Description: Greenbank Drive Synagogue
Date Listed: 12 May 1983
English Heritage Building ID: 214208
OS Grid Reference: SJ3831388450
OS Grid Coordinates: 338313, 388450
Latitude/Longitude: 53.3893, -2.9290
392/34/560 GREENBANK DRIVE
12-MAY-83 GREENBANK DRIVE SYNAGOGUE
Synagogue of the Liverpool New Hebrew Congregation, 1936, by Alfred Ernest Shennan. Reinforced concrete and steel with buff brick facings, tiled roof. Art Deco style with Swedish architectural influences.
PLAN: Rectangular basilica plan form, c.1950s annexe to right (S) side (not of special interest). Set on sloping ground with ground floor basement and raised ground floor to rear. Large basement function space, ground floor prayer hall and ancillary spaces, first floor ladies' gallery and rear storage areas.
EXTERIOR: All windows are metal-framed with leaded lights. Main front (W) elevation facing Greenbank Drive with projecting 3-bay square central section with splayed corners. Triple-arched arcade with circular brick piers and carved capitals forming porch, three main entrance doorways set to rear with doors incorporating elliptical panels. Tall paired windows with decorative metalwork flank central door. Semi-circular lunette windows to each end of entrance porch with metalwork design in form of Menorah. Entrances approached by two flights of shallow stairs with curved flanking brick walls to upper flight, Art Deco style metal balustrades divide flights into three sections. Three tall tripartite windows with arched centre lights and carved rubbed brick surrounds to first floor above entrances. Raised brick decoration below windows. Decorative brick parapet with raised centre and angled sides containing stone relief inscribed with Tablets of the Law. Lower 2-storey wings to each side form prayer hall's gallery side aisles, paired tall slender stair windows to front with projecting angled glazing, small paired square windows to returns at basement, ground, half-landing, & first floor levels. Low 2-storey projections set back behind to each far side with small paired horizontal windows to basement and ground floor (library to left end, Beth Hamidrash to right), three tall round-headed windows to each ground floor bowed return with slender hoodmoulds, horizontal windows below with projecting angled glazing. Side elevations: 8 buttresses to each side; those to end being gabled buttresses, those to centre being stepped. Tall round-headed windows to bays in between. Smaller paired vertical square-headed windows and access doorways to basement level. Rear elevation: Central section with three vertical windows flanked by slender paired windows (all with central transom) to basement level, taller windows in line above to ground floor (those to centre with round heads). Angled towers to each side rise above a parapet, gable set back behind with large stepped 7-light lancet E window. Two bowed 2-storey projections project from corners of elevation rising to mid-ground floor level with vertical 7-light windows to upper level and smaller windows to basement. Side aisles behind in same style as front elevation. c.1950s single storey annexe to S side linked to basement level of synagogue by enclosed walkway not of special interest.
INTERIOR: Art Deco style with carved light oak woodwork. Original doors and wooden parquet floors survive throughout. Entrance vestibule: Shallow moulded ceiling decoration with central lozenge design, semi-circular wall-mounted uplights. Sweeping cantilevered concrete stairs with Art Deco pierced metal balustrades to each end lead up to ladies' galleries and down to basement. Three plain double doors with large arched hoods lead into prayer hall. Doors to left and right of prayer hall entrance within arched recesses lead to library and small Beth Hamidrash (Schul) respectively. Beth Hamidrash (renovated in 1981) has fixed bench seating to sides and curved walls with name plaques flanking doorway, wooden wall-mounted Torah scroll cabinet/Ark to E wall with pierced lattice woodwork to curved sides and doors incorporating Magen David symbol, gilt Hebrew inscription above and double arched panel to top inscribed with Ten Commandments in Hebrew and Magen David. Prayer hall: Whitewashed walls and pale blue ceiling. Barrel-vaulted reinforced concrete ceiling with canopied clerestory supported on concrete girders. Cantilevered ladies' gallery to three sides with segmental curve to W end. Stepped 7-light lancet window to E end with simple stained glass and leaded decoration including stained glass Magen David to centre light. Partition wall to W end behind ladies' gallery (office behind). Glass-fronted metal balustrade (glass replaced c.1959/1960 after fire) with geometric pattern incorporating Magen David to choir loft above and behind Ark. Similar style balustrade to corner walls at first floor height. Seating to ground floor side aisles and ladies' gallery. Doors to left and right of Ark lead to rear stairs (in similar style to main front stairs - concrete with simplified Art Deco balustrade) and ancillary storage/robing rooms to both floors. Stair to rear right also leads to choir. Basement Max Morris Hall: Large open function space with pierced wooden suspended ceiling, small stage to W end with large internal horizontal windows with leaded light glazing to porch behind, large kitchen to rear (E end). Enclosed porch to S wall leads to later annexe (not of interest). Stairs to each side behind stage lead up to basement foyer, metal balustrade in same style as external entrance balustrades. Basement foyer with later linoleum floor, cloakrooms to each side beneath library and Beth Hamidrash, main side stairs.
