The British Mosque

Historic England

This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive illustrates the architectural evolution of the mosque in Britain - from the conversion of houses to contemporary expressions of mosque architecture.

The British Mosque
There are an estimated 1,500 mosques in Britain. They range enormously in design and scale, and illustrate the diversity of Britain's Muslim population. Fewer than twenty per cent of Britain's mosques are purpose-built - the majority are converted houses or other adapted buildings. This exhibit features a selection of mosques that have been photographed by Historic England and which feature in Shahed Saleem's book 'The British Mosque: An architectural and social history' (2018) - the first overview of Muslim architecture in Britain.
The first fully-functioning mosque in Britain
Brougham Terrace in Liverpool was built in around 1830. In 1889 William Henry Quilliam, a Liverpool solicitor and Muslim convert, bought number 8 for the Liverpool Muslim Institute. An extension was built to the rear and became the first fully-functioning mosque in the country. At its peak, the Liverpool Muslim Institute had a membership of approximately 200 people.

THE HOUSE MOSQUE

The Shahkamal Jamae Masjid, Beeston, Leeds

The vast majority of mosques in Britain are conversions of houses or other buildings.

The use of domestic buildings for religious worship is a centuries-old tradition. This has continued as new Muslim communities settled in British towns and cities. Some forty-five per cent of British mosques are converted houses.

The basic conversion of a house usually involves the creation of an open floor space to accommodate the maximum number of worshipers possible.

A house's existing facilities can be adapted for ritual ablution, and its pre-existing rooms can be utilised for teaching, and for the separation of male and female worshipers.

THE HOUSE MOSQUE

The Jamia Masjid or Howard Street Mosque, Bradford

The Jamia Masjid in central Bradford was the city's first mosque. It was established by the Pakistani Muslim Association in a mid-19th century house at 30 Howard Street in 1958. It later extended into numbers 28 and 32.

Prayer halls were created on the lower and upper ground floors by removing internal partitions. After number 32 was purchased in 1979, party walls were removed and a large prayer hall and classroom created across the first floor of all three houses.

14-32 Howard Street is listed Grade II

ADAPTATION AND TRANSFORMATION

Brick Lane Jamme Masjid or Brick Lane Mosque, Spitalfields, London

Thirty-nine per cent of British mosques have been adapted from non-domestic buildings. These include former churches, schools and cinemas.

Converted buildings of this kind offer large, open spaces for prayer halls, and greater space for other facilities relating to worship, education and to community activities.

The current Brick Lane Mosque reflects the changing nature of local communities over time. It was built in 1743-4 as the Neuve Eglise, a French Protestant chapel serving Huguenots who worked in the Spitalfields silk-weaving industry. In 1819 it became a Wesleyan Methodist chapel and at the end of the 19th century was converted into the Spitalfields Great Synagogue.

With the dispersal of the local Jewish population to London's suburbs in the second half of the 20th century, the Synagogue fell into disuse. A new wave of Muslim immigrants from India and Bangladesh populated the area, and in 1976 the building became a mosque.

Brick Lane Mosque is Listed Grade II*

ADAPTATION AND TRANSFORMATION

Aziziye Mosque, Hackney, London

The Aziziye Mosque began life as a cinema. Built in 1914 as the Apollo Picture House, it was designed in a mock-oriental style.

In 1980 the local Turkish Muslim community acquired the building and gradually converted it for use as a mosque. The sloping cinema auditorium functioned as the main prayer hall until a major refurbishment created a new upper-level prayer hall.

Other space within the former cinema has been adapted for wider community use, including a grocery shop and a restaurant.

ADAPTATION AND TRANSFORMATION

Aziziye Mosque, Hackney, London

The refurbishment of the Aziziye Mosque included the cladding of the exterior with Iznik tiles - traditional Ottoman-style tilework.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking, Surrey

The Shah Jahan Mosque is the first purpose-built mosque in northern Europe.

The mosque was commissioned by Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, a Hungarian Jewish linguist who wanted to establish an educational Oriental Institute to enhance the study of Indian and Islamic culture and history.

Part-funded by the Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, the female ruler of the Indian princely state of Bhopal, the mosque was built in 1888-9. It was designed by architect William Isaac Chambers.

