Friday, May 29, 2009

London, England, New West End Synagogue. Photos: S. D. Gruber

England: English Heritage Grant for Repairs at London's New West End Synagogue

In March 3, 2009 English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund announced more than £15.5 million in grants to 150 Grade I and II (Monument) listed places of worship in the UK as part of the joint Repair Grants for Places of worship scheme.

Seven Grade buildings in London received a total of over 1 million pounds in awards, and one of these was the great Victorian New West End Synagogue, which was elevated to Grade I status in 2007, and received a grant of £108,000 for roof repairs. The Bayswater synagogue was designed by George Audsley and dedicated in 1879 is one of only two Grade I Jewish sites in the UK, the other begin Bevis Marks Synagogue, England's oldest standing synagogue, built in 1701. Audsley also built the Princes Road Synagogue in Liverpool, which shares some features with the New West End Synagogue. The Liverpool synagogue was elevated to Grade I status in 2008 when it also received a grant of £112,000 to help with desperately needed roof repairs.

Click here for some history of the New West End Synagogue.
(with a link to photo galleries and various articles)

Look at photos of the synagogue by Sarah Lee for The Guardian.
(much better photos than mine!)

London, England, New West End Synagogue.
Seats in Women's Gallery. Photo: S. D. Gruber

It is only in recent years that English Heritage has so readily recognized the historical and architectural significance of synagogue in the UK. Part of this is due to the greater development of a politics of cultural pluralism in England, but much of the credit for this progress must go to Dr. Sharman Kadish of the University of Manchester who as Director of Jewish Heritage UK has forged a productive partnership with English Heritage to document and list Jewish sites. Significantly English Heritage published Kadish's excellent architectural guide Jewish Heritage in England [ISBN 10-1 905 624 28 X] in 2006.

Kadish's success is on both sides of the issue. Not only has she gained the interest of national culture arbiter for Jewish sites, she has gradually led Jewish leaders to trust non-Jewish culture agencies more. Of course, the reality of significant grant money now demonstrates the virtue of this partnership, and the success of the program should only encourage more synagogue congregations to step forward to apply for Heritage Lottery Fund support.

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