Passover 5752-1992) 21-4; The Stained Glass Windows of Singers Hill Synagogue, Birmingham (n.d. [1964]). 66</page><page sequence="23">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England actually hardly ever signed by the designer or glassmaker, sometimes making attribution difficult. Besides the Bossanyi window at St Petersburgh Place, another signed example is the pair of windows flanking the Ark at Hammersmith Synagogue (Delissa Joseph, 1890-6), installed in 1911. Small brass plates affixed to the sills beneath identify the designer as Percy L. Marks, who was Jewish, and the makers as Campbell &amp; Christmas, who were obviously not.37 These rather attractive, slightly Art Nouveau windows, were removed when the building was closed and sold to the Chinese Church of London in 2002. Their fate is uncertain. Liturgical 'Reform' English Reform Judaism, which began with the breakaway West London Synagogue in 1840, owed little to the radical theology of the parent move? ment in Germany. In the realm of architecture, Reform contributed nothing distinctive to the debate on style. In Europe, Reform Temples were arguably the quintessential 'cathedral synagogues', as the Dohany in Budapest illus? trates. The appellation 'Temple' never caught on in England, as it did in the United States, even though the term expressed the sentiment that the Reformed synagogue was a permanent replacement for the Jerusalem Temple. Unlike traditional Jews, Reformers of the nineteenth century no longer regarded Diaspora existence as exile from the Land of Israel to be ended when the Messiah came.38 The founders of the synagogue that moved to Upper Berkeley Street in 1870 styled themselves 'The West London Congregation of British Jews'. This designation was motivated by the expressed desire to end the distinction between the Portuguese and German Jews. Nevertheless, like the classical Reformers in Germany, members of the new congregation in effect considered themselves to be 'Englishmen of the Mosaic Persuasion', distinguished by religion alone from their Gentile compatriots. Ironically, this self-image did not lessen the appeal of 'orientalist' styles when it came to synagogue architecture. Reformers did alter the liturgical arrangement of the synagogue, however. The traditional dual points of focus on the Ark orientated towards Jerusalem and the central Bimah had become standard in Ashkenazi Europe, and was indeed codified in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. Nineteenth-century Reformers moved the Bimah to the east, creating a platform consisting of a combined Ark, Bimah and pulpit - an innovation based on church practice - all facing the congregation on the east wall. 37 See the write-up in The Architect &amp; Contract Reporter 14 July 1911, p. 31.1 am grateful to Maya Donelan for this reference. 38 On these issues see Michael Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (Oxford 1988). 67</page><page sequence="24">Plate 7 West London Synagogue (Henry D. Davis &amp; Barrow Emanuel, 1869-70). From Illustrated London Nervs 27 January 1872. Photograph by Bob Skingle ? English Heritage. This reordering spread to Britain and was widely adopted even by suppos? edly 'Orthodox' congregations. The architect Delissa Joseph (1859-1927) introduced a Reform-inspired combined Ark and Bimah into the United Synagogue at Hampstead, Dennington Park Road (1892, Grade II*), although this did not sit well with Joseph's equally innovative central plan which featured an octagonal dome and lantern (of which more below). The combined 68</page><page sequence="25">? ? . _?I ^^^^^^ j^**^ 1 Plate 8 Hampstead Synagogue (Delissa Joseph, 1892). From The Building News 11 December 1891. Photograph by Bob Skingle ? English Heritage.</page><page sequence="26">Sharman Kadish Ark and Bimah inevitably created a dominating east-west axis, far more suited to the by then 'traditional' basilican synagogue. At Joseph's earlier and more conventional Hammersmith Synagogue of 1890 the liturgical reordering was carried out in 1896, while at the West London Synagogue (1870), the parent synagogue of the British Reform movement, the originally central Bimah was not moved until 1897.39 But earlier provincial Reform synagogues at Manchester, Park Place (Edward Salomons, 1857-8) and Bradford, Bowland Street (Healey Brothers, 1880-1) were built to the new plan.40 The prominence given to the pulpit was another feature of the 'cathedral synagogue' that was not confined to Reform Temples. From the pulpit the modern rabbi was expected to address the congregation in the vernacular. A choir gallery was another innovation of the 'cathedral synagogue', adopted both by the Reform and by what (largely in response to the Reformers) came to be labelled the 'Orthodox', whence the Continental term 'choral' synagogue. Architectural changes associated with the development of formal cantorial music (Hazanut) in the synagogue, particularly in Central Europe in the nineteenth century included accommodation for the choir behind the Ark, hidden by a grille or textile screen as at St Petersburgh Place. Sometimes the choir was accommodated on an extra-large Bimah or in a deep west gallery facing the Ark. An organ was a great rarity, West London Synagogue being unique in Britain in possessing an integrated pipe organ. The Orthodox tradition forbids the playing of musical instru? ments in the