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Feasibility Study for Middle Street Synagogue receives £40,000 in funding

By May 2, 2024No Comments
Photograph of the interior of the Middle Street synagogue.

In a major development to safeguard the future of the striking Middle Street synagogue in Brighton’s city centre, three leading heritage funding bodies have agreed to contribute £40,000 to support a Feasibility Study which will aim to identify a viable future use for the currently closed building. The National Lottery Heritage Fund has committed £20,000 and the Architectural Heritage Fund has committed £10,000. In addition, the Pilgrim Trust has committed £10,000 towards the building survey aspect of the Study.

This significant funding was secured as a result of the owners of Middle Street synagogue, the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation (BHHC), entering into a partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Heritage to conduct a review of the building and its future potential. The Feasibility Study is being managed by the Foundation, and a Steering Committee has been established chaired by BHHC member Michael Rosehill.

Middle Street Synagogue, designed by the distinguished Victorian architect Thomas Lainson, was opened in 1875. It has been described as the jewel in the crown of the Jewish community of the South Coast. The synagogue’s stained glass windows, elaborate floral column capitals, wrought iron details, mosaics, stencilling and gilding, black and white chequered floor of Italian marble and original pews, transport the viewer into a 19th century space of worship and contemplation. The interior reflects the history of Brighton’s Jewish community and the synagogue’s links to wider society and affairs of state via influential Jewish families connected to the synagogue including the Rothschild, Montefiore and Sassoon families, the latter significant patrons of the synagogue as well as major Brighton benefactors.

Middle Street was at the heart of Brighton’s Jewish community around which its spiritual, educational, cultural and social activities mainly focussed. There were daily services, and Jewish Festivals attracted worshippers in their hundreds. Indeed the synagogue, its objects and archives, stand as important testimony to Brighton’s 250+ years of thriving Jewish communal life.

With the Jewish community moving to the suburbs, services ended in 2004 due to reducing attendance. The building is now largely unused, its condition deteriorating. However, it remains a nationally recognised heritage site with grade II* listed status, an iconic building for the Jewish community, and for the city of Brighton and Hove as a whole.

The Feasibility Study will assess the current situation of Middle Street, identify options for future use, and ultimately make a recommendation on a preferred option which will be considered by the BHHC Board. It is hoped that the process will lead to the re-opening of Middle Street, once again playing a meaningful role within the community of Brighton and beyond.

Susan Conway, Chair of BHHC commented, “Brighton & Hove Hebrew Congregation is delighted to be working with the Foundation of Jewish Heritage to find a way forward for the beautiful Middle Street Synagogue which is cherished by the Jewish community. We are very grateful to the funders for supporting this crucial Feasibility Study.”

Michael Rosehill, Steering Committee Chair, stated, “I hadn’t appreciated the full significance of Middle Street Synagogue both architecturally and historically. The fact that three leading heritage funding bodies have so generously agreed to back this project is a clear demonstration of the significance of the building.’

Michael Mail, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage added, “Middle Street is a nationally recognised landmark building, important for the Jewish community and for the city of Brighton and Hove. Through the Feasibility Study, we hope to come up with a solution that will bring the building back into regular use and ensure its future.”

Louise Stewart, Support Officer for London and South East at the Architectural Heritage Fund, said “We are extremely pleased to be one of three organisations that have awarded funding towards a Feasibility Study for Middle Street Synagogue. We hope that our support will help to find a sustainable future use for this iconic building, ensuring that it continues to play an important role for the Jewish community, as well as the city of Brighton and Hove as a whole, for many generations to come.”

Image credit: Foundation for Jewish Heritage

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