Building a synagogue at Garnethill

Garnethill Synagogue was opened on 9th September 1879.  In the days following, newspapers across the country reported on both the beauty of the building and the stateliness of the consecration ceremony.  The Jewish Chronicle reported on “…a new and very handsome synagogue at Garnethill…”

The Scotsman judged the building “completed in the most satisfactory manner.” The Fife News commented that this “handsome synagogue” had been established expressly by and for “the Hebrew community in Glasgow”. The Manchester Evening News described it as “a Scotch synagogue.” The Glasgow Herald gave a detailed description of the architecture and the dedication service- along with a brief account of Glasgow’s Jewish community:

“The consecration ceremony was… an exceedingly interesting one. …

The leading features of the consecration consisted of processions by the minister and wardens round the synagogue, their reception at the apse, and the placing of the scrolls of the law in the ark, the choir singing the prescribed psalms, and the readers chanting the accustomed prayers in Hebrew during the proceedings…..The edifice is … a most ornate and attractive one, the style of architecture adopted being Romanesque, with a Byzantine feeling introduced in the detail.”

Glasgow Herald, September 1879

The synagogue, which was the culmination of years of planning and fundraising by the Glasgow Hebrew Congregation, was designed by the Glasgow-based architect John McLeod in consultation with Nathan Solomon Joseph of London.

This llustration of the interior of the prayer hall is taken from The Builder magazine, 5th March 1881

black line illustration of the inside of Garnethill Synagogue

John Mcleod (1838-1888) was a Dumbarton man with an office in Hope Street, Glasgow.  He designed various churches in the west of Scotland, as well as the Christian Institute in Bothwell Street.

Nathan Solomon Joseph (1834-1909) was the most prominent Anglo-Jewish synagogue architect of the time. He worked for the United Synagogue and co-operated with John MacLeod on the cathedral synagogue of Scotland.

photograph of architect John McLeod

John McLeod

photograph of architext Nathan Solomon

Nathan Solomon Joseph

Funds for the new synagogue

Open pages of a cash book

First pages of the 1875 cash book recording donations for building Garnethill Synagogue

Payments were recorded in the Cash Book for the Building of New Synagogue showing the first donations recorded in November 1875. Included in the first list is a £200 donation by N M Rothschild bank in London and a sum of £360 already raised by the congregation. A few ladies are noted among the lists of donors, including Mrs Samuel, Mrs Moses, Mrs Wolffe and Mrs Friedlander.

The Cash Book lists the first payment to the architect John McLeod made on 28th May 1879 and a further payment in February 1880.

It also lists payments to some of the main Glasgow contractors, well-known companies, including:

  • George Barlas & Co, builders
  • Bennett & Sons, painters and decorators
  • Moses McCulloch & Sons, iron founders
  • Walter MacFarlane & Co Ltd, known as the Saracen Foundry
  • H & J Keir, stained glass makers
  • Wylie & Lochhead, renowned furniture and cabinet makers

The Cash Book outgoings total around £133,000.

Items donated to Synagogue for its opening

Ner Tamid- Perpetual lamp in front of Ark

The Jewish Chronicle on 10th June 1881 recorded: “Mr Bernard Wolffe of Glasgow presented a handsome perpetual lamp in memory of his parents to the synagogue in that city. The donor will likewise provide the necessary expenses to be incurred in future in connection with the lamp, which was manufactured by Messrs. Elkington & Co. of London.”

Torah mantle – cover for Torah scroll

The inscription in Hebrew on this Torah mantle records that it was donated to the Glasgow Hebrew Congregation, “in loving memory and to have a memorial in the divine sanctuary for Yosef ben HaChaver Moshe HaCohen and Rachel bat HaChaver Tuvya” (Joseph son of ‘Chaver’ Moshe and Rachel daughter of Tuvya).

The title ‘Chaver’ is sometimes bestowed on someone who does not have rabbinical qualification but who has played a significant role in community life. The hands show the priestly blessing and the date 5639 corresponds to 1879.

All images on this page are in copyright, and appear courtesy of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre unless stated otherwise. Images should not be reproduced without permission.

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