synagogue on the Sabbath, the only music usually permitted being the unaccompanied male voice. The traditional synagogue is distinguished by the separation of the sexes. The women's section (known as Ezrat Nashim) may be screened-off at the back of the main hall, an upstairs gallery or even a separate room, upstairs or down. The Spanish &amp; Portuguese Great Synagogue in Amsterdam (1671-5) is the earliest in Europe built with certainty with a women's gallery and the precedent was followed in England at both Bevis Marks and the Ashkenazi Great Synagogue. However, in small-scale Georgian and Regency syna? gogues, such as Plymouth, Exeter, Cheltenham and Ramsgate, an upstairs gallery was originally built along the west over the vestibule. A characteristic of Victorian 'cathedral synagogues' built on the basilican plan were side galleries carried on iron-column supports, often arcaded, over the aisles, a 39 As shown in Illustrated London News 27 Jan. 1872, reproduced in Cowen (see n. 26) 108-11. JC 23 Sept. 1870; The Builder 1 Oct. 1870 p. 789; The Architect 24 Sept. 1870, p. 178. The removal of the Bimah was reported in JfC 24 Sept. 1897. Davis &amp; EmanuePs original drawings (1869) survive in poor condition in the British Architectural Library Drawings Collection RAN 31/L/1 (1-29) 29 sheets. 40 On Manchester see Sharman Kadish, 'Manchester Synagogues and their Architects, 1740-1940', Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society 47 (2003) 7-32 and for Bradford Idem in Architectural History (2002) 397. Both buildings are illustrated. 70</page><page sequence="27">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England design that became standard in purpose-built synagogues in the twentieth century. The actual Mehitzah, or screen to ensure that the women cannot be seen from the men's section on the floor of the synagogue, traditionally took the form of an open-work metal grille, wooden lattice or net curtain, the height and thickness of which is determined by the orthodoxy of the congre? gation. However, in acculturated congregations, such as those which constructed 'cathedral synagogues', the Mehitzah was reduced to a symbolic rail (justified also on safety grounds) topping the gallery fronts which were most frequently made of timber. The advent of reinforced concrete and steel in the twentieth century made it possible to construct cantilevered galleries without column supports beneath. Yet the basilican form, with three aisles and a clerestory, proved surprisingly resilient. The spread of enlightenment ideas during the nineteenth century can be gauged in the synagogue by the increased space set aside for women and by their growing visibility. German Reformers eventually abolished separate seating, but this development was not imme? diately taken up in Britain. The West London Synagogue of 1870 has a gallery which was reserved for women well into the twentieth century.41 Over its doorways appear in Hebrew the opening and closing verses of Eshet Hayil, 'a woman of worth', a traditional liturgical text from the closing chapter of the book of Proverbs. At St Petersburgh Place the gallery fronts of pine are exceptionally richly panelled with carved ebony pilasters to form a blind balustrade, painted and gilded with a low open ornamental brass railing. Hebrew inscriptions in gilded brass tracery run around the bottom of the gallery fronts and high on the walls, a rare example of the decorative use of Hebrew calligraphy in an English synagogue, comparable with synagogues of medieval Spain. The texts, mainly from the Psalms, were chosen by the Revd Simeon Singer, the New West End's most eminent minister, translator of the eponymous 'authorized prayer book' of the United Synagogue since 1890. (His portrait by Solomon J. Solomon hangs over the mantlepiece in the hall.) The inscriptions42 were designed by the East End stonemasons Harris &amp; Son, and made by Shirley &amp; Co. The lettering is joined by elaborate scrollwork, embossed and cut from the same sheet of metal. Seating in the traditional synagogue may be either on movable benches or on fixed pews, flexibility being better suited to Jewish prayer in which the 41 Until 1933 in fact. See Anne J. Kershen and Jonathan A. Romain, Tradition and Change: A History of Reform Judaism in Britain 1840-iggs (London 1995). Proverbs 31:10-31. 42 At least the inscriptions added in 1895 mainly under the gallery. The wall inscriptions and those painted over the Ark are thought to date from the opening of the building in 1879. Painted Hebrew frieze inscriptions are found elsewhere, such as at West London and at Hammersmith, but are not very common and the texts chosen tend to be standard. 