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Ordnance survey map of PRINCES ROAD SYNAGOGUE
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Liverpool (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 35926 89133




Synagogue of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, 1872-4, by W and G Audsley, constructed by Messrs Jones & Sons. Common brick with red brick, red sandstone and polished red granite dressings, slate roof. Orientalist style with Moorish, Classical, Egyptian, Romanesque and Gothic influences.

PLAN: Rectangular basilica plan form, small annexe of 1898 to rear left

EXTERIOR: Main front elevation facing Princes Road with tall central section with stepped and crested gable flanked by octagonal turrets (originally surmounted by domed finials in form of minarets), projecting stringcourses between ground and first floor and below gable (that to lower level with lotus leaf antefixae). Pierced sexfoil balustrade to roofline. Main entrance with grand cusped horseshoe-arched portal. Two doors with granite trumeau supporting diapered tympanum above containing gilded Magen David. Large rose window above portal within cusped horseshoe arch. Tabernacle to apex of gable inscribed with Tablets of the Law. Lower wings to each side with paired Gothic arched windows to ground floor, 5-light round-arched windows with spiral columns to first floor, square turrets (minarets removed). Low apsidal stair turrets to each end of elevation with dentil frieze and square-headed windows. Side elevations with 2-storey side aisles containing paired windows; those to first floor with round heads. Dentil frieze. Clerestory with triple round-headed windows. Rear elevation with large E rose window. Small flat-roofed single storey annexe to rear left, pitched skylight, arched entrance doorway to SW wall flanked by square-headed windows, dentil frieze above.

INTERIOR: Interior decorative scheme designed by Audsley brothers. Mahogany doors and surrounds throughout. Entrance vestibule: Brass plate on foundation stone set within trumeau of main entrance. WWI memorial in form of marble scroll. Painted columns and pilasters with Egyptian style capitals. Blue and white painted coffered ceiling. Gold-leaf frieze of foliage design to upper part of wall and window surrounds. Highly decorative colourful tiled floor depicts Magen David and roses symbolising an English synagogue, Greek key decoration. Three panelled double doors with classical pedimented doorcases lead into main prayer hall; that to centre flanked by black marble tablets inscribed with benefactors' names and donations. Tiled Hebrew inscription in front of central door translates as 'Blessed are you on your coming'. Doors to left and right in same style lead to toilets and cloakroom. Sweeping stone dog-leg stairs to each end of vestibule lead up to ladies balconies. Prayer hall: Elaborate polychrome and gilded decoration. Marble, gold leaf and plaster decoration incorporating imagery including roses and pomegranates, symbolising God's relationship with people and 613 Mitzvah (Jewish laws) respectively. Barrel-vaulted ceiling with cast-iron ribs. Original Audsley brothers vivid green paint scheme (restored) with brightly coloured and gold leaf stencilling. 5-bay Moorish-style nave arcades to each side representing Ten Commandments supported by octagonal cast-iron columns, decorative lotus leaf capitals. Large Gothic E rose window to sanctuary, set back behind cusped horseshoe Moorish arch supported on red and green marble columns. Second rose window and arch to W end. Decorative coffered ceilings to sanctuary and side aisles. Choir loft above arcaded balustrade behind Ark. Seating to ground floor side aisles and first floor ladies galleries to 3 sides of hall. Original Victorian heating system including upright pipe coil heaters, by Seward of Preston. Small rooms to rear for minister and choir (now mainly used for storage), cast-iron spiral stair leads up to choir balcony.

FIXTURES & FITTINGS: Extremely ornate 25 ft high multi-coloured marble Byzantine style Ark (restored c.1979 after fire damage) with gilded decoration, alabaster and Caen sandstone. Set upon polished marble platform. 5 domed cupolas (painted blue with gilded decoration), large central dome supported on Moorish arcade with Hebrew inscription from Isaiah 2:5. Ornate Bimah (Almemar) to W end of central aisle, of various marble types and gold leaf decoration, accessed via steps to W end. Pink marble columned balustrade with Corinthian style capitals, donated by David Lewis in 1875 to replace wooden version. Marble pulpit in similar style to Bimah, donated by Henrietta Braham in memory of James Braham. Ark, Bimah and pulpit carved by Alfred Norbury of Liverpool. Marble Ark steps, platform and columns by J Stubbs of Liverpool. Original Bimah lamps, pendant Ner Tamid (perpetually lit light fitting in front of Ark representing 'everlasting light') donated by Mrs David Lewis, and Menorah on black marble bases flanking Ark (donated by R H Samuel) all survive along with original brass gaslight fittings (converted to electricity 1898), all by Hart Son Peard & Co of London. Ornamental ironwork by Messrs Charles Smith & Son of Birmingham. Ebonised mahogany and gilded chairs c.2001 flanking Ark represent six million Jews who died during the Holocaust. Black marble tablets flanking inside of central entrance door inscribed in English with Ten Commandments. Hebrew wall clock in form of Ark beneath W ladies gallery by John Sewill of Liverpool. Original pitch-pine pews with arm rests and individual reading desks.

STAINED GLASS: All windows of stained glass, incorporate floral designs, all by R B Edmundson & Son of Manchester.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURE: Rear annexe: Plainly detailed, central pitched skylight, parquet floor, wooden memorial tablet to NW wall, fireplace removed.

HISTORY: The Jewish community in Liverpool was founded in the mid C18 and became one of the largest and most influential communities outside of London due to its society connections, and the prominence of its members as leading merchants, bankers, shopkeepers and jewellers. Princes Road Synagogue was constructed in 1872-4 at a cost of approx. £15,000 and replaced an earlier synagogue of 1807 in Seel Street. The new synagogue was built on land acquired from the Earl of Sefton and was designed to seat over 800 worshippers compared with the relatively small congregation of 300 that the Seel Street synagogue could hold. It was designed by the Liverpool-based architects W & G Audsley who won a competition in 1871 after having completed the Welsh Presbyterian Church (1865-8) across the road. The synagogue was built by Messrs Jones & Sons of Liverpool. The foundation stone was laid on 23 December 1872 by Ralph H Samuel, Chairman of the Building Committee and a time capsule containing information about the history of the Old Hebrew Congregation, accounts, coins, the ceremony's invitation list, copies of the daily newspapers and photographs was inserted into the wall cavity. The synagogue was finally consecrated on 3 September 1874. The money for the synagogue's construction was raised by its congregation and patrons who included the Samuel Montagu (banker, Liberal politician and the 1st Lord Swaythling whose family were the well known jewellers - H Samuel), David Lewis (founder of Lewis' department store), Louis Cohen (later director of Lewis' and Lord Mayor of Liverpool) and George Behrend (Liverpool merchant and ship owner). The Samuel family including Herbert Samuel (later Viscount Samuel - 1st High Commissioner of Palestine) were prominent members of the congregation. Unusually a large number of female patrons also donated money and their names are recorded on black marble tablets in the main entrance vestibule alongside the men. A Hebrew Ladies' Bazaar was held in February 1874 at St George's Hall and raised £3700 for the synagogue's interior decoration. W & G Audsley were also responsible for designing the interior decoration of the synagogue, which was carried out by leading firms. The original green colour of the walls was restored in the late C20 to the Audsleys' designs. Abraham Saqui, who is widely regarded as one of the most important Victorian synagogue composers was the first choirmaster at Princes Road Synagogue and it was here that he developed his compositions, including 'Songs of Israel' (published 1878). Saqui's music has since spread to synagogues all over the world including Jerusalem Great Synagogue, which incorporates four of his compositions into their main repertoire. Although originally designed for all male choirs it was later used by mixed choirs from the end of the C19. Princes Road Synagogue's repertoire is still largely based upon Saqui's works and it is the only synagogue in England to retain a mixed choir. A small annexe was added to the rear left of the building in 1898 for use as a community hall and meeting space. Six octagonal minarets that originally surmounted the corners and front of the building were deemed to be unsafe in the 1960s and removed.

SOURCES: Greenstein J. 1998. 'Abraham Saqui'. Available on HTTP: Kadish S. 2006. 'Jewish Heritage in England: An Architectural Guide'. Swindon: English Heritage. Meek H A. 2003. 'The Synagogue'. London: Phaidon Press Limited. Princes Road Synagogue. 2007. Merseyside Jewish Community website link. Available on HTTP:

Unpublished sources: Liverpool City Archives. Various documents on the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION: Princes Road Synagogue is designated at grade I for the following principal reasons:

* It is one of the finest 'cathedral synagogues' in Europe * It was designed by the nationally significant Liverpool architects W & G Audsley and is regarded as one of their best works * Both the external design and lavish interior represent the growing self-confidence of the Jewish community within England in the mid-late C19 and their new found freedom of self-expression * The building's eclectic Orientalist design represents both the Liverpool Jewish community's eastern origins and their desire to maintain links with the Holy Land but also emphasises their prominent and influential position within western society and identity as Anglo-Jews * It possesses an extremely ornate interior of exceptional quality reflecting the status and wealth of the synagogue's congregation * The interior's design and decoration displays Moorish, Classical, Egyptian, Gothic and Romanesque influences * The symbolic incorporation of English roses into the interior design alongside the Magen David and marble tablets recording the Ten Commandments in English highlights the building's key identity as an English synagogue * The synagogue has a strong music tradition and a liturgy that is used by synagogues worldwide due to its first choirmaster, Abraham Saqui, a renowned C19 liturgical composer who wrote Songs of Israel published in 1878 * It was funded entirely by private benefactors, many of whom were female members of the congregation * It has significant group value with neighbouring religious buildings at the NW end of Princes Road including the grade II listed Welsh Presbyterian Church (1865-7, also by the Audsley brothers), grade II listed St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (1865-70) and the grade II* listed St Margaret's of Antioch Church (1868-9) by G E Street * It is closely comparable to its younger sibling, the grade I listed New West End Synagogue with which it shares a similar design by the same architect G Audsley. Together the two synagogues could be said to form a pair

Listing NGR: SJ3592389144


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

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Date: 01 Sep 2002
Reference: IOE01/06033/31
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Tom Humphries. Source Historic England Archive
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