British Islamic heritage celebrated by Historic England

  • London Central Mosque, Regent’s Park (Grade II*) and the Fazl Mosque, Southfields (Grade II) listed today
  • Research for Historic England’s new book ‘The British Mosque’ results in new listings, re-listings and a deeper understanding of the development of mosque buildings in England
  • Britain’s first purpose-built mosque in Woking, Surrey upgraded to Grade I and the Liverpool home of Britain’s first functioning mosque upgraded to Grade II*

Two mosques in London have been listed today by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England, in recognition of their historic, architectural and cultural importance.

The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre in Regent’s Park (1970-77) is listed today at Grade II* and The Fazl Mosque, Southfields (1925-26) at Grade II.

Two of Britain’s earliest Islamic places of worship have been given greater protection and recognition. Britain’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking (1888-89), has been upgraded to Grade I today and an important guesthouse on the site newly listed, while the home to Britain’s first functioning mosque, 8 Brougham Terrace in Liverpool, has been upgraded to Grade II*.

The ceiling of the Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking DP148113
The ceiling of the Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking DP148113 © Historic England Archive

Today's listings are part of Historic England's work to improve understanding, recording and protection of places of worship.

The public body's new book, The British Mosque: An architectural and social history  by Shahed Saleem is believed to be the first ever overview and explanation of Islamic architecture in Britain. It records the buildings adapted and used by Muslim communities, that have become part of England’s urban fabric.

Islamic places of worship in England range enormously in design and scale and in turn illustrate the diversity of the nation’s Muslim population. There are estimated to be around 1,500 mosques in Britain - the majority are formed from houses or other converted buildings, with fewer than 20% purpose-built.

The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Regent’s Park DP148090
The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Regent’s Park DP148090 © Historic England Archive

Michael Ellis, Heritage Minister, said: “Our historic buildings tell the story of Britain’s past and the people, places and events that shaped them. By listing these beautiful mosques, we are not only preserving important places of worship, but also celebrating the rich heritage of Muslim communities in England.”

 

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive, said: “I’m proud to be shining a light on these exceptional places of worship established by Muslim communities in England. Through listing we are celebrating some of our most significant examples of Islamic heritage from the stunning Shah Jahan in Woking, the first purpose-built mosque in the country, to the landmark London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park.”

The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Regent’s Park

The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre (1970-77) was built as a centre point for Muslim religious observance in London and as a symbolic landmark of the Muslim faith in Britain.

The movement to establish a central mosque in London spanned more than 70 years. Although the first fund for the new mosque was set up in 1910, construction didn’t start until 1970. While mosques were, and still are, typically established at local, community level, the London Central Mosque remains the first and only example to be built at a diplomatic level - The prominent Regent’s Park site was offered as the location for the new mosque by the government under Winston Churchill in the 1940s – recognition of the importance of the Muslim faith to Britain in an increasingly multi-cultural society.

Renowned British architect Sir Frederick Gibberd won the 1969 international design competition with his elegant scheme that combined architectural traditions of British Modernism with historic Islamic forms. The grand prayer hall, which can hold several thousand worshippers, and the marble-floored entrance foyer are finished to a very high standard. The golden dome and 44m minaret create a simple, striking silhouette and the repeated four-centred arches further anchor the building in an Islamic tradition.

The Fazl Mosque, Southfields

The Fazl Mosque (1925-26) on Gressenhall Road, Southfields was the first purpose-built mosque in London and only the second purpose-built mosque in Britain. It is the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Community and can be seen as the earliest community-built mosque - funds were raised by the community in India, mostly by women from within the movement, and the construction was undertaken with the support of voluntary labour.

Built to the designs of nationally renowned firm T H Mawson and Sons, the Fazl Mosque is a fusion of Indian Mughal architectural forms with contemporary British stylistic trends - the spherical dome on its buttressed square base resembles the 1923 twin towers of the Wembley British Empire Exhibition Stadium.

