‘We need a new building!’: Manchester Reform Synagogue continue heated row with conservationists

A handful of heritage societies are continuing their crusade to protect a historic synagogue, running the risk of further angering the congregation who wholly support redevelopment.

Jackson Row’s Manchester Reform Synagogue has been earmarked for demolition since football stars Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville put forward plans to build their St Michael’s development.  

And despite the congregation giving developers “unanimous support” for the £200m project, which would entail the current building being knocked down and rebuilt in one of two sky-scrapers, the Twentieth Century Society and SAVE Britain’s Heritage remain adamant that the building should be protected.

NEED FOR CHANGE: The 1952 structure is the second oldest of its kind in the country and its congregation want upheaval – something conservationists are resisting 

Tessa Pinto (main picture, above left), a conservation adviser at The Twentieth Century Society, told MM: “Along with many other heritage organisations and individuals, we are objecting to the demolition of both the Reform Synagogue and the Police Station. 

“The Synagogue is particularly intact and retains a number of striking original features, whose quality are of particular note given the early post-war date of construction. 

“The loss of these two fine twentieth century buildings which contribute strongly to streetscape would be a huge blow to Manchester’s heritage and character.”

The synagogue see the situation very differently however, as member Rabbi Warren Elf (main picture, below left) told MM.

“We’ve been looking at redevelopment for at least 13 years – we need a new synagogue which is relevant to the city centre and a building that is made for purpose,” he said.

“We want it to become a building that people will want to come and see. The synagogue absolutely does not agree with these heritage groups, a lot of work needs to be done on the building and we hope redevelopment will attract new people.

“These groups seem only concerned with the building and not with what it is used for and what the congregations’ wishes are.”

In an interview with Tablet magazine, synagogue president, Danny Savage, concurred.

“The Twentieth Century Society seem to be hell bent against the development and have never contacted the synagogue ever to see how it affects us.

“We as Jews welcome change, as most of Manchester does, in the hope that regeneration of the city centre will create and secure jobs and prosperity.”

Despite this, The Twentieth Century Society has continued its quest to save the synagogue. They also appealed to Historic England to make the structure a listed building.

However, Historic England rejected their proposal to protect the site, saying the synagogue was not architecturally distinct enough to meet the criteria.

The current structure was built in 1952 and is the second oldest of its kind in the country and was the first building to be constructed in Manchester city centre after the Second World War funded by war reparations.

It is also home to some of the earliest examples of figurative stained glass in a Jewish place of worship.

Although plans for the scheme have already been submitted to Manchester Council and were due to go to planning next month, Mr Neville asked the town hall on Wednesday to hold off any decisions for the next six months whilst they fine tune the plans.

Inset images courtesy of Twitter and Southend Reform, with thanks.

Related Articles