John McLeod, in association with N.S. Joseph, 1877-79. L-plan purpose built 2-storey and basement synagogue with richly detailed interior; mixture of Moorish, Classical and Romanesque styles; built on sloping site. Predominantly tooled squared snecked rubble; polished ashlar to projecting entrance bay to N elevation. Eaves cornice. Predominantly regular fenestration with chamfered margins; to N and S elevations, bipartite windows with stone mullions; to 1st floor, paired round-headed windows with dividing colonnettes, cill course and continuous hoodmould.
N (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: 6-bay elevation; projecting bay to far right. To 1st-4th bays from left, basement school. To advanced bay: steps leading to 2-leaf timber-panelled doors in opening with bracketed lintel; above, Hebrew inscription (see Notes) and rose window flanked by richly carved spandrels; overarching giant compound arch with nook shafts with stylised Ionic capitals, surmounted by decorative grotesque panels and patterned and roll moulded archivaults. Above arch, 2 carved roundels; corbelled blind parapet with cusped decoration; recessed Star of David panel; ornately corniced gable end with apex acroterion. Flanking arch, pilasters rising to colonnetted and niched finials with pedimented, domed caps. 2-bay elevation to E flank of advanced bay; for W flank, see W elevation.
E ELEVATION: to centre, canted apse with glazed domed roof, flanked by roundels. To basement: window to left of apse; timber door and window to apse; to right, single storey sukkah (built 1903) with monopitch corrugated metal roof.
S ELEVATION: 6-bay elevation. To far left bay, to 1st floor, tripartite window with cills breaking into ground floor level.
W ELEVATION: 7-bay, plain, irregularly fenestrated elevation; to 1st floor paired, round-headed windows to 1st, 2nd and 5th bays from left.
GLAZING etc: to ground and 1st floors, predominantly stained glass in timber frames (see below); to basement, predominantly 6-pane timber sash and case windows. Pitched roof; graded slate; stone skews; octagonal lead and timber louvred ventilator to ridge. Gablehead stack to E elevation; wallhead stack to S elevation; 2 wallhead stacks to N elevation; ridge stack to advanced bay to N elevation; all stacks corniced. Cast iron rainwater goods.
GATEPIERS, RAILINGS AND WALLS: to N: square-plan stop-chamfered gatepiers with carved roundels and semi-pyramidal caps supporting cast-iron lamp standards; ornate wrought iron gates and railings on ashlar dwarf wall. To remainder of boundary, mixture of brick walling and snecked rubble walling, with predominantly flat copes to both types.
INTERIOR: to entrance hall and inner hall, geometric and encaustic tiled floor, lozenge-patterned timber wall panelling to dado height, several marble memorial tablets to upper walls, good plasterwork including cornice and ornate strapwork ceiling (Star of David pattern to inner hall), between entrance hall and inner hall, 2-leaf carved timber and glazed doors in opening framed by columns with ornate surround and cusped fanlight. Double-return staircase with timber balusters and newels surmounted by brass lamp poles; large stained glass window above half-landing. To room above entrance hall (original Vestry), good plasterwork and stained glass windows (some partly replaced). To prayer hall: good ornate plasterwork; good stained glass memorial windows throughout, carved timber pews, predominantly original light fittings including the Ner Tamid (everlasting light) suspended above Holy Ark; apsidal E end with glazed cupola (see Notes) above, ornate Holy Ark (Aron Kodesh) set within apse; in front of apse, marble steps and pulpit of various coloured marbles; stencilled decoration to walls flanking apse; to centre of hall, carved oak bimah (raised platform) with reader's desk; U-plan ladies gallery, fronted by ornate bellied cast-iron railings and supported by stylised Ionic columns, to W end of gallery, ornate cast-iron railings surrounding choir gallery with segmental window above (see Notes), gallery arcaded with hexagonal columns and stiff leaf capitals supporting round-headed arches; barrel vaulted, compartmented ceiling.
Statement of Special Interest
Garnethill is of great architectural and historical significance as the first purpose built synagogue in Scotland. It also has extensive high quality stained glass windows featuring richly coloured floral patterns predominantly executed by JB Bennett and Sons. The mainly unaltered interior furniture and decorative elements further distinguish this building.
The Jewish community in Glasgow was established in the 1820s, and slowly grew to be the biggest Jewish community in Scotland by the turn of the century. During the early days of the community, Sabbaths and Holidays were celebrated in a small rented room in the High Street. A formal congregation was established not long after 1829, and found a home for their synagogue in the Old Post Office Court, Trongate. Following further moves to a room in Anderson's College (abandoned because of its proximity to the dissection room) and a top floor flat in Howard Street, in 1852 a building on the corner of George Street and John Street was purchased for £1700. Following £800 worth of alterations, the new synagogue was consecrated in 1857. However, only 18 years later, this synagogue was becoming crowded, and the decision was taken to build a new synagogue with school attached.
In November 1875, the site on the corner of Hill Street and Garnet Street (then known as Thistle Street) was selected and bought for £3,500. The site was cleared and on 17 March 1877 the plans were approved. The architect was John McLeod, who consulted N.S.Joseph, a Jewish architect based in London and well known for his synagogue designs including the Bayswater Synagogue. The foundation stone was laid in March 1877 and the completed building was consecrated by Rabbi Dr Hermann Adler on the 9th of September 1879. The total cost of ground and buildings came to almost £14,000.
The basement accommodation initially comprised schoolrooms, keeper's house, lavatories and bathrooms etc. Above, in the main hall, the original seating provides for 362 men and 218 women in the Ladies' gallery. A vestry (now the home of the Scottish Jewish Archives) was situated above the entrance hall. The marble pulpit was installed in 1896. The glazed cupola above the apse contains stained glass panes on which are written the first two Hebrew words of each of the Ten Commandments. The segmental stained glass window above the choir gallery was brought from the congregation's former synagogue on George Street. The carved Hebrew inscription above the main Hill Street doorway is Deuteronomy Ch. 32, V.12, and the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in this verse add up to the date of the foundation of the building.
Repairs and restoration to Garnethill Synagogue took place in 1998, partly funded by a grant from Historic Scotland.
Garenthill Synagogue was upgraded from B to A in 2004.