Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Wednesday 22nd September 2021

Spanish & Portugese Synagogue

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 [1] or classicalGlossary Term [2] 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 [3]. In the projecting entrance bayGlossary Term [4] a central door framed by a Moorish archGlossary Term [5], below an arcadeGlossary Term [6] of five horseshoe-headed windows. On each side are two-storey bays, windows with ogeeGlossary Term [7] 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 [8] 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 [9] staircase to the right and doors ahead leading to the main space. The open timber roof has ventilators with foliated mouldingGlossary Term [10]. Galleries on three sides, with an intricate ironwork parapetGlossary Term [11] and cast-iron columns with fancy capitals. At the E end is a recess framed by a Moorish archGlossary Term [12] springing from paired columns, with a classicalGlossary Term [13] ARKGlossary Term [14], where the Torah scrolls are kept, with paired columns and a segmental archGlossary Term [15]. 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.

  • Visit the Jewish Museum Website for a virtual tour [16].

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 [17] of fire, on the other the pillarGlossary Term [18] of cloud. Other windows have geometrical designs.

Last updated: Monday, 26th January 2009