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Heritage Open Day

Posted by Sara on September 13, 2009

Stained Glass Detail - Middle Street Synagogue

Stained Glass Detail - Middle Street Synagogue

There has been loads going on this week as part of the Heritage Open Days, in which interesting and historic local buildings open their doors for (free!) public viewing. Visiting relatives and work commitments meant  we couldn’t take full advantage of all we wanted to this year but we did manage a few visits nonetheless.

sussexmasoniccentrestairs

Sussex Masonic Centre

The Sussex Masonic centre is one such place I walk past all the time, wondering what it’s like inside – so what a treat to be able to visit for a very interestng tour and talk, hosted by the building’s curator, Reg Barrow. The centre, first bequeathed to the Masons in 1897, has grown over the years and has  merged with the buildings on either side so it is very spacious inside and comes complete with all the usual features associated with this sort of ad hoc development – including wonky floors and tempermental plumbing and electrics; there are even passages that run right under the pavement, complete with grills allowing one to look out on to Queens Road. We were shown two of the Temple Lodges, including the very grand and beautiful main Lodge on the top floor. There is lots of masonic memorabilia on display and throughout the tour we learnt about the history of freemasonry and the role it plays today.  Charity is one of the fundamental tenets of modern masonry and anyone involved in a local charity was invited to make contact. I was struck at how big the place was, in contrast to how it looks from the outside, and I thought the central staircase was particularly striking.

Main Lodge Sussex Masonic centre showng part of the beautiful wooden domed ceiling depicting the signs of the zodiac

Main Lodge Sussex Masonic centre showng part of the beautiful wooden domed ceiling depicting the signs of the zodiac

Next up was another place  I have long been curious about – the Middle Street Synagogue, consecrated in 1875. What a splendid building, I was in stained glass heaven! The mosaics on the eastern wall and the ornate ironwork railings were also very beautiful and contrasted nicely with the clean, classical layout of the synagogue’s interior. The synagogue has a Grade 2 listing and has been officially described as “an extremely sumptuous example of late 19th Century craftsmanship.”

middlestsynagogue

Stained Glass Detail - Middle Street Synagogue

An interesting feature is the wonderful stained glass wheel of the zodiac above the main door, which we were told is a very unusual feature to have in a synagogue and co-incidently the same was said about the zodiac featured on the ceiling in the Lodge at the Masonic centre – so maybe this proclivity for all things astrological on historic buildings is a unique Brighton thing!

Middle Street Synagogue

Middle Street Synagogue

Last but not least was the wonderful twilight tour of the Woodvale cemetery, with a chance to explore its beautiful mausoleums and to enjoy some stunning views over the grounds at sunset. ..

Woodvale

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