115 New Road and the New Road Synagogue

shophouses with 19th century origins, rebuilt in 20th century, formerly part of the New Road Synagogue

New Road Synagogue
Contributed by Shahed Saleem on March 21, 2017

115 New Road is the site of the former New Road Synagogue, which closed in 1974 when it was amalgamated with the East London Central Synagogue, still in operation on Nelson Street (Jewish Communities & Records UK). It was formed through the amalgamation of two Hevros (prayer circles) that were based on neighbouring Fieldgate Street, and was consecrated on the 24th May 1892. The Synagogue was built at a cost of £1350, of which £400 was raised by the Hevros themselves and the remainder contributed by the Federation of Jewish Synagogues, New Road probably being their earliest 'model' synagogue. (Kadish, S 2011 p.153).

Historic maps from the 1890s onwards show a building built in what was likely the rear yard of No.115, and stretching across the back of 113, 115 and 117. This rear yard infill is marked on various maps as the New Road Synagogue, which suggests that 115 was probably retained as a C19th terrace, and provided access through to the newly built synagogue behind. Sharman Kadish notes that the Jewish Chronicle described it as an unpretending structure.

She also describes how photographs of the interior of the synagogue dating from the 1970s (probably mid-late) show clothing stacked in the prayer hall, as the 'premises were then being used as a garment warehouse by one of the Bangladeshi manufacturers who followed the Jews into the East End'.

LB Tower Hamlets planning records show that a planning application was approved in January 1977 for the change of use of the site to a garment manufacturing facility with office, showroom and storage. This simple planning record encapsulates the demographic change taking place in Whitechapel in the 1970s as the Jewish population was dispersing and the Bangladeshi moving in.

Whilst Kadish remarks that no trace of the original building remains, and from looking at the street frontage No.115 does present a relatively recent facade (although no corresponding planning record is apparent). There are, however, no planning applications for the demolition and rebuilding of the former synagogue, so it is possible that the structure of the New Road Synagogue is still standing in some form across the back of Nos. 113-119, and which has been through various internal alterations and refurbishments since the mid- 1970s.

A trip around the back of 115 beckons...

A wedding at New Road Synagogue, 1973
Contributed by stanley

Report of opening of New Road Synagogue, 26 May 1892 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Contributed by Sarah Milne, Survey of London