Greenbank Synagogue, Liverpool
Greenbank Synagogue was designed by the architect Sir Ernest Alfred Shennan and built in 1936, opening in 1937. It finally closed its doors after 70 years serving the local population after numbers dwindled and services were reduced to once a week only.
The building is red brick art deco style and remains in place today, albeit in a state of decay and vulnerability. This despite it being upgraded from a Grade 2 listed building to Grade 2* byEnglish heritage in an attempt to prevent it being converted into flats and to preserve this historic building.
In 2003, the synagogue was to receive a grant of £70,000 for immediate repairs and to secure it from intruders with a further million pounds estimated to refurbish completely the interior and exterior.
Inside the signs of decay can be seen. Damp is evident on most walls and peeling plaster and paint are ubiquitous throughout.
Despite this, much is still in place. The original seating areas are intact along with the main areas of worship. Countless smaller rooms house religious regalia and scrolls and in one room more personal artefacts, most disturbingly, a pile of burial certificates which one would have thought would have been removed upon the synagogues closure.
There is a grand approach to the west front entrance up two flights of shallow steps, with curved concrete balustrades. The daylight flooded interior is more original and inventive, reflecting Swedish functionalism without any direct homage. A cantilevered gallery is wrapped around three sides (open at the east end) in a graceful elliptical curve. The spectacular and innovatory ceiling configuration has a barrel curve between the north and south sides of the building springing from above continuous canopies of intersecting segmented concrete arches which run west-east above the upper range of windows on each side of the building. There is a clerestory of semi circular lunettes, each set within and framed by a segmented curve of the concrete canopy above.
Greenbank Drive Synagogue is architecturally by far the most important and innovatory 20th century synagogue in England and is the finest surviving synagogue in Europe dating from the inter-war period. It also has important socio-historic significance as representing a last late optimistic cultural expression of European Jewry before the holocaust.