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Park Row Synagogue and Clergy House, Bristol

Description: Park Row Synagogue and Clergy House

Grade: II
Date Listed: 16 May 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1408340

OS Grid Reference: ST5840873147
OS Grid Coordinates: 358412, 173146
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4558, -2.5999

Location: 9A Park Row, University of Bristol BS1 5LP

Locality: Bristol
County: Bristol
Country: England
Postcode: BS1 5LP

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Listing Text


Park Row Synagogue is the place of worship for the Bristol Hebrew Congregation. It was designed by H.H. Collins and S.C. Fripp, and built in 1870-1 in the Italianate style. It has an attached clergy house.

Reason for Listing

Park Row Synagogue, Bristol, with attached clergy house, is designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity of building type: it is a rare surviving example of Victorian synagogue that is still in its original use;
* Architectural interest: a confident Italianate design by a pre-eminent Victorian Jewish architect;
* Interior quality: the high-quality interior is a very good example of its type, and includes re-used items from earlier synagogues in Bristol;
* Historic interest: non-Christian places of worship are relatively under-represented on the list, and this synagogue illustrates the rich Jewish heritage in Bristol and the South West of England.


Jewish settlement in England was first established in the C11 with the arrival of William I, initially in London, but soon spread across the country. Jacob's Well in Bristol, a ritual bath or mikveh, and a Scheduled Monument, dates to the mid-C12 or earlier and is probably the oldest surviving structure of its type in Europe. Jews were expelled from England by Edward I in 1290, and were not re-admitted until 1656, under the Commonwealth. Bristol's Jewish community was re-established in the mid-C18, and their first permanent place of worship was in the Weaver's Hall in Temple Street from 1786. The Hall was lavishly fitted out. A new synagogue was consecrated in the Quaker's Chapel in Temple Street in 1842, although a new location was required when Temple Street was widened to form Victoria Street.

Park Row Synagogue was constructed in 1870-1 on the site of a convent, set within a former stone quarry. One third of the building cost is thought to have been spent on cutting into the surrounding bedrock and levelling the ground for the foundation work. The synagogue buildings, including prayer hall, clergy house and communal hall, were designed by Hyman Henry Collins of London (circa 1832-1905), with the assistance of the Bristol architect Samuel Charles Fripp. A number of religious fixtures in the building were reused from the Temple Street synagogues, and from elsewhere. The synagogue was consecrated on 9th September 1871. Additional ancillary buildings, including a Succah and a communal hall, were built at the rear of the plot in 1906 and 1910. Ornamental gates were added to the entrance in 1921, and were altered in the late-C20 to improve security. In 1933 the prayer hall windows were replaced with the current units. During the bombardment of Bristol during WWII, the synagogue escaped a direct hit, although the stability of the roof was compromised by nearby shelling, requiring its replacement in 1960. In 1975 the gallery to the prayer hall was altered to provide an additional room to the rear. In the 1980s, the rear buildings of 1906/10 were substantially demolished. The front boundary railings and gates, which had been removed during WWII, were replaced in the late-C20. In the C21 the building continues to be used by the Bristol Hebrew Congregation, Bristol's Orthodox Jewish community.


MATERIALS: the buildings are constructed of local rubble stone with ashlar Bath stone dressings and entrance portal. Interior fittings include pitch pine seating, cast-iron columns and decorative balustrades, mahogany Ark doors, brass religious fittings, and floors covered with encaustic tiles and flagstones.

PLAN: the synagogue building is L-plan, with the prayer hall standing on a north-east/south-west axis. There is a first-floor gallery above the prayer hall, with connecting rooms above a lobby and inner entrance hall. An internal stair tower links the two floors, and opens into the lobby with steps and a gated entranceway. Attached to the south-east is a single-bay, four-storey (including basement floor), rectangular clergy house with a small two-storey extension to the north-east. The prayer hall of the synagogue extends behind and above the clergy house to the north-east, on a raised bank lined by a rubble stone retaining wall. At the rear of the synagogue, separated by a rectangular yard, is a rectangular, two-storey, former communal hall, set within a steeply rising bank.

EXTERIOR: this group of buildings stands within a site enclosed by tall stone walling constructed within the hillside. The buildings are set at progressively higher levels towards the rear of the site. All roofs are hipped with clay tile coverings. The right frontage has low rubble stone walling, with stone coping and late-C20 railings, abuts the footpath on Park Row. The four-storey clergy house is set forward, close to the boundary wall. To the left the walling is approximately 2m high, with ashlar dressings to a wide central gate pier. Pennant stone steps lead up to the forecourt of the synagogue entrance, which is set well back from the road. The steps are lined with coped walling, that rise to entrance piers with large stone ball finials.

