Princes Road Synagogue

Princes Road Synagogue, located in Toxteth, Liverpool in England, is the home of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation. It 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. Liverpool's magnates were filling Toxteth with opulent mansions and the synagogue stands in a cluster of houses of worship designed to advertise the wealth and status of a group of captains of industry 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, and a handsome, early French gothic, Welsh Presbyterian Church, designed by William James Audsley and George Ashdown Audsley, architect brothers from Edinburgh, who built Princes Road Synagogue at a cost of £14,975 8s 11d. It was consecrated on September 2, 1874.

Architectural historian H. A. Meek described Princes Road Synagogue as "stunning". Meek describes the building, which the congregation itself describes as impressively combining Gothic Revival and Moorish Revival architecture, as "eclectic." but he continues, "Does no eclectic design survive that is neither bizarre nor eccentric, but gathers its elements from disparate sources and blends them into a harmonious unity? Yes, of course, there are many; but let one stand for them all. He who has not seen the interior of Princes Road synagogue in Liverpool has not beheld the glory of Israel."

Princes Road, with its lofty, barrel-vaulted ceiling, lavish gilding, and unstinting use of the finest woods and marbles 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.

The internal decoration is particularly splendid. The ladies of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation decided to hold 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.

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