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Bevis Marks Synagogue: Restoring A Grade I Gem


A dramatic view of the birdcage scaffold erected inside Bevis Marks Synagogue to allow repair and refurbishment
 

Bevis Marks Synagogue is the oldest continually operating synagogue in the UK, opening in 1701, since which time apart from short periods of repair and maintenance services have never stopped. It is regarded by the Jewish community of the UK as the 'mother synagogue'. As a Grade I listed building, the highest measure of importance by Historic England it is a significant part of the historical fabric of the City of London. An exciting project, part-funded by the UK Lottery and other generous donors, will allow the synagogue to continue its religious function while at the same time creating a new museum and educational programmes for visitors, not just in the UK but worldwide. Although inevitably delayed by the current pandemic, work has now commenced on the restoration of the synagogue and the transformation of the former annex and undercroft into a museum and educational space for opening in 2022.

In this article I will take you inside the synagogue to see the current refurbishment activities as well as into spaces which are rarely seen by the members, let alone the public at large.

The Ricoh GR, “If Carlsberg Did Cameras…”

In this article I discuss why I am such a big fan of the Ricoh GR cameras and explain why I believe that “If Carlsberg did cameras, they’d do the Ricoh GR.

WORSHIP IN THE TIME OF A PANDEMIC

How the UK's oldest synagogue and community are responding to social distancing.

Bevis Marks Synagogue entrance, with a clear reminder of social distancing.

The synagogue of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community at Bevis Marks, within the square mile of the City of London, is the oldest in the UK. Constructed in 1701 during the reign of King William III, the architectural and cultural significance of the building is recognised by having a rare Grade I listing.  In this time of Pandemic how is the building being managed to maintain social distancing?

WHITECHAPEL IN COLOUR (2009-2013)

The third part of my travels through a small planet with a film camera
 

Walking across Altab Ali Park (January 2010, Leica M7, Fuji 400H)
 
In the last two blog posts I have shown the result of my travels through the ‘small planet’ of Whitechapel with film cameras. The ‘small planet’ is a reference to the semi-autobiographical novel by Emanuel Litvinoff (1915-2011), the author and a famous son of Whitechapel, who wrote so eloquently of his life there. 
 
In this article I conclude my travels with film cameras with colour film photography from the central area of Whitehapel.

SPITALFIELDS IN COLOUR FILM (2011-13)

Wandering the back streets of Spitalfields with 120 colour roll film

Dog Legs of the East End #42: Sclater Street and the junction of Brick Lane (April 2011, Hasseblad SWC, Kodak Portra 160NC)
 
A lot of photography of the East End is in monochrome which captures the strong character of the people and places. I, on the other hand, have always seen the bold and often garish colours in the urban landscape.

WHITECHAPEL IN BLACK AND WHITE (2009)

Film photography in the footsteps of Don McCullin

The photographs in this blog post are all from a period in 2009 when I made a foray into the back streets of Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Bethnal Green armed with a film camera. The inspiration for this process was reading the veteran photographer Don McCullin’s autobiography, ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’.

The entrance to Altab Ali Park (October 2009) with the distinctive bell tower of the German Church in the distance, which appears in several McCullin photographs of the area. 

THE SYNAGOGUE AND THE MOSQUE AS NEIGHBOURS

The Great Synagogue and the East London Mosque in Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel

The Synagogue and Mosque Dome in 2009. As the mosque exapanded over the next few years this view disappeared.

This is a story based on my photography about two different religious communities that co-existed for more than 60 years in Whitechapel. Both have seen dramatic changes in the size of their communities and the impact on their places of worship.

Empire House: A Preservation Success

The renovated frontage of Empire House, August 2019

2019 in Whitechapel has been a disappointing year as far as the preservation of its heritage buildings. In March the fight to preserve the former Georgian public house, known locally as Tadman’s Corner, on Jubilee Street and Stepney Way was lost and the building demolished.  Work has begun on boarding up the former London Hospital Outpatients Building on Turner Street and it has been sold off with demolition impending. There is much angst about plans to alter the use and remodel the Bell Foundry. Many other smaller battles are being joined across the district in an attempt to stop the wrecking ball and the spread of bland ‘spreadsheet’ designed buildings.

It is therefore very satisfying to relate the story of a preservation success: Empire House, on New Road.

Pancras Square, Kings Cross

Entrance to Pancras Square (click for full size)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entrance to Pancras Square (click for full size)

As I entered the new Pancras Square built on the site of the once teeming freight hub of Kings Cross/St Pancras the light channelled into the view had a dense and highlighted quality which would have been normal in this area 50 years ago.

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