The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Greenbank Drive Synagogue, Liverpool, Photo Bigian88-Flickr

40 Buildings Saved

34. Greenbank Drive Synagogue, Liverpool

Status: Listed Grade II*
Architect: Sir Ernest Alfred Shennan
Location: Greenbank Drive, Liverpool


The Liverpool New Hebrew Congregation Synagogue at Greenbank Drive, Liverpool, was constructed in 1936-7 by architect Sir Ernest Alfred Shennan, who had a leading architectural practice in the north-west with offices in Liverpool. Mostly working in an Art Deco idiom, Shennan derived his language for the synagogue from the Swedish National Romantic style along with Deco components. With brown hand-cut bricks and an innovative concrete ceiling, the C20 Society said at the time of its campaign: “It is the Society’s view that Greenback Drive is the finest surviving synagogue in Europe dating from the interwar period.” It is also notable as the synagogue attended by the family of Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles.


As the Jewish community declined in the Sefton Park area the congregation dwindled. The synagogue was listed Grade II in 1983 but fell out of use and was closed in 2008, whereupon the listing was upgraded to Grade II* to protect it. A scheme that sought to convert to residential use and add extra apartments was criticised as harming the building’s historic fabric. By then empty, it appeared on the Heritage at Risk Register.


The C20 Society was behind the appeal to Historic England to re-assess the building and upgrade its listed status to Grade II* in 2008 – and advised on the harm caused by the apartment scheme. C20 proposed that it could become a place of worship by another faith community or a performance venue.


A plan to convert Greenbank Synagogue into 22 apartments was approved in 2017, with a further 30 flats in its 1.1-acre grounds, arrived upon after ironing out planning matters with Liverpool City Council. On site now, the conversion is potentially demountable and has retained original features – as well as a refurbished small synagogue, quiet room, gallery and reading area.

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