The first mosques in Britain date from the late 19th century, though there had been a Muslim community in the country for two hundred years before that.
Here we look at five buildings that reveal the fascinating history and variety of mosques in England.
1. 8 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool
The first recorded mosque in Britain, this handsome Georgian terrace was converted in 1889 by a British solicitor, known as Abdullah Quilliam after he had converted to Islam in 1887.
A mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of Mecca) and a mimbar (from which the congregation would be addressed) were installed and the call to prayer was made from a first-floor balcony (now gone). The house included a library, reading room, museum, lecture hall and a prayer hall in a building extending from the back.
The interior was refurbished significantly although retained many of its Georgian features too. This interior no longer survives but this image shows it in its former glory.
2. Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking
The first purpose-built mosque in England is a masterpiece of Victorian Orientalism found in Woking.
It was designed by William Chambers in 1889 and was the centrepiece of an Oriental Institute created by Dr Leitner, a Hungarian-Jewish linguist who converted to Islam after working in British India. Funded by the female ruler of the Indian Princely state of Bhopal, the Sultan Shah Jahan Begum.
The late Mughal-inspired design was influential in making the dome a key element in mosque British design thereafter. It had a direct influence on the nearby Muslim Burial Ground, constructed in 1917 for soldiers who fell during the First World War.
3. Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, London
The Jamme Masjid in Brick Lane is a building that embodies the rich migration history of East London.
In 1743 a French Huguenot community constructed a chapel for worship. Once the community had moved on it housed the London Society for Propagating Christianity among the Jews, and then in 1819, it was reformed as a Wesleyan Methodist chapel. This was succeeded by the London Hebrew Talmud Torah Classes, which established a synagogue here.
In 1976, once the local Jewish community had moved out of the area, it was opened as a mosque and has undergone many changes including, most recently, the construction of a 29-metre minaret on Brick Lane itself.
4. Fazl Mosque, Southfields, London
The second-ever purpose-built mosque exists in a leafy suburb of London.
This was created by the foundation of the first missionary post outside India of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and was completed in 1925 to designs by Mawson and sons. It uses Mughal inspired designs for the cupolas but adopts a modernist approach.
Its architectural repertoire can be compared to the much larger, and now lost, twin towers of Wembley Stadium built in 1923 by Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayrton. Both show an awareness of the work of Edwin Lutyens’ work in New Delhi which was seminal in modernising traditional Mughal styles.
5. London Central Mosque, London
During the early 20th century the public and more institutional face of British Islam had its roots, namely in the foundation of the London Mosque Fund in 1908.
In 1940, the government provided money for the acquisition of a site for a mosque in London and, after a series of unsuccessful attempts at planning permission, a 1968 competition was won by Sir Frederick Gibberd – one of the most important modern architects in Britain.
Gibberd was also the winner of the competition for the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool in 1962 and in both used traditional religious iconography but with an emphasis on modern technical approaches.
There’s a beautiful irony in that the Brick Lane Jamme Masjida building, which at one time housed the London Society for Propagating Christianity among the Jews, later became a cheder (Talmud Torah class) and then a synagogue.
The Brick Lane Mosque is architecturally pleasing and historically fascinating. I have photos inside of the building when it was used as a Methodist Chapel and then as a Jewish Synagogue, but I would love you to add a photo of the inside, once it had been converted into a mosque.
thanks for the link
Sadly it doesn’t seem to be taking part in the “Visit My Mosque” event this weekend? They are not listed, and it’s not on their own website. A pity: I’m sure many would love to visit.
Hello and thank you for your comment. Visit my Mosque Day takes place in February – you can find more information here http://www.mcb.org.uk/visitmymosque/