The historic Bevis Marks synagogue in London — Britain’s oldest — has received a nearly £2.8 million grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund for “vital restoration work and conservation for its collections” so that they can be displayed in a new section of the synagogue complex.
The Lottery announced Wednesday that £2,799.400 has been granted so that the “synagogue and its at-risk collections will receive vital conservation and create new community spaces to make its heritage accessible to all.” The collections include priceless silver, textiles, and archives date from 1656 (the year Jews were officially allowed to settle in England again after their expulsion in the middle ages) to the present day.
Historic @bevismarksuk has £2.8m funding for vital restoration work and
conservation for its collections which will go on display for the first time in
new community spaces 🕍
— National Lottery Heritage Fund (@HeritageFundUK) June 26, 2019
The grant was part of an £8 million package of grants to fund six projects in London and the south of England ranging from historic buildings to conservation of a collection of insects at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History.
Bevis Marks, a Grade I listed building, was built in 1701 and is administered by the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community.
A statement from the synagogue went into more detail about the restoration and conservation project — and said the Heritage Lottery grant would cover 48 percent of the total budget, with the remainder coming from donations and other sources. The project includes construction of a new visitors’ and cultural space where the collections will be displayed:
The grant will be used to carry out conservation work at Bevis Marks to protect the fabric of the building, and to create a religious, educational and cultural centre that will for the first time tell the story of Bevis Marks, the Jews who have been part of its history, and its wider surroundings. The Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation anchored by the synagogue were the first Jews readmitted to the UK by Oliver Cromwell in 1656. The synagogue’s story is therefore the founding one of the entire British Jewish community.
Using collections, oral histories and an accessible digital archive, the new Bevis Marks centre will locate Bevis Marks within the British Jewish experience, as well as in relation to its neighbourhood in the City and nearby East End of London. The synagogue’s significant collection of historical Judaica will now all be on display in one venue for the first time, and a partnership has been announced with the Jewish Museum to facilitate school visits.
“Bevis Marks is the cradle of British Jewry,” said Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi, The S&P Sephardi Community of the UK. “The members who built that synagogue laid the foundations of Jewish life in this country and I believe that every Jewish person in this country should know its story. This generous grant from the NLHF will give us the ability to tell the story in its fullness. ”
In recent months, alarm was raised over the possibility that a 20-storey tower block could be built directly across the street from the synagogue, cutting off light and access.