Manchester’s Higher Crumpsall is under Repair. Birmingham’s Art Deco Synagogue is Demolished
Major repair work to one of Britain’s most important 1920s synagogues, Higher Crumpsall Synagogue in Salford, Greater Manchester, is finally underway, supported by a grant of £130,000 from the English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund Joint Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme. It is anticipated that Phase I repairs to the Grade II Listed building will be completed by Heritage Open Days in September 2006. For more on this story see Sites at Risk.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, the fate of South Manchester’s two Sephardi synagogues in Didsbury is to be decided by market forces. Withington Synagogue, Queenston Road and Sha’are Tsedek Synagogue, just around the corner in Old Lansdowne Road, have both been put up for sale, but only one of them will be sold. The Sephardi and Mizrakhi communities in the neighbourhood have dwindled in recent years and no longer require both buildings that were erected in the 1920s. It is expected that the extensive Sha’are Tsedek site will be sold for redevelopment, the congregations combining forces at Withington (Delissa Joseph with Joseph Sunlight 1925-27, Grade II Listed).
Sunderland’s last remaining synagogue at Ryhope Road has held its final service. This Grade II Listed synagogue, designed by little known Newcastle Jewish architect Marcus K. Glass, is an essay in Art Deco Ottoman, rated by Pevsner as ‘vigorous and decorative’. The building was sold to a Jewish charitable trust some years ago and it is to be hoped that a sympathetic new use can be found for the synagogue in a town which was once a bastion of Jewish Orthodoxy. The almost identical but unlisted sister Clapton Federation Synagogue in London, also by Glass, closed in May 2005 and was DEMOLISHED July 2006.
February 2006 Ernest Joseph’s unlisted International Style Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, Sheepcote Street, was finally demolished - on Shabbat - [Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath] in redevelopment plans that have been in the offing for at least eight years. The reinvention of Birmingham city centre seems unstoppable. The synagogue is due to be replaced by a new worship space inside an office block less than a quarter of a mile away in a deal worked out with the developer who has acquired both sites. But will the planned ‘Shul-in-an office block’ be a worthy successor? At least the charming Art Deco Ark has been salvaged from Sheepcote Street. Ernest Joseph designed Shell Mex House, an Art Deco London landmark.
The sad fate of the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue draws attention to the vulnerability of the few good inter-war synagogues in Britain that remain unaltered.