7i</page><page sequence="28">Sharman Kadish worshipper is not rooted to the spot. Pews became fashionable in Europe in the nineteenth century, based on church practice. Reform and some 'Orthodox' synagogues placed the pews facing the combined Ark and Bimah at the front of the hall, thus breaking with the tradition of men's seating generally surrounding the Bimah. This reordering accentuated the eastern axis of the space. West London Synagogue, although 'cathedral' in scale, abandoned the basilican form in favour of the central or so-called Byzantine plan, the main space being roofed with a large dome. This plan became more common in the 1890s and in the early years of the twentieth century. The Spanish &amp; Portuguese Synagogue, Lauderdale Road (1895-6), which was built on a completely square plan, was, like West London, which had been constructed over twenty years earlier, the work of Davis &amp; Emanuel (Henry David Davis, 1839-1915 and Barrow Emanuel, 1842-1904), perhaps the best of the Jewish architects who designed synagogues in the second half of the nineteenth century. Both buildings are Grade II Listed. Delissa Joseph's Hampstead Synagogue (1892) represents the last flower? ing of the 'cathedral synagogue' type in the 1890s.43 Vast and cavernous, built originally on a central plan and subsequently awkwardly extended, and topped by an octagonal dome and lantern well, it was typical of the ostenta? tion of the era.44 Delissa Joseph was a more prolific but perhaps less successful designer of synagogues than his uncle Nathan (N. S.) Joseph. He is best remembered for hotels and offices built over Underground stations in Edwardian London. The 'Cathedral Synagogue': a building at risk At the beginning of the twenty-first century in Britain the 'cathedral syna? gogue' has become a building at risk. By 2003 Birmingham's Singers Hill and Brighton's Middle Street were threatened with closure.45 In both cases dwindling Jewish communities sought to merge congregations and to prefer suburban postwar synagogues close to where most Jews now live. In the 43 Illustrated in The Builder 26 Dec. 1896, pp. 540-1. 44 But Hampstead was forward-looking in its use of steel ribs in the dome and the walls were orig? inally painted 'unrelieved pure white', deemed somewhat radical by The Builder 18 March 1893, pp. 213-14. Jamilly (see n. 8) 82, saw an Arts and Crafts feel in the curvy 'tendrils' in the interior of the octagon. Much of the current fussiness can be attributed to the arrival of the modern stained glass and of the marble Ark, an unfortunate interwar replacement. 45 Sharman Kadish, 'Save our Synagogues' jfC 21 Feb. 2003, p. 30 and cartoon and correspon? dence 28 Feb. and ff. Gordon Franks, 'Middle Street Synagogue at Risk\ Jewish Renaissance 2:4 (summer 2003) 13-14. Early in 2004, Middle Street finally won a reprieve with grant aid from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Match funding is still required in order to secure its future. 72</page><page sequence="29">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England Plate 9 Leazes Park Synagogue, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (John Johnstone 1879-80). Photograph by Bob Skingle ? English Heritage. process, they have sought to divest themselves of responsibility for the upkeep of their historic buildings. This has been made all the more attrac? tive an option by the fact that both buildings are situated in city centres currently undergoing rapid urban regeneration. 73</page><page sequence="30">Sharman Kadish Nationally, a number of architecturally important Victorian synagogues have been demolished or badly damaged in recent years. Spectacular losses have been Dublin's Adelaide Road, destroyed in 1999, Manchester's Great Synagogue, demolished in the 1980s despite a Grade II Listing, and the gutting of Newcastle's Leazes Park (Grade II), illustrated above. Other examples include Cardiff, Cathedral Road (Delissa Joseph, 1897, Grade II), demolished behind the fa$ade; Leeds, Belgrave Street (rebuilt by Kay 1865-6), demolished, and the above-mentioned synagogue in Hope Place, Liverpool (Thomas Wylie, 1856-60) which, like Leeds, was never listed. In this case, the dome by James Picton was needlessly removed in 1997 when the building underwent conversion into the Unity Theatre. Ironically, the theatre project was partly funded by the National Lottery.46 Victorian synagogues in London that did not fall victim to bombing during the Second World War, as did the Georgian Great Synagogue in Duke's Place, have fared particularly badly from development pressures. The Great St Helen's New, the Hambro (and their earlier incarnations), the Central, Bayswater, Barnsbury and the Borough synagogues, all associated with the United Synagogue and dating from the 1870s or earlier, have disappeared.47 In the late 1980s the exceptionally fine East London Synagogue, Stepney Green (Davis &amp; Emanuel, 1876-7, Grade II), was sold off, vandalized and then divided up into flats.48 St Petersburgh Place is the sole United Synagogue survivor of the period (leaving aside West London, which is Reform). The belle epoque has suffered as badly: Delissa Joseph's Hammersmith Synagogue of 1890 closed in 2002 leaving the more lavish Hampstead as his sole representative in London. One might have expected such buildings to be a source of pride to the Jewish community at large. But experience teaches us otherwise. In 1993 Middle Street's rabbi declared that 'It's not the binyan [building] that's important, it's the minyan [quorum for prayer]'.49 This view, frequently encountered among the clergy, reflects the Jewish theological view that the Kedushah or holiness of a synagogue is entirely dependent on its function and that a synagogue that has outlived its primary purpose as house of 46 See Sharman Kadish, 'The Jewish Built Heritage in the United Kingdom and Ireland: Report on a Survey, 1997-2000', European Judaism 34:2 (2001) 14-29; Sharman Kadish, 'The Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage in the UK and Ireland', in Max Polonovski (ed.) Le Patrimoine Juif Europeen: Actes du colloque international tenu ? Paris, au Musee dArt et d'Histoire dujuda'isme, les 26, 2j et 28janvier iggg (Paris and Lou vain 2002) 53-66. 