Historic Synagogues - at risk updates
In August 2016, Jewish Heritage UK published a new report into the state of repair of synagogues which concluded that general improvements have been made overall in their condition, and flagship projects have helped repair those most at risk, however falls in membership and poor maintenance are still risk factors UK wide.
Britain's historic synagogues are in better shape than they were five years ago, according to Jewish Heritage's latest report published this week. This is especially the case in London where all but one historic synagogue are now rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Fair’ in terms of the key indicators by which ‘Risk’ is measured in the Heritage world: ‘Condition’ and ‘Usage’. The biggest threats to historic synagogues are poor maintenance and redundancy because of falling membership.
Big repair projects have been carried out at Sandys Row on the edge of the city and at Golders Green, thanks in large part to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Both buildings are now experiencing a new lease of life, contrary to many expectations.
Britain’s oldest ‘cathedral synagogue’, Singers Hill in Birmingham, that for years fought closure, is also enjoying a renaissance. Now finding itself In the centre of a regenerated city centre quarter, this building has undergone renovation largely funded privately by members and has acquired a dynamic rabbinical couple who are turning the shul once again into a hive of activity.
Leicester’s Orthodox congregation have opted to sell off their 1950s hall across the road and to hang on to their distinctive late Victorian synagogue, shown on the cover of the Report. Their foresight has paid off: since 2012 they have landed no fewer than three publicly-funded Heritage grants, totalling almost £145,000, for repairs to the building, development of educational resources on site, as well as for a documentation project of the turn-of-the-20th-century Jewish Section at the city’s Gilroes Cemetery, that was opened soon after the synagogue (in 1902).
The Report’s author, Dr Sharman Kadish, commented, ‘All these examples demonstrate the fact that well-maintained buildings stimulate more activity inside them. Jewish Heritage’s aim is to preserve the powerful link between Binyan [building] and Minyan [community] for the benefit of future generations.’
Challenges remain. The Report highlights a group of highly graded Victorian synagogues: Liverpool’s Princes Road (Grade I), Bradford’s Bowland Street (Grade II*) and Brighton’s Middle Street (Grade II*) as in need of urgent work to arrest further deterioration. This is especially true in Bradford, where an HLF Repair Grant has been awarded for the first time. In all these places small enthusiastic congregations have worked hard not only to make their shul a widely recognised hub for local Jews, but also a magnet for many non-Jewish visitors, including school parties, especially during this month’s national and European Jewish Heritage Open Days.
‘At Risk’ synagogues are most likely to date from the early 20th century and to be located in the North of England. Sunderland, Blackpool and Liverpool’s Greenbank have all now closed and are seeking appropriate new users.
The recently announced capital development grant for the Manchester Jewish Museum, housed in the city’s Victorian Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, is set to bring the amount of public funding contributed to historic synagogues to nearly £5 million.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Church Heritage Record.
- Heritage asset.
- Heritage Lottery Fund.
- Implementing the Heritage Protection Reforms.
- Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
- Listed buildings.
- Tax Relief for Heritage: Lessons from abroad
- Use of direct action in heritage enforcement cases in England.
 External references
A ‘Methodology for Moisture Investigations in Traditional Buildings ‘ has been agreed between RICS, Historic England and the service provider PCA, a trade body, which should help raise professional standards and consumer confidence.
The Templar Hotel on Vicar Lane has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.
Government has announced a new Champion for Modern Methods of Construction as part of the government’s drive to make the UK the global leader in housing standards.
Planning is about so much more than the number of applications approved and the speed of processing them so the RTPI is commissioning research aimed at producing a toolkit that can demonstrate a wider range of outcomes.
London blogger The Gentle Author has been photographing the changing face of London, focusing on what is known as ‘facadism’, the practice of destroying everything apart from the front wall and constructing a new building behind it.
Urgent repairs have been ordered to save one of the country’s most endangered buildings from dilapidation while Great Yarmouth Borough Council seeks an investor.
SNH has published new guidance on how best to fit pollinators into urban design and construction with a series of easy steps to suit all project budgets and sizes.
Applications are invited for the Sustainability Scholarship 2020, with successful applicants to receive £3000, support and mentoring from experts, and closing 29 November.
It was hoped the 1.4 mile (2.3km) Victorian Queensbury Tunnel could be used by cyclists travelling between Bradford and Halifax, but plans have been threatened.
Completing works that widened public access to the hidden architectural spaces and collections of Durham Cathedral showcases exceptional project management.
This month HSE is carrying out its latest construction inspection initiative with a focus in particular on measures in place to protect workers from occupational lung disease caused by asbestos, silica, wood and other dusts when carrying out common construction tasks.