The Clergy House : to its road front, the clergy house has pairs of centrally placed windows with ashlar stone dressings, quoins and banding to each floor, below a dressed stone gable end. The windows are hornless, four-pane timber sashes. The south-west elevation is of three storeys and has a front door to the left, under a hood with console brackets and an ashlar architrave. The fanlight above the door has margin glazing. Window openings are set above the doorway, one to each upper floor. They are timber sashes with horns and margin glazing. The north-east elevation is rendered and has a shallow two-storey projection with a front door and two window openings.

The Synagogue: the synagogue fa├žade is constructed of rubble stone with ashlar quoins and banding. To the centre is a double gateway entrance with an ashlar Italianate portico, comprising an Etruscan column to each side with engaged pilasters. The round arch above has a central console keystone, with roundels in the spandrels to either side. Above this is a tripartite window with heavy stone surrounds and leaded, coloured panes with religious iconography and script. At the upper level, below a plain cornice, is an inscribed relief panel, possibly of Coade stone, with Hebrew script from Isaiah 2: 5, that translates as "Enter into the house of the Lord". The road front of the synagogue prayer hall is mainly hidden behind the clergy house, and which has regularly spaced openings on two levels, in a stone elevation with ashlar quoins. To the rear of the synagogue building is an entrance into a yard with the prayer hall windows to the left. The openings have red brick architraves and heads, and stone cills. A modern walkway is attached at clerestory level to a modified window opening, and leads to the higher ground at the rear of the plot.

INTERIOR: the entrance gateway leads to a broad lobby and further steps, with twisted iron handrails, up to the synagogue entrance to the left. To the right is a sealed doorway to the prayer hall, and a sealed window opening further to the right. To the left of the synagogue door are steps to the Women's Gallery and neighbouring rooms. The double synagogue doors lead into a long rectangular entrance hall, with further double doors and a door to the yard at the far end. Steps to access the former communal hall are to the left of the yard door. The floor has encaustic tiles. To the right of the hallway are two sets of double doors to the prayer hall, with religious-themed glass lights in the Art Nouveau style (1890s), and brass handles.

The rectangular prayer hall is six-bays long to the left (south-east) and eight-bays to the right (north-west). There is pitch pine seating in three rows to either side facing to the centrally-positioned bimah (reading desk). The seating is panelled with acorn finials, and has prayer book ledges, in some cases hinged. Some ledges have incorporated boxes for prayer shawls. The bimah, with a choir to the rear and warden's box at the front, is a curved, pine dais with velvet upholstered seating and a reading desk. The metal balustrade has attached brass candlesticks. A brass hanukiah (nine-branched candelabrum) is fixed between the bimah and choir. At the north-east end of the hall, set within a niche above two steps, is an Italianate Ark, whitewashed with gilding and fish scale decoration to the domed canopy. The glass Luhot (two tablets inscribed with the commandments) is set within early-C19 decorative wrought ironwork in an upper arch, and the ner Tamid (glass lantern representing "eternal light") hangs above the Ark doors. The archway to the doors is inscribed in Hebrew, translating as "Know before Whom you stand", and decorative gilt work lines the arch head and attached moulded doorframe. The designs include interwoven olive branches and ears of wheat. The Ark has curved, panelled, mahogany double doors. The pairs of columns to each side are engaged to pilasters with squint-arches. To the left of the Ark is a timber pulpit of unknown origin, and to the left of that, fixed to the wall, is a timber Royal Family prayer board from Ramsgate Synagogue (1833). To the right of the Ark, are wall-mounted memorial tablets, mainly in marble. The side walls and south-west wall of the prayer hall are panelled in pine, with two timber collection boxes fixed beside the door entrances. The prayer hall windows are leaded in timber frames. They are of 1933 date, with Star of David to the upper lights. The Ark doors, the hanukiah (part Dutch and part English), the ironwork on the Luhot, the ner Tamid, and four brass candlesticks on the bimah, all come from the earlier synagogues in Temple Street.

A gallery stands on three sides of the hall, carried on eleven slender iron columns with Corinthian capitals, and corbels to the north end wall. The gallery is altered at the south-west end. A dividing wall has been inserted to remove two-bays from the gallery and provide a communal hall behind. The seating to either side of the gallery is plainly detailed, and the lattice fretwork balustrade has had some alteration. The stairs to the first floor have a wreathed pine handrail with stick balusters. Above the landing is a coloured leaded window with Star of David motif. Two more windows, one with Hebrew script and another with a Star of David, are in the inserted toilet facilities beyond. These three windows stand above the main exterior entrance arch to the synagogue.

The interior of the clergy house was not inspected, but is thought to contain no fittings of historic note. The former communal hall has toilets to the ground floor and a single room above. The interior of the upper room has no fittings of interest. The toilets below have some late-C19/ early-C20 fittings.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.