The Fazl Mosque contrasts with the earlier Shah Jahan mosque at Woking, as in the 36 years between the two buildings the Orientalist style had fallen out of favour. Its popular association with seaside piers, theatres and amusement arcades made the style less appropriate for a new place of worship in the 1920s.

The Shah Jahan Mosque on Oriental Road, Woking (1889) is the country’s earliest purpose-built mosque. It is the only Grade I listed mosque in England. DP148120
The Shah Jahan Mosque on Oriental Road, Woking (1889) is the country’s earliest purpose-built mosque. It is the only Grade I listed mosque in England. DP148120 © Historic England Archive

Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking

The Shah Jahan Mosque on Oriental Road, Woking (1889) is the country’s earliest purpose-built mosque. It has been upgraded from Grade II* to I giving this exuberant ‘Orientalist’ style mosque the same standing as buildings such as Brighton Pavilion and Buckingham Palace and is the only Grade I listed mosque in England.

The mosque was commissioned by Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, a Hungarian-Jewish linguist who converted to Islam after working in British India, as the centre point of his educational institute. He wanted to enhance the study of culture and history of India and the Islamic world. When it was first built, the mosque was only intended for visiting Muslim students at the institute, rather than the public.

It was partly funded by the Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, the female ruler of the Indian princely state of Bhopal, and designed by William Isaac Chambers, an English architect based in Woking in the mid-1880s, known for his expressive architectural style. The design had a direct influence on the nearby Muslim Burial Ground, constructed in 1917 for soldiers who fell during the First World War.

The mosque fell out of use after Leitner’s death but was restored and revived by Indian lawyer Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din. The mosque is still used for daily prayer but due to a growing congregation a separate, larger space in a nearby building is also used to accommodate worshippers.

Salar Jung Memorial Hall, Woking

Built as part of the mosque complex, Salar Jung Memorial Hall is newly listed at Grade II because of its architectural interest and historic association with the Shah Jahan Mosque. The hall has accommodation for the Imam and guests as well as having space to hold community functions and meetings. Named after the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad state, the building has a simple Mughal style façade and distinctive detailing to the main door and window openings which reflect the architecture of the Shah Jahan Mosque.

It is also thought that it is the building where Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din established the publicationMuslim India in 1913, which later became The Islamic Review and for 55 years was the main Islamic journal in the western world.

8 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool

Thought to be Britain’s first fully-functioning mosque, 8 Brougham Terrace in Liverpool has been upgraded to II* in recognition of its significance in telling the story of the emergence of Islam in England. The Georgian terraced house was bought in 1889 as a home for the Liverpool Muslim Institute founded in 1887 by influential Muslim convert William Henry Quilliam.

The Liverpool Muslim Institute began as a small community when it was first established at the Temperance Hall on Mount Vernon Street. By the turn of the century this had expanded to around 200 Muslims. Upon opening in December 1889 the mosque at 8 Brougham Terrace became the first fully-functioning mosque in England with established community worship. It is an example of Liverpool's capacity to embrace different cultural and faith communities, as well as evidence of the social and cultural diversity that developed as a consequence of the city's role as an internationally significant port and trading centre.

After Quilliam left Liverpool in 1908 the terrace was partly demolished, with numbers 8-10 retained and used as a registry office. Having suffered neglect in the early 2000s, the building is now playing a key role in the Muslim community once again thanks to an on-going restoration by the Abdullah Quilliam Society.

Howard Street, Bradford

Bradford has one of the largest Muslim populations in England and the Howard Street Mosque is Bradford’s first. Already listed at Grade II, the list entry has been updated to reflect its importance as an example of a ‘house mosque’, converted from a domestic dwelling into a place of worship.

Bradford's first mosque was established in number 30 Howard Street in 1958 to serve Muslim migrants attracted by the city's textile connections, and later expanded into numbers 28 and 32.

The Fazl Mosque, Southfields was the first purpose-built mosque in London. DP148054
The Fazl Mosque, Southfields was the first purpose-built mosque in London. DP148054 © Historic England Archive
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