115 New Road and the former New Road Synagogue

shophouse of 1851, refronted in the mid 1980s. The former New Road Synagogue of 1891–2 is to the rear.

115 New Road (including the former New Road Synagogue).
Contributed by Survey of London on May 9, 2018

A warehouse on this site and that of No. 113 by 1817 was replaced by plain three-storey shophouses, probably put up in 1851 for Duler and Giles of Leman Street, and possibly extending to Nos 117–119. Around 1950 Nisar Ali opened a restaurant at No. 113 that came to be called the Great Tajmahal, then the Jhorna Tandoori Indian Restaurant around 1980. In the mid 1980s No. 113 was rebuilt under a long hipped roof and No. 115 was refronted.1

From the back of 115 New Road there is access to a building that was the New Road Synagogue. Built in 1891–2 to the rear of a large plot of vacant ground (117–121 New Road and back buildings had been cleared in the 1880s), it extended north–south to lie behind Nos 113–119. Its origins were with two Fieldgate Street hevros (prayer circles), mostly people of Polish origin whose premises had been condemned. They combined through the Federation of Synagogues, which had been founded in 1887 by Samuel Montagu, a banker and the Liberal MP for Whitechapel, to help consolidate small minyanim (prayer quora) into larger congregations. Plans were prepared by Lewis Solomon, the Federation’s architect, in what was an early opportunity to provide a ‘model’ purpose-built East End synagogue. A 99-year lease was immediately mortgaged to the Federation through senior congregants: Jacob Singer, a fur merchant of 5 Greenfield Street; Wolf Weber, a Mile End shoemaker; and David Silverberg, a Dalston grocer. The builder was William Reason, of St John Street, Clerkenwell. Of the building cost of £1,350 about £400 came from the hevros, the rest was contributed by the Federation, in reality, most likely by Montagu himself. In a notable rapprochement in what was a prickly relationship between the Federation and the more established Anglo-Jewish United Synagogue, the United’s President, Lord Rothschild, laid a foundation or memorial stone at the opening of the New Road Synagogue – ‘God Save the Queen’ (it was Victoria’s birthday) was sung in Hebrew.

Despite its tucked-away situation, New Road was one of Whitechapel’s more ambitious and architecturally distinctive synagogues, though suitably unpretentious. The interior was lantern-lit and ventilated from above through an ornamentally finished queen-post roof that remains intact. There was space to accommodate more than 300 worshippers (500 was claimed) on the ground floor and in the gallery on three sides. Surprisingly, in a new-build synagogue, albeit on a restricted site, the Ark was on the north wall. In 1955 New Road Synagogue was renovated out of monies that came to the Federation as a result of war-damage and compulsory-purchase orders. However, the congregation dwindled and the synagogue closed in 1974, amalgamating with the East London Central Synagogue, Nelson Street. The foundation stone was removed to Whitechapel Library and thence to London Metropolitan Archives. Sold, the building became a garment workshop for a Bangladeshi manufacturer. The roof- space aside, the interior, including galleries, has been reconstructed.2

  1. The National Archives (TNA), C13/2777/49: London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), District Surveyors Returns (DSR); Collage 119234: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, P04845: Goad maps, 1890: Post Office Directories 

  2. LMA, ACC/2893/315/001–6; ACC/2943/046; DSR: Goad: Ordnance Survey maps: London County Council Minutess, 23 Dec 1891, p. 1344; 26 Jan. 1892, p. 57: Jewish Chronicle, 15 Jan 1892, p. 15; 27 May 1892, p. 15: Daily Graphic, 26 May 1892: East London Advertiser, 28 May 1892; 25 Oct. 1974: TNA, IR58/84798/1517: William J. Fishman,The Streets of East London, 1979, p. 92: Geoffrey Alderman, The Federation of Synagogues, 1887–1987, 1987, pp.24,100,114: Judy Glasman, ‘London Synagogues in the late nineteenth century: Design in context’, London Journal, vol. 13/2, 1988, pp. 151-3: Sharman Kadish, The Synagogues of Britain and Ireland, 2011, p. 153: Tower Hamlets planning applications online 

Signwriting at New Road Synagogue
Contributed by Alicia on Oct. 31, 2018

My parents, who had an ironmongery shop at 183 Whitechapel Road from 1930 to 1970 originally lived a couple of doors away from the New Road Synagogue.

My grandfather actually was a signwriter who created all the signs for the synagogue, seen here. He was a warden of the synagogue. The Hebrew lettering in this picture was written in gold by my grandfather, Marks Manowitz.

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...

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

A wedding at New Road Synagogue, 1973
Contributed by stanley

Former New Road Synagogue, roofspace, detail of a queen-post, April 2018
Contributed by Peter Guillery

Former New Road Synagogue, roofspace, April 2018
Contributed by Peter Guillery

Elevation of 115 New Road
Contributed by Sebastian_Dawber

New Road synagogue in use as a workshop, 1980
Contributed by Survey of London