Monday, January 01, 2007

South East London Synagogue

This must be one of the great lost buildings of New Cross - the South East London Synagogue in New Cross Road, where the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall now stands.

According to Jewish Communities & Records, this building was consecrated in March 1905 and was destroyed by a German air raid on 27 December 1940. After this the congregation moved temporarily to 117 Lewisham Way (recently known as the Elephant house and demolished just last month). It 'returned to its original site in 1946, first to a temporary hut and then to new purpose-built synagogue in 1956'. However the congregation went into decline and it closed in 1985, by which time it only had 56 male members compared with 294 in 1939.

Afterwards the old synagogue was squatted for a while and used as a rehearsal space for Test Department, among others. I assume the 1950s building must have then been demolished, because the Jehovahs Witnesses hall looks more recent (correct me if I am wrong).

The synagogue seems have been started by Ashkenazi jews from eastern Europe living locally. Services started in a house in 452 New Cross Road in 1888, and then moved to two rooms in Nettleton Road, followed by a hut in in 1889 Lausanne Road until the building above was opened.

Credits - picture comes from South London Liberal Synagogue - I believe this is the earlier building rather than the 1950s one.


Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to do a bit of research about this for a while, so am glad you've posted it!

Loads of great stuff on your blog right now, but the way.

Happy newyear

Anonymous said...

P.S. I believe the Jewish community here was a result of a policy by bourgeois "community leaders" to speed the assimilation of the East End Yiddish-speaking (and politically radical) immigrant Jews by "deconcentrating" them: anglicisation by suburbanisation.

Synagogues were built in the Victorian suburbs to serve as a basis for the dispersed communities and I think financial incentives might have been offered.

I think (but I'm not sure) that Brixton's once-sizeable Jewish population had the same story.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this photograph - and for so many interesting things here...
The Kingdom Hall is the 1950s synagogue building - the Jehovah's Witnesses added a gleaming white portico and made internal alterations.

. said...

Thanks for the clarification on the current building, as for Bob's interesting thoughs on 'anglicisation by suburbanisation' this might merit some more research. Basically we need somebody to trawl through Der Arbeter Fraint (famous Jewish radical paper in 19th century) for mentions of South London. Any volunteers?

Anonymous said...

Do you have copies of Der Arbeter Fraint from 1888 or know where I could access them? If so I'd love to hear from you.

Unknown said...

The South London Jewish community was never very large. I would suggest that they were mainly shopkeepers - they certainly were in Brixton which I know a little of.

The majority of Jews when they arrived at London Docks settled in the East End - mainly in the Whitechapel area.

It is true that they weren't exactly welcomed in open arms when they arrived at the end of the 19th C.

But Lord Rothschild and others gave money through organisations such as the Jewish Shelter in Leman Street (where my grandfather was born - the street not the Shelter).

Subsequently when they became more prosperous, they moved out to North London (eg Highbury), then to NW London (eg Cricklewood) and then to Golders Green and Edgware. Others moved to Ilford.

This mirrored the development of the tube - the Northern Line and the Piccadilly Line.

Anonymous said...

I believe that my great grandparents were founder members of the New Cross synagogue. They lived in Pepys Road, New Cross moving there from Bermondsey. I'm told that when the Jews arrived at London Docks by boat from Eastern Europe & Germany most got off in the East End but some got off at Millwall docks on the South side hence they ended up in Bermondsey, Deptford and New Cross.
Similarly some got off at Chatham Docks hence there are old now disused synagogues in Thanet.

Anonymous said...

In the late 40s early 50s i lived in croft street off Evelyn st . ,, we lived in Nilsson huts . I have this memory of what i know now of Jewish festivals.. especially the Johnsons at No 12 , Southwark and lewisham councils have no great knowledge of that area apart from maps , any information on that community i would appreciate. Ellams No2

Anonymous said...

2021 Just listening to Miriam Margolyes Autobiography and she mentioned that her grandfather set this synagogue up or helped(1st chapter about her dad) except she says it's still there by the old fire station and that mormons use it now.
I think she means the Bus garage and the Jehovah's witnesses.

anyway this is the reason i visited as this is the 1st thing that came up when i tried to search for the synagogue.

so thank you J

DayNa said...

I'm doing the exact same thing. I just listened to her mention it in the Chapter entitled Mummy, second chapter, 5 minutes in. I happen to be LDS aka Mormon, and I was super interested. But that makes sense. We are often confused with Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm loving her book so far. She cracks me up at how unapologetically human she is.

Anonymous said...

Millwall Docks are on the North side of the Thames, North Ferry Road. (And the original location of Millwall Football Club). Probably got off at the old Surrey Docks, south side of the river.