The former Greenbank Drive Synagogue in Liverpool, England, is to receive £70,000 in rescue funding from English Heritage and the Liverpool city council so that the Grade II listed building, which has been on the “English Heritage at Risk” list since 2010, can be refurbished and its long-tern future assured. Jewish Heritage UK estimates that repairs would still require a further £1 million.
English Heritage is providing £51,000 in grants and the council is to give over the rest. A significant share of the money will be used to repair the roof and make it weather-proof once again. Work is due to start this month and is scheduled to finish later this year, while discussions as to what use will be found for the building are ongoing.
The red-brick, art deco synagogue was designed by the noted Liverpool architect Sir Ernest Alfred Shennan and built in 1936/37. It served its congregation until January 2008, when dwindling numbers forced the community to move and close the building. A 2008 proposal to turn it into apartments was blocked — thanks to the efforts of the 20th Century Society, which got the building upgraded to Grade II heritage status — and the building has stood empty since then.
In a detailed description of the synagogue on the 20th Century Society’s web site, Joseph Mirwitch described it as
architecturally by far the most important and innovatory 20th century synagogue in England and is the finest surviving synagogue in Europe dating from the inter-war period. It also has important socio-historic significance as representing a last late optimistic cultural expression of European Jewry before the holocaust.
… Shennan produced a synthesis of his previous art deco style and other modern architectural tendencies. It directly reflects Swedish architectural influences, both in the exterior of the building, which is clearly inspired by the late fruition of the Swedish national romantic style, and in its interior, which draws on contemporary Swedish functionalism. In consequence, Greenbank stands alone as a synagogue which is really significant in terms of the progressive architecture of its time. Although clearly not ‘international modern’, it was a genuine attempt at a new architecture appropriate for a modern synagogue, and succeeds in these terms. We are for once looking forward, not back to an exotic past.
Jewish Heritage UK says:
This fine 1930s synagogue fully deserves to be rescued. The need to find an appropriate user, for worship or cultural purposes, is urgent. The purchaser would then be able to bid for public grant aid from English Heritage (for secular use) or the Heritage Lottery Fund (for religious use) , with a fair chance of success given the acknowledged importance of the building.
A video recounts the history of the building: