17 November 2006
LIVERPOOL'S Jewish architectural heritage is more at risk now than ever, a book has revealed.
Toxteth's Grade II* listed Princes Road Synagogue features in Jewish Heritage In England, published yesterday.
The guide was based on a national survey by English Heritage to celebrate 350 years of Jewish architecture in England.
The book, published by EH, raises concerns over the future of buildings like the Princes Road synagogue, which it says are struggling to survive because of dwindling congregation numbers. Built in 1874, the synagogue is generally considered to be one of the finest examples of Jewish architecture in Europe.
It has been heralded a "jewel in the crown" of Merseyside's architectural offerings, and drawn tourists from across the world.
The spectacular synagogue is renowned for its fine painted and gilded interior. The architects went down in history for creating a unusual new type of building, with an "eclectic mixture of the best of the eastern and western schools of art".
Scottish Presbyterian brothers William and George Audsley later went on to pioneer skyscraper construction in America.
Despite it's respected status, a dwindling congregation means the synagogue has struggled to raise funds to carry out basic maintenance work.
Charles Mozley became the first Jewish mayor for the city in 1863 and at the end of the 1950s there were around 7,000 Jewish people living in Liverpool.Today, that figure has dropped to an estimated 3,000.
In 2005, funds of £80,000 were set aside to repair the hand-painted roof and to get rid of dry rot. The campaign to restore the Welsh slate roof of the synagogue began in 2001. It was hoped an English Heritage grant of nearly £170,000 would fund full repairs.
But Cecil Moss, a former warden of the synagogue said it was still suffering from dry rot.
"The Princes Road synagogue is one of the hidden secrets of Liverpool," he said. "It is a very special building for the city and the people who built it really put their all into it.
"Liverpool gave the Jewish people a warm welcome and a home when they emigrated here and the synagogue was a way of giving something back to the city.
"But the Jewish community in Liverpool, like elsewhere, has been shrinking and it has been harder and harder to match funds to stop the dry rot which risks ruining the building."While researchers were compiling the book several national Jewish landmarks were demolished.
Henry Owen-John, English Heritage Director for the North West, said: "English Heritage recognises that in the North West the Jewish community has contributed some remarkable buildings which are an integral part of the heritage of the region; such as the Old Hebrew Congregation in Liverpool and Higher Crumpsall synagogue in Manchester.
The book's author and Director of Jewish Heritage, Dr Sharman Kadish, said: "These buildings include some of the finest synagogues in Europe, especially precious because they escaped the ravages of the Second World War."