Spanish & Portugese Synagogue

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Manchester, Synagogue, Cheetham Hill Road

SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE SYNAGOGUE (former) Cheetham Hill Road, Cheetham.

By Edward Salamons, 1874-5, for the Sephardic Jews in what Salomons described as 'Saracenic' and 'Moresque' style, appropriately recalling the ancient architecture of Moorish Spain, and avoiding either GothicGlossary Term or classicalGlossary Term with their respective Christian and pagan associations. The use of the style for the exterior as well as the interior is quite unusual, though T.H. & F. Healey did something similar in the Bowland Street synagogue in Bradford in 1880-1.

Rescued after closure, the building is now used as the Manchester Jewish Museum, opened in 1984. It is not large, and set back from the line of the street, in warm red brick with stone dressingsGlossary Term. In the projecting entrance bayGlossary Term a central door framed by a Moorish archGlossary Term, below an arcadeGlossary Term of five horseshoe-headed windows. On each side are two-storey bays, windows with ogeeGlossary Term heads below and horseshoe heads above.

The interior has been kept much as it was when closed in 1981 apart from the removal of seats in the ladies' galleryGlossary Term upstairs, where there are exhibitions. The pink and green colour scheme, with gilding, is a reconstruction of what was found beneath 20th century overpainting. First a foyer with the museum reception to the left and galleryGlossary Term staircase to the right and doors ahead leading to the main space. The open timber roof has ventilators with foliated mouldingGlossary Term. Galleries on three sides, with an intricate ironwork parapetGlossary Term and cast-iron columns with fancy capitals. At the E end is a recess framed by a Moorish archGlossary Term springing from paired columns, with a classicalGlossary Term ARKGlossary Term, where the Torah scrolls are kept, with paired columns and a segmental archGlossary Term. The columns have gilded capitals and pink marble shafts. BIMAH, from which the Torah is read, at the W end with openwork sides in Moorish designs. The bench seating with armrests is original. At the rear there is a converted SUCCAH, used during the festival of tabernacles, which had originally a removeable roof.

Stained Glass: all early 20th century. Big circular East window with a Menorah, 1913. The rest downstairs show biblical landscapes and scenes, all seemingly by the same hand. Upstairs, East end: on one side the pillarGlossary Term of fire, on the other the pillarGlossary Term of cloud. Other windows have geometrical designs.


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