The congregation of Manchester, England’s Higher Crumpsall Synagogue has ended its use of the building and left it; the one-time “cathedral synagogue” will be still be used for Jewish purposes — taken over by a fast-growing Haredi community that will use it as a Yeshiva.
“Crumpsall held its last Shabbat service last weekend, going out in style with a celebratory Kiddush,” Jenni Frazer writes in a fond “farewell” essay in the London Jewish Chronicle. “Grand cathedral-style shuls are no longer fashionable, but in its day Crumpsall was a magnificent creation, and will be remembered with warmth and affection.”
She write that the Higher Crumpsall and Higher Broughton congregation’s decision to close “one of the city’s most iconic synagogues” — built in 1928-29 and a Grade II listed building — was due to various factors, including demographic shifts within the general population — as well as within Manchester’s Jewry.
When Higher Crumpsall, as it was then, opened its beautiful white-domed building in 1928, it was a thing to marvel at both inside and outside. The building dominated Cheetham Hill Road, which stretched from the city centre out into the northern suburbs [….]
Cheetham Hill was the focal area of Manchester Jewry, and the buildings that grew up around Crumpsall Synagogue reflected that — the Talmud Torah, the Zionist headquarters at Mamlock House, and neighbouring congregations such as Heaton Park and Higher Broughton. The latter was to be subsumed into Higher Crumpsall in the early 1960s.
Over the decades, the demographics of the area changed, however, she writes:
Crumpsall was marooned on the fault line between Jewish and Muslim north Manchester, and its more well-heeled members had either moved north to affluent suburbs, or south.
Instead, the area became dominated by the Strictly Orthodox community, who will take over the premises to use as a yeshiva.
Historic England provides a detailed description of the synagogue, designed by Pendleton and Dickinsonin in a modernist-neoclassical style with a white stone exterior. Its striking interior retains its original fittings: “Oak seating to ground floor and galleries on three sides; marble Bimah with copper rails and light fittings; marble dais with copper rails, and curved sliding doors to ark.”
English Heritage put the synagogue on its “Heritage at Risk” list, and Jewish Heritage UK including it on its “Synagogues at Risk” list — despite the fact that the building had received grants towards renovation.
Despite about £300,000 worth of grant aid towards essential structural repairs under the English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund Listed Places of Worship Scheme since 2004, this synagogue remains threatened by both neglect and redundancy. Large architecturally significant synagogues and the Anglo-Jewish musical tradition with which they are associated have fallen out of fashion. Synagogue services with trained Hazan [cantor] and choir, for which Higher Crumpsall was famed, are now threatened with extinction. This synagogue suffers from a long history of bad financial management. It lies on the other (Salford) side of the municipal boundary between the cities of Manchester and Salford from the new £20m King David School campus.