Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Sunday 20th October 2019

Singers Hill Synagogue

Birmingham, Singers Hill Synagogue

SINGERS HILL SYNAGOGUE, Ellis Street/Blucher Street.
Open: Sun 12th 1000-1300. Pre-booking required before Fri 10th on 0121 6430 884

1855-6 by Yeoville Thomason. The earliest surviving large scale so-called 'cathedral synagogue' in Britain. ItalianateGlossary Term [1], in red brick with dark stone dressingsGlossary Term [2]; paired roundGlossary Term [3] headed windows and big bracketGlossary Term [4] corniceGlossary Term [5]. Entrance front with a triple arcadeGlossary Term [6] and a rose windowGlossary Term [7] in the gableGlossary Term [8], delightfully recessed behind flanking wings. The blunt parapetGlossary Term [9] of the arcadeGlossary Term [10] probably of 1937, when the whole gableGlossary Term [11] wall was rebuilt one bayGlossary Term [12] W by Harry W. Weedon & Partners, to increase the seating capacity. Oscar Deutsch, for whom Weedon designed Odeons, was President of the Synagogue. In the wings, roundGlossary Term [13] headed doorways with leaded hoods of 1957-9 by Cotton, Ballard & Blow, part of alterations for a Children's Synagogue, N, and washing areas, S. Thomason's side elevations have two tiers of windows in shallow roundGlossary Term [14] headed blank arches. On the S, beyond the synagogue, the former JEWISH SCHOOL, also by Thomason. The W part of 1862, originally of two storeys. In 1884 the top storey was added, a first floor Council Room formed, marked by roundGlossary Term [15] headed windows, and the two storey E block built.

Sumptuous interior. Six bayGlossary Term [16] arcades with CorinthianGlossary Term [17] columns above the galleries, and square piers, with very ByzantineGlossary Term [18] leaf capitals, below. The treatment owes as much to Wren, e.g. St Andrew Holborn, as to Italy. Barrel vaultGlossary Term [19] with Thomason's interlaced heart ornament on the ribs. Apsed E end beyond a grand archGlossary Term [20] with paired attached piers supporting free standing columns; modern ArkGlossary Term [21]. The rich mid C19 impression owes much to the two tiers of original gilded metal CHANDELIERS. Galleries reconstructed and ground floor re-seated by Weedon in 1937, retaining ornate C19 supporting trusses. His W extension is treated as a extra full height bayGlossary Term [22], containing a deep galleryGlossary Term [23]. - BIMAH of 1988 using C19 pieces. - STAINED GLASS. An unusual complete series of Hardman windows, mostly of the late 1940s to 1962, but some later windows upstairs (dates commemorated 1975-6). They are figurative and mildly Expressionist, but all faces are concealed, e.g. the dramatic Moses with the Tablets (upper level, S). A series of Jewish festivals (lower level, N). Fascinating social documentation, e.g. the Exiles ReturnGlossary Term [24] to Israel (lower level, S). To the E, Thomason's school hall of 1862 with blank arcading, reconstructed as a social centre in 1934 by John Goodman, who also re-fitted the Council Room in a solid, mildly streamlined way.

Last updated: Monday, 26th January 2009