47 For some rare visual material on all these buildings see Renton, The Lost Synagogues of London (see n. 10). 48 For the full story of the fate of East London Synagogue, see Sharman Kadish, 'Squandered Heritage: Jewish Buildings in Britain', in Kushner (see n. 13) 147-65. 49 JC 1 Oct. 1993. See also Rabbi Harvey Belovski,' The Beast in the Cathedral', JC Judaism Today 12 Sept. 2003, p. 28. 74</page><page sequence="31">Plate io Middle Street Synagogue, Brighton (Thomas Lainson, 1874-5). Photograph by Nigel Corrie ? English Heritage.</page><page sequence="32">Sharman Kadish prayer, meeting and study for a living congregation, has no religious value. Unlike a church, a synagogue does not need to be 'deconsecrated', but may be sold out of the Jewish community and the proceeds used to fund a higher religious purpose, such as to support a new community elsewhere or a Jewish educational project. The fabric of the building does not feature in this view. Indeed, Jews do not need a synagogue in order to pray, since a minyan, the ten adult men (over the age of 13) forming the minimum quorum for collective worship, may meet in a private house, office, factory, shop or even in the open air. A Sefer Torah, 'Torah scroll', required for public reading of the Law, can be housed in any appropriate building. Such a mode of worship is eminently adaptable to a history of exile and wander? ing and relates back to the idea of the Mishkan, the portable tent sanctuary of Biblical history. The 'cathedral synagogue' is now the victim of fashion as well as of theology. In the late nineteenth century it was regarded as an alien institition - Der Englischer Schul - by new immigrants from traditional Yiddish-speaking communities in Eastern Europe.50 Today the very name 'cathedral synagogue' has become a term of abuse. As a product of Jewish emancipation in Europe in the nineteenth century it is regarded in many quarters as an outdated and irrelevant symbol of the emancipation experi? ment that ended in the Holocaust. Empty edifices dot the landscape of Europe as potent reminders not only of the physical destruction of Jewish life during the Second World War, but of the self-inflicted spiritual destruction wrought by assimilation and defection. Resurgent Orthodox communities are, however, intent on recreating the lost world of pre-war Europe in Israel and America, and the great Jewish centres of learning of Lithuania and Poland, both Hasidic and non-Hasidic, are being consciously reproduced in Brooklyn, Bnai Brak and Stamford Hill. But like all restoration projects, this new Jewish world is a partially artificial creation. The synagogue type that the haredim, 'Ultra-Orthodox', have, by and large, chosen to adopt is that of the Hasidic shteibl, the small prayer room or conventicle, in preference to the large purpose-built synagogue which was historically just as much a feature of Jewish life from the Middle Ages, in towns and villages in which Jews traditionally lived. Mainstream Anglo-Jewry has taken its cue from this haredi world. Postwar synagogues in Britain have become less architecturally ambitious and more utilitarian, with movable seating rather than fixed pews. This, of course, reflects wider trends in the design of places of worship of all faiths. It is also indicative of an emotional search for spiritual intimacy which the big formal synagogue space seems not to satisfy. There is a feeling among 50 See Jamilly in Levin (see n. 8) 83 and papers by Glasman (see n. 13). 76</page><page sequence="33">The 'Cathedral Synagogues' of England younger Jews searching for their religious roots that the modest, sparsely furnished and undecorated shtiebl is somehow more authentically Jewish, redolent of Yiddishkeit, 'traditional Judaism', than the big synagogue. The evidence of archaeology and architectural history both contradict this perception, however. In the past, Jews built big whenever the opportunity allowed, in modern times in particular as an expression of newly-won free? dom in the nineteenth century. The tiny number of important surviving 'cathedral synagogues' of England is under threat. Funding is urgently required from both public and Jewish community sources to save these outstanding buildings, which form part of the national heritage of this multicultural country in which British Jews are fortunate to live. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage in the United Kingdom &amp; Ireland is grateful for the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the former Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, the Royal Institute of British Architects, The Pilgrim Trust, The British Academy, The R. M. Burton Charitable Trust, The Aurelius Charitable Trust, the Trustees of the former Notting Hill Synagogue, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and several individual and anonymous donors. The author would like to thank fieldworkers Barbara Bowman RIBA and Andrew Petersen MIFA for their contribution to the Survey, and Rhona Beenstock for acting as volunteer research assistant. She would also like to thank Jeremy Schonfield for his valuable comments on this paper. 77</page></plain_text>

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