There’s a fascinating article in The Forward by Liam Hoare about the private synagogue that the financier Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885) built on his estate in Ramsgate, England, in the early 1830s. It was designed by his cousin, the architect David Mocatta. Sir Moses and his wife Judith are buried in an adjacent mausoleum. Today, the Montefiore synagogue is listed as a Grade II national heritage site. (See video above.)
Montefiore’s residence, East Cliff Lodge, was demolished in 1954 after it fell into rack and ruin, yet what remains of his presence in Ramsgate is quite extraordinary. In August 1831, construction began on a synagogue on the grounds of his estate, a personal synagogue in the manner of the estate chapels built by the Christian aristocracy, where Montefiore appointed the rabbi and chose the psalms.
Inaugurated in June 1833, the synagogue — situated in the middle of a thicket — is small and simple in structure, rectangular with a semicircular space made to accommodate the Ark. Its exterior walls are whitewashed, and on the front of the building is a blue clock with golden hands and numbers, under which is inscribed a motto: “Time flies. Virtue alone remains.” As English Heritage, an organization responsible for the preservation of historic landmarks, asserts, it is the only such example of a chiming clock in an English synagogue.
Inside, the hall lined with granite, marble and plush red fabric is lit by way of an octagonal dome made of red and clear glass, with stained-glass windows of blue, red and green at the level of the gallery (a later addition), as well as a single chandelier and several candelabra. Above the Ark is a small, circular window depicting the Ten Commandments, and on either side are plates displaying the family coat of arms. Upon one of the walls is a plaque inscribed with a prayer to “our most gracious Sovereign King George, our gracious Queen Mary,” as well as to the Queen Mother and Edward, the Prince of Wales.
There will be the launch of The Ramsgate Montefiore Town Trail and Guide on November 3, 2013 at The Montefiore Arms, Trinity Place, Ramsgate CT11 7HJ
(The Leaflet will be available from the Ramsgate Tourist Information Centre, The Custom House, Harbour Parade, Ramsgate, CT11 8LP after that date.)