Princes Road Synagogue
History and museums
Princes Road Synagogue, located in Toxteth, Liverpool in England, is the home of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation. It was founded in the late 1860s, designed by William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley and consecrated on September 2, 1874. It is widely regarded as the finest example of the Moorish Revival style of synagogue architecture in Great Britain. Synagogues emulating its design are to be found as far afield as Sydney, Australia.
Princes Road Synagogue came into existence when the Jewish community in Liverpool in the late 1860s decided to build itself a new synagogue, reflecting the status and wealth of the community. The Toxteth area was rapidly expanding as Liverpool's magnates built opulent mansions. The synagogue stands in a cluster of houses of worship designed to advertise the wealth and status of the local captains of industry, a group that was remarkably ethnically diverse, by the standards of Victorian England. Immediately adjacent to Princes Road are the magnificent Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas, the Anglican parish of St Margaret of Antioch, and a handsome, early French gothic, Welsh Presbyterian Church.
The synagogue was designed by William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley, architect brothers from Edinburgh, and built at a cost of £14,975 8s 11d. It was consecrated on September 2, 1874. Meek describes the building as "eclectic" and states that the Princes Road Synagogue exemplifies the characteristic eclectic architecture in harmoniously blending features drawn from different styles.
The ladies of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation held a Bazaar and luncheon in February 1874. They invited the important dignitaries and arranged for the band of the Coldstream Guards to play. The event raised the then massive sum of £3,000 with some change. The £3,000 was donated to the synagogue for the decoration of the interior. In today's (2005's) terms it was something in the region of £750,000.
The synagogue is a testament to the wealth and social position of Liverpool's nineteenth century Jewish magnates, a group with the wealth and taste also to commission Max Bruch to compose the Kol Nidre variations for cello and orchestra.
The synagogue today is attended only on Sabbath mornings and holidays, though the descendants of former members sometimes come from Manchester or London to hold weddings or bar mitzvah celebrations.
The synagogue is of brick construction, with bright terracotta bricks being used extensively for decoration. The facade reveals the plan of the building, a basilica with nave and aisles. The central section juts forward from the aisles. It has a large "Moorish" portal divided by a central column, above which is a large wheel window in the Romanesque style, both deeply recessed in arches.
The synagogue has a central nave with aisles on either side, separated by an arcade carried on slender octagonal columns, which also support galleries over the aisles. The nave has a barrel vault lit by clerestory windows. The interior decoration is notable for its lavish decoration, including gilding and unstinting use of the finest woods and marbles Meek says, "He who has not seen the interior of Princes Road synagogue in Liverpool has not beheld the glory of Israel."