The Old Synagogue, designed by Hezekiah Marshall. Built 1847-48 (consecrated in 1848). King's Street, Canterbury, Kent

Canterbury's Jewish community has a long history. The first synagogue dated back to about 1730; a Jewish burial ground was acquired in 1760, and three years later a new synagogue was built in St Dunstan’s Street. This in turn was superseded by the one shown on the left here, on ground once occupied by the Knights Templar.

Perhaps the only example of a house of worship in Egyptian Revival style, it is trapezoidal at the front, with Portland stone facing and, most strikingly, tall porch columns with closed lotus-shaped capitals. In contrast to the white stone, the glazing behind the porch is grey. Inside, it had "a central bimah, columns with lotus leaf capitals, a western women's gallery on obelisk-shaped supports, and the often-used inscription, 'Know Before Whom Thou Standest'" (Krinsky 411). When it went over budget, Sir Moses Montefiore contributed to the building costs with his usual generosity. It is interesting to note that the architect, Hezekiah Marshall, a local man who went on to design Canterbury's workhouse, was a Christian. Perhaps this helps to account for the unorthodox style.

Census entries for 1851 suggest that about thirty Jewish families were living in Canterbury around this time (see "Jewish Synagogue"). In more recent years, it has been restored, and now belongs to the King's School, Canterbury, which uses it for music recitals. Carol Herselle Krinsky fairly describes it as "attractive and distinctive" (411).

Links to Related Material

Photograph by Mark Hayes and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image 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 image to enlarge it.]


Abdoh, Sara A. "Revival of Pharaonic Architecture and Masonic Temples: Identity or Inspiration?" Journal of DISEGNARECON. Vol. 13, no. 25 (2020). Web. 27 April 2023.

"Canterbury, Kent." The Workhouse. Web. 27 April 2023.

"Jewish Synagogue." Historic Canterbury. Web. 27 April 2023.

Krinsky, Carol Herselle. Synagogues of Europe: Architecture, History, Meaning. Mineola, New York: Dover, 1985.

Created 27 April 2023