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©  Robert E Priest LRPS

IoE Number: 482160
Photographer: Robert E Priest LRPS
Date Photographed: 08 January 2001
Date listed: 20 August 1971
Date of last amendment: 26 August 1999
Grade II*

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BRIGHTON TQ3004SE MIDDLE STREET 577-1/39/522 (East side) 20/08/71 The Synagogue and attached gate (Formerly Listed as: MIDDLE STREET The Brighton Synagogue) II* Synagogue. 1874-5. Designed by Thomas Lainson and built by Messrs Cheeseman, for the Brighton Hebrew Congregation. Yellow brick to the street front and brown to the sides and rear, set in English bond, with dressings of stone and tile, roof obscured by parapet; the internal construction of the body of the synagogue is of iron. EXTERIOR: the street front has windows on 3 levels, 8-window range; the front is set out as three 2-window bays with single-window recesses between, with the gabled upper part set back above the bays. Ashlar plinth. Segmental-arched entrance in central projecting bay, flanked by columns of pink polished granite with foliage capitals, the archivolt inscribed with Hebrew texts; ground- and first-floor windows round-arched and flanked by engaged sandstone columns with foliage capitals, the heads formed of glazed voussoir bricks in blue, red and black; stepped brick cornice above first floor; the upper part of this gabled front has a wheel window with the Tablets of the Law above, and is flanked by pairs of short stone pilasters; corniced gable. The north and south sides have 6 pairs of round-arched windows at each level, each pair set in a stone surround under a round arch with chamfered reveals of yellow brick; clerestory windows round-arched, in 6 groups of 4. Canted apse to east end. Elaborate iron gate to passage on south side. INTERIOR: the body of the synagogue is galleried on the north, west and south sides, and of 5 bays; the columns here and elsewhere are of iron covered with scagliola; men's seats on the ground floor, women's seats in the galleries. The Ark is set in the central facet of the apse behind elaborate wrought-iron gates of 1905; the lower walls of the apse decorated with mosaic, and the upper with densely patterned plasterwork in low relief, the 3 facets of the apse divided by slim engaged columns supporting the ribs of the vault, which is filled with stained glass of 1888; the apse is framed by an arch, consisting of columns one above the other with neo-Byzantine capitals supporting a round-arched inner order, the outer order inscribed with texts and arabesques; a pair of round-arched windows above the apse. The Ark steps are semicircular in plan, the steps themselves of marble, the rest paved with terrazzo and surrounded by elaborate brass rails of 1905. The galleries are carried on columns one above the other, the capitals carved with fruits mentioned in the Bible, and there are openwork balustrades of iron and brass between them at ground floor and gallery level; at gallery level the columns are part of a round-arched arcade. At the west end, a central, flat-arched doorway, with brass gates originally enclosing the Ark; at gallery level the west doorway is flat-arched with pilasters and archivolt, the tympanum decorated with carving and mosaic. Pitched roof carried on round arches to each bay, the arches on foliage corbels. Floor of black and white marble in central space. Perpetual lamp of silver above the Ark steps. Brass pulpit decorated with openwork arabesques. Hanucah Menorah of brass on a column base, below Ark steps. The Bima has a wooden base surmounted by elaborate cast-iron railings, with brass rails and finials to standards, and 4 cast-iron lamp standards, the brasswork dating from 1892; the entrance to the Bima is at the west end rather than at the sides, an early example of this arrangement; the reading desk itself is of wood with columns at the re-entrant corners, panels of scagliola and a carved frieze; warden's seats in front of the Bima of wood, decorated in the form of consoles, with a brass balustrade in front. Original men's and women's seating of stained pine. Painted decoration echoing the arcading of galleries and windows, and panelling of ceilings, dating from 1945 or earlier, refurbished on the ground floor in 1991. 3 pairs of metal electroliers in the central space and 10 on the ground floor and in galleries, of 1892, making this the first synagogue in Britain to be lit by electric light. The windows in the north, south and east walls are flanked by engaged columns with foliage capitals. All the windows in the synagogue are filled with non-figurative stained glass of consistent design: west window and 2 other lights at the west end probably of 1887; those on the north and south sides on the ground floor of c1895 except the westernmost which are of 1912, as are the 2 westernmost in the women's gallery; 2 windows at the east end of the north gallery, 1896. A good deal of the glass was repaired in the 1960s. Vestibule at west end with encaustic-tile floor and staircase with fluted newel, slim cast-iron balusters, wreathed and ramped rail and open string. The unusually sumptuous interior of the synagogue reflects not so much the size of the Jewish community in Brighton, as the popularity of Brighton as a holiday resort among Jewish people, and the pious gifts of the Sassoon family who presented some of the elaborate fittings and stained glass. The architect, Thomas Lainson, was surveyor to the Wick Estate in Hove. (The Churches of Brighton: Volume II, Part XV: London and Brighton; Spector D: Middle Street Synagogue (duplicated typescript)).

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