In addition to the mosque, the Sir Salar Jung Memorial Hall (named after the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad state) was built nearby to accommodate an Imam, and for community functions and meetings.

The Shah Jahan Mosque is Listed Grade I

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Fazl Mosque or London Mosque, Southfields, Wandsworth, London

The Fazl Mosque was built in 1925-6. It was the first purpose-built mosque in London, and the first to be built in Britain since the Shah Jahan Mosque opened in Woking in 1889.

Built for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, it was designed in a restrained classical Mughal style by TH Mawson & Sons. The design incorporated modern materials and construction methods - it is formed in steel-framed concrete with brick infill, and finished in painted stucco.

The Fazl Mosque is Listed Grade II

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Wimbledon Mosque, Merton, London

In 1973 the Wimbledon Mosque Building Fund appointed local architect Jack Godfrey-Gilbert to design a purpose-built mosque on the site of three lock-up garages.

The mosque opened in 1977 and in 1988 it was extended over the site of two adjacent terrace houses. In 2010 the accommodation was further increased with the addition of a roof extension.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque, Regent's Park, London

Also known as Regent's Park Mosque, the London Central Mosque was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd and completed in 1977. It is considered to be the first building of its type to bring together British modernism and historic Islamic forms.

Gibberd combined traditional religious iconography with modernist structural forms, and followed his approach to architecture that focused on function, environment and construction.

Gibberd's design was heavily criticised but the the building's architectural and historic significance has resulted in it being Listed Grade II* in 2018.

The Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque is Listed Grade II*

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Regent's Park, London

The main men's prayer hall of the London Central Mosque can accommodate 975 worshippers. The roof of the prayer hall is supported by four columns. Its centre carries precast concrete drum segments that form the mosque's dome, the exterior of which is clad in gold-coloured copper alloy.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Ismaili Centre, South Kensington, London

Designed by the Casson Conder Partnership, the Ismaili Centre was built to be the UK headquarters of the Ismaili community - the Ismailis being a major branch of Shia Islam.

One of a series of Ismaili centres across the world, each is intended to symbolise the permanent presence of the Ismaili community in that particular location.

Completed in 1983, its four floors accommodate offices, a social hall, a prayer hall, conference rooms and a roof-top garden, pictured here.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Glasgow Central Mosque, Gorbals, Glasgow

Glasgow Central Mosque, the first purpose-built mosque in the city, opened in 1984. Its distinct, bold, postmodern style sets it apart from many other mosques.

Built on the south bank of the River Clyde, the mosque can accommodate 2,500 worshippers. With its distinct glass dome and slender minaret, it has become a city landmark.

Designed by the architectural Kilmarnock-based firm Coleman Ballantine, the mosque incorporates red sandstone - a material used in many of Glasgow's impressive public and commercial buildings.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Edinburgh Central Mosque, Edinburgh

Built on a sensitive site that includes a former 18th century chapel house, Edinburgh Central Mosque was completed in 1998.

Designed by Iraqi architect Basil Al-Bayati, the mosque is positioned on the Qibla axis (the direction faced during prayers) and stands detached from the former chapel house.

Its monumental entrance is flanked on one side by a minaret and on the other by a turret - their bold, octagonal forms evoking a Scottish Baronial style of architecture.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Al Manaar, Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, North Kensington, London

The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre is the result of the desire for a facility to combine religious practices and community services for a diverse local Muslim population.

Designed by the London practice of Chapman Taylor, the concept is one of flexible spaces, including multipurpose halls, prayer halls, library, offices, classrooms, cafe and ablution facilities. After seven years of fundraising and construction, the building opened in 2000.

Illustrated here is the main prayer hall. It has the men's prayer space on the lower level and women's prayer space on a three-sided upper gallery.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Shahjalal Mosque and Islamic Centre, Rusholme, Manchester

The Shahjalal Mosque was established by Manchester's Bangladeshi community in the late 1960s.

A purpose-built mosque was built 2001. Designed by Libyan-born architect Hajib Gedal, the scheme incorporates the former working men's club that had been used as a mosque since 1968. A new prayer hall, minaret, ablution facilities and classrooms were constructed, and further additions were made in 2005.

Design inspiration came from a number of sources. The minaret, shown here, was based on the Malwiya minaret at the Samarra Grand Mosque in Iraq.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Sheffield Islamic Centre and