Listed Buildings

Middle Street Synagogue: Exterior Grade II

By Jennifer Drury

First Jewish community

The first known Jewish inhabitant of Brighton was Israel Samuels who was recorded as a resident in 1766/7. The community was established with the arrival in 1782 of Emanuel Hyam Cohen, a Rhienlander who married a local woman Hannah Benjamin and with her raised ten children. Brighton’s first Jewish house of worship was a rather humble meeting place in Jew Street (c.1792). The word synagogue means a ‘meeting place’ indicating its dual function as a House of Prayer, and a social and educational centre for the community.

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Photo:Yellow brick to the street front and brown to the sides and rear, set in English bond, with dressings of stone and tile, roof  obscured by parapet

Yellow brick to the street front and brown to the sides and rear, set in English bond, with dressings of stone and tile, roof obscured by parapet

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Segmental-arched entrance in central projecting bay, flanked by columns of pink polished granite with foliage capitals, the archivolt inscribed with  Hebrew texts

Segmental-arched entrance in central projecting bay, flanked by columns of pink polished granite with foliage capitals, the archivolt inscribed with Hebrew texts

Photo by Tony Mould


Photo:The upper part of the gabled front has a wheel window with the Tablets of  the Law above.

The upper part of the gabled front has a wheel window with the Tablets of the Law above.

Photo by Tony Mould

Photo:Ground- and first-floor windows round-arched and flanked by engaged sandstone columns with foliage capitals,  the heads formed of glazed voussoir bricks in blue, red and  black.

Ground- and first-floor windows round-arched and flanked by engaged sandstone columns with foliage capitals, the heads formed of glazed voussoir bricks in blue, red and black.

Photo by Tony Mould

Consecrated in 1875

The Middle Street site was bought in 1874 and the new synagogue consecrated in 1875. The project had been put out to tender, with the work going to Thomas Lainson, surveyor of Hove’s Wick Estate. Lainson was not Jewish – but this was not unusual as many High Victorian, and even earlier, synagogue builders were Gentiles. Although Middle Street preserves many design features found in synagogues since antiquity, its basilican shape gives it an Italian Romanesque quality - an example of the Victorian affinity with the past.

See the interior of Middle Street Synagogue here

This page was added on 02/10/2011.
Comments about this page

What is going to happen to this lovely old building, surely it's not going to be demolished?

Editor's note: A listed building is one which has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. A listed building may not be demolished, extended or altered without special permission from the local planning authority who typically consult the relevant central government agency, particularly for significant alterations to the more notable listed buildings. Best wishes - Jennifer

By Den King (11/10/2011)

I lived at 60 Middle Street and I can remember my father, who was a double bass player in the pit orchestra at the Hippodrome just a few doors away, playing chess with the rabbi of the synagogue. This was after the war in about 1948'ish.

By Tony Brookes (01/10/2012)

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