The S&P Sephardi Community has received a National Lottery development grant, of £221,100 (64% of the initial planning costs) from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop plans for an exciting new project at Bevis Marks Synagogue. If successful in securing the full grant in Spring 2019, the project, costing some £4.6 m with a 64% contribution from HLF, will vastly improve facilities and access at Bevis Marks. It will ensure that Bevis Marks can be maintained as a living place of worship and community, a cultural centre and an historic attraction. It will also enable Bevis Marks to reach out to a wider community with a rich and engaging educational programme.
The community at Bevis Marks synagogue has faced the threat of closure many times. A change in geo-demographics has led to a migration of the Spanish & Portuguese Jewish population away from the City, however the community has remained faithful. The building and its collections stand as a living monument to 300 years of continuous worship in the City of London. It is this intrinsic combination of use and heritage that is at the heart of the significance and value of Bevis Marks Synagogue.
There are many reasons that can be cited as to why Bevis Marks synagogue is a significant heritage asset – its grade 1 listing; its intact Wren-style furnishings; it being the oldest synagogue in use in the UK – but fundamental to all of these is its continued use since 1701. No other synagogue in Europe has this continuity of practice, of community, of building, of collections. As a result, Bevis Marks is more than just a historic building, it is the repository of a unique inheritance, both of physical collections such as ritual silver, textiles and furniture, and of intangible heritage – a minhag – of melodies and customs, handed down from generation to generation for over 300 years.
New staff and a dynamic activity programme will see a step-change in operation and heritage management, with an aim to dramatically increase visitor numbers. Previously un-displayed collections will be made accessible. Crucially, the site will become financially sustainable, with income generating activities sympathetic to an active place of worship. Heritage assets will be safeguarded for future generations.
Commenting on the award, Executive Director, Alison Rosen said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. Bevis Marks has been both a religious centre and heritage site for over 300 years, with this grant we hope to be able to both preserve and increase its presence and functionality for another century and more.”
Senior Rabbi Joseph Dweck commented: “Bevis Marks expresses the beauty and grandeur of our history in Britain. With the HLF grant we will be able to showcase the many personalities, artefacts and stories that form the fabric of Sephardi Jewry in the United Kingdom and that laid the foundations of Jewish life here. The story of the Jewish people in the UK begins at Bevis Marks and every British Jew should see it at least once. The news of the HLF grant is a huge encouragement to the Sephardi Community and to British Jewry.”
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery