After last week’s Remembrance service, I met Judith Fox, who gave a Jewish prayer at the multi-faith event.
Judith is a distinguished Canonbury resident and high-powered life coach - not the porn star of the same name who, she cheerfully told me, causes confusion when people Google her…..
Islington’s Jewish community is small, and we don’t currently have any synagogues within the borough boundaries, but in the 19th there was a growing Jewish population here. Judith reminded me that there used to be a synagogue on Lofting Road in Barnsbury, where Barnes Court now stands. The North London Synagogue started meeting in rooms on Upper Street. In 1863, the congregation moved to Barnsbury Hall, 2-4 Barnsbury Street.
(Incidentally, Barnsbury Hall has its own fascinating history, variously housing a Victorian photographers’ studio, different religious groups, and a boxing venue, plus it’s allegedly the place where Michael Collins joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. It is now a posh interiors shop. Such is Islington….)
The North London Synagogue building in Lofting Road (then known as John Street West) opened in 1868 and lasted 90 years, before closing in 1958 and being demolished in 1960.
There were other synagogues in Islington. One congregation met in a private home in Clephane Road, Canonbury, prior to 1874. There were synagogues in Mildmay based at 39 Mildmay Park (1886-1937) and at Poets Road (1885-1967). Later there were two synagogues in Highbury New Park: one at 24a (now the site of Bushfield House) from 1915-1954 and one at 13a (now part of Highbury Grove School site) from 1926-1971.
Another synagogue, Highgate Synagogue, started (just) in Islington at 88 Archway Road, where it was based from 1930 to 1950. From many a past canvassing session, I recall it’s a challenge locating no 88, which is now only accessible up a steep footpath near the end of Gladsmuir Road. The synagogue was actually based next to the house, and was demolished as part of the unfortunate Archway Road rewidening scheme. The synagogue then moved to 200 Archway Road, until it burned down in 1976. Highgate Synagogue is now flourishing in North Road N6; and the Archway Road site is still a place of worship – the Hindu Murugan temple.