The Montefiore Synagogue, Ramsgate, designed by David Mocatta (1806-1882), reproduced from a photograph. Source: The Jewish Encyclopedia, VIII: 668.

The first stone was laid on 9 August 1831, and the dedication took place on 16 May 1833. The building, close to the Montefiores' house at that time, East Cliff Lodge, is off the picturesquely named Honeysuckle Road, Ramsgate. It was always intended to be simple and unobtrusive. Louis Lowe, who compiled the Montefiore diaries, writes:

Mr and Mrs Montefiore had intended to have an inscription placed over the entrance to the Synagogue. It appears, however, that the idea was finally abandoned, though there is a square moulding over the door, and a parallelogram on the northern wall of the Synagogue purposely made for it. I once asked him the reason of this omission, and from his reply I gathered that he did not wish the building to unduly attract the attention of strangers. The modest appearance of the Synagogue as it now stands, having neither steeple nor turret, windows in the walls nor arches over the door, evidently confirms this idea. [87]

The interior of Ramsgate Synagogue, taken from the Ladies' Gallery. Source: Loewe 89.

However, the interior was beautifully fitted out and decorated, so that it was indeed the "small but handsome Synagogue" that Montefiore had wanted (qtd. in Loewe 81). The dedication was a splendid, joyous occasion:

Bands of music and first-class singers were engaged, 4000 lamps for the illumination of the gardens were ordered, fireworks and balloons tastefully prepared, and a large temporary room erected, occupying the whole quadrangle of the court at East Cliff Lodge. Handsome chandeliers and large tablets beautifully inscribed with the prayer for the Royal Family were ordered for the Synagogue.

... Mr Montefiore and his brother Horatio, who had brought a silver cup and spice-box as a present for the Synagogue, went together to Ramsgate, and engaged all the sedan chairs in the town to take the ladies from the public road to the Synagogue, and ordered several loads of sand to cover the walk.... The dedication commenced at six o'clock. The founder and his friends brought the Sacred Scrolls of the Law to the door of the Synagogue, where, standing, they chanted: "Open unto us the gates of righteousness, we will enter them and praise the Lord." "This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter therein." The doors being then opened, they said on entering: "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! thy tabernacle, O Israel! O Lord, I have ever loved the habitation of Thy house and the dwelling-place of Thy glory. We will come unto Thy Tabernacle and worship at Thy footstool." They then advanced, and the readers and choristers sang, "Blessed be he who cometh in the name of the Lord: we will bless ye from the House of the Lord," and other verses from the Sacred Scriptures bearing on the same subject. [Loewe 88-89]

In this way, a great sense of occasion accompanied the completion of Mocatta's first big commission.

The synagogue today (see "About the Synagogue" for more details).

Text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee, who also uploaded the first two illustrations. The recent photograph is by Pam Fray, and was originally uploaded to the Geograph website here, on the Creative Commons (Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic) licence. Many thanks. It has been corrected for perspective. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Related Material


"About the Synagogue at Ramsgate." Montefiore Endowment. Web. 11 June 2018. Web. 11 June 2018.

Montefiore, Moses, and Judith Cohen Montefiore. Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore: comprising their life and work as recorded in their diaries from 1812 to 1883. Ed. Louis Loewe. Chicago: Belford-Clarke Co., 1890. Internet Archive. Contributed by University of California Libraries. Web. 11 June 2018.

Created 11 June 2018