Coventry Synagogue - Coventry, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Superted
N 52° 24.601 W 001° 31.282
30U E 600576 N 5807671
Coventry Synagogue is an unassuming Grade II listed Victorian building in Barras Lane just outside the city centre.
Waymark Code: WM7ZYK
Location: West Midlands, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 12/31/2009
Views: 4

A good, and now rather rare, example of a Victorian provincial synagogue, built in 1870 on a modest scale according to a limited budget, by Birmingham architect Thomas Naden. It is built of red brick in a simple Romanesque style, with Bath stone dressings.

Interior: Open timber pitched roof, very church-like, with exposed trefoil arched braces and high collar beams, carried on carved stone columns. It has only a rear gallery. The doors of the classical timber Ark feature pretty gilded panels, and the bimah is immediately in front.

Stained glass: A colourful Luhot roundel over the Ark. On the north wall are modern panels on traditional themes, featuring figurative art by Hardman Studios of Birmingham. Some older glass signed HSJ on the south wall curiously faces into the adjoining hall; probably reversed during renovations. Built with a mikveh, long since disused and boarded over in the basement of the hall, but the blocked door from Gloucester Street survives.

The synagogue itself has had something of a chequered history, narrowly escaping demolition on grounds of public safety in 1920, and the congregation could not keep its rabbis (17 between 1870 and 1970). But it survived the heavy bombing during the Second World War. Post-war alterations to the gallery and reconstruction of the porch and vestibule by G N Jackson (1964).

(Taken from the pdf: Jewish Heritage in the Midlands)

OPENING HOURS: Some Shabbat services.

History of the Coventry Synagogue compiled by Aubrey Newmanfrom material published by Harry Levine in The Jews of Coventry (1970):-
The Jews of Coventry were represented in 1809 at the opening of the new Birmingham Synagogue in Severn Street, and the congregation thereafter grew very slowly. Up to the year 1860 members had been content with non resident membership of Singer's Hill Synagogue in Birmingham. That year however saw the decision to split the congregations, and by 1864 the Coventry Hebrew Congregation had begun a separate existence. In that year the congregation, having purchased a plot of land from the town corporation for a cemetery, issued an appeal through the Jewish Chronicle for help in the building of "a more suitable place of worship than the one they now use. The Congregation, though small and very heavily taxed to support their Reader, and to pay other incidental expenses have among themselves subscribed £280 of the two sums mentioned for the Burial Ground and for the synagogue land and they have furthermore subscribed the sum of £160 towards erecting a proper place of worship."

The synagogue was dedicated by the Chief Rabbi in September 1870, and at first the congregation prospered. In 1870 there were said to be fifty men and boys in the congregation, and in 1881 a service was attended by 22 persons. But in 1889 it was reported to be impossible at times to gather together a Minyan, and in that year a correspondent wrote in the Coventry Standard: "time was when Jews were a larger congregation than now, .. Their advent into the City was due to the watch trade, and the date of the introduction of their industry did coincide with the known history of the Jews of Coventry. ... Of late, the watch trade had declined and so has the number of Jews." By 1890 the Jewish Chronicle reported a very black picture:

The Hebrew Congregation of Coventry, by now reduced to six contributing members, who are necessarily heavily taxed in maintaining a Shochet and a new Minister, have resolved to make a strenuous effort to pay off an existing debt of £300 on the building. They have raised among themselves £145, leaving a balance of £155, which they hope will be contributed by some of the benevolent co-religionists who may be willing to help a small congregation.

By 1902 the Year Book gave a population on of 25 seatholders and a nil income, and in that year the congregation was, temporarily, closed.

The Coventry Hebrew Congregation originally met initially in a mediaeval building in Butchers Row, then rooms in Derby Lane, Fleet Street and, by the middle of the nineteenth century, in upper rooms in No. 16 Court, Spon Street. Moved to present address in 1870

Status: Active house of prayer

Denomination/Group: Orthodox

Barras Lane
Coventry, UK

Relevant Web Site: [Web Link]

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