9 Park Row, Bristol, BS1 5LP
Hyman H. Collins (1832–1905) and S.C. Fripp – city surveyor
Stone, cast iron
Purpose-built as a Synagogue
The Synagogue is a working place of worship and so is not open to the general public
Bristol’s Victorian synagogue on Park Row (1869-71) was built on a site previously occupied by a convent for the Little Sisters of the Poor. It cost over £4000 in the currency of the day and was blessed in September 1871. The design was by Hyman H. Collins and S.C. Fripp. Collins was London-based and one of few Jewish architects of the day and Fripp was a Bristol Corporation surveyor.
The building’s layout and features are modelled on the original Temple in Jerusalem and follow Orthodox guidelines. Outside, the design includes an arched entrance but is rather plain, while inside has an Italian flavour. There is a central bimah (raised platform and reading desk) and women’s galleries with attractive latticework. Interesting fittings include an Ark with curved mahogany doors (probably 1700s). Over this is an arched canopy with symbolic plants picked out in gold on the capitals of the supporting columns and on the canopy itself.
The land for this synagogue was paid for in 1869 by Samuel Platnauer, President of the Bristol Hebrew Congregation. Previously, Bristol’s Orthodox Jewish community worshipped at the ‘Stone Kitchen’ (1756-86) and then the Weavers’ Hall (1786-1842), both in Temple Street. After that, a section of the Quaker Meeting House, west of Temple Street, was used.
In the late 1860s this was demolished as part of a new Victoria Street road scheme. Bristol Corporation agreed to design a new synagogue as part of the deal around the Victoria Street development, which is why city surveyor Fripp became involved. Worship continued on Lower College Green until the new premises were created. The building design was not totally straightforward as the Park Row site had restricted space on a steep slope.
Many of the Park Row fittings came from the Weavers’ Hall. They include the Ark’s doors and a Dutch brass hanukiah (candelabrum) from the 1600s. The Eternal Light above the Ark is thought to have come from the Quaker Meeting House. The Jewish Star of David appears in the windows. This symbolizes the combination of divine and worldly elements as one triangle faces heaven and the other earth.