FIXTURES & FITTINGS: Art Deco panelled Ark (rebuilt to original design c.1959/1960 after original destroyed by fire) of light oak with inlaid ebony, gilt metalwork decoration to central double doors incorporating Magen David. Set upon original Travertine marble platform with simple metal balustrade. Marble pulpit to centre front of platform flanked by two narrow flights of 5 steps. Hebrew inscription in gilt relief lettering above Ark doors roughly translates as 'The Lord will keep the light lit everlasting', Ner Tamid above. Book-shaped oak tablet to top of Ark inscribed with Ten Commandments in Hebrew. Centrally placed original Bimah (Almemar) of light oak with metal railings and tall 5-branch candelabra to each corner. Oak pews with individual arm rests to ground floor side aisles and first floor ladies' gallery, pews to W end of ladies' gallery follow curve of balcony. Art Deco style metal chandeliers to centre of ceiling and smaller light fittings beneath galleries incorporate Magen David symbol.
HISTORY: The Liverpool Hebrew Congregation was founded in the C18 at the Stanley Street/Cumberland Street Synagogue. Over the years it moved to various premises before construction of a purpose-built synagogue at Seel Street in 1807. A schism in 1838 led to the division of the congregation into the Old Hebrew Congregation (which remained at Seel St until new premises were constructed at Princes Road in 1872-4) and the New Hebrew Congregation. The latter congregation established a synagogue in a warehouse on Hanover Street and subsequently in a building on Pilgrim Street. A purpose-built synagogue was constructed at Hope Place in 1857.
After WWI and by the mid 1920s the Jewish population began to move away from the city centre to the wealthier suburbs (in particular Sefton Park) and fewer members of the congregation lived within walking distance of Hope Place. School classes were established by the New Hebrew (Hope Place) Congregation in the Sefton Park area and in 1928 no.321 Smithdown Road was acquired as a place of Hebrew Education. A small congregation also began holding religious services there, which became known as the Sefton Park Hebrew Congregation.
In 1928 the Hope Place Congregation began looking for a new site to build a larger synagogue and in 1935 the site of Greenbank Drive near to the entrance to Sefton Park was chosen and the lease for the site obtained from the City Corporation. In 1937 on completion of Greenbank Drive Synagogue the main migration of the Hope Place congregation took place. The congregation re-joined with the Sefton Park Hebrew Congregation and the two reverted to their original name of the New Hebrew Congregation.
The foundation stone for Greenbank Drive Synagogue was laid on 14 June 1936 by Baron Tobias Globe attended by the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Dr J H Hertz. The building was consecrated on August 15 1937 and opened by Professor Henry Cohen (a member of the congregation and later Lord Cohen of Birkenhead).
The basement area of the building was originally used as a youth centre and the synagogue had its own scout troop (the 22nd Wavertree).
During the blitz in 1941 Greenbank Drive Synagogue was used as a reception centre for bombed out families in Liverpool and held a non-Jewish service at Christmas. It was also used as a social centre during the war by American Jewish GIs stationed at an air base in Burtonwood, Warrington. After the war they presented a plaque to the congregation (displayed in the entrance hall).
In May 1959 a burglar started a fire that destroyed the Ark and Torah scrolls and part of the roof structure. The building was subsequently restored by the original firm of architects at a cost of £50,000 and re-consecrated in 1961. Due to increasing competition the youth centre closed at this time. A further fire occurred in two first floor offices behind the ladies' gallery in 1965 but damage was confined to the former areas.
The building ceases active use on January 5 2008.
Kadish S. 2006. Jewish Heritage in England: An Architectural Guide. Swindon: English Heritage.
Krinsky C H. 1985. Synagogues of Europe. Architectural History Foundation.
Sharples J. 2004. Pevsner Architectural Guides: Liverpool. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
Unpublished sources: Liverpool City Archives. Various documents on the Greenbank Drive Synagogue.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION:
Greenbank Drive Synagogue is designated at grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is one of the finest Art Deco synagogues in the country
* Its design by Sir Ernest Alfred Shennan is an original treatment of a traditional basilica plan form and tripartite facade to produce a confidently modern religious building in terms of styling, massing and composition
* The light and airy interior of the prayer hall contains a highly unusual reinforced concrete canopied clerestory and a cantilevered segmental curved ladies' gallery
* The materials and craftsmanship employed throughout the building are of the highest quality
* Symbolism is clearly evident in the building's design in the form of the 7-bay prayer hall and 7-light E window each representing the Menorah, and the incorporation of the Magen David into internal decoration and fittings
* Stylistic continuity can be found throughout the building both externally and internally
* It has important socio-historic significance as an inter-war synagogue of 1936-7 that represents one of the last free cultural expressions of European Jewry before the Holocaust
Listing NGR: SJ3831488450
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.