The Great Synagogue of London

Bomb Damage to Great Synagogue • London Metropolitan Archives

This treasure, from the London Metropolitan Archives, is an image of the The Great Synagogue of London in the aftermath of its destruction during the Blitz in 1941. The synagogue was first built in about 1690 at Duke’s Place, north of Aldgate. It became the centre of Ashkenazi Jewish life in London after Jews were allowed back to Britain by Oliver Cromwell. The synagogue was rebuilt in 1722 and consecrated on Rosh Hashana. An enlarged building opened in 1766. Between 1788 and 1790 a third synagogue was built on the site, in the classical style. The architect was James Spiller. Unusually for the time, the principal donor was a woman, Judith Hart Levy.  It was redecorated and repaired in 1832 and 1852 by John Walen, and restored again with small renovations in 1899 and 1930.

During the night of May 10/11, 1941, during one of the last major attacks of the Blitz, the synagogue was destroyed. The image below, from the Imperial War Museum, shows the interior of the synagogue in early 1941 just before it was bombed:

The Great Synagogue London, 1941 • Imperial War Museum

The final image shows a painting of the interior of the synagogue from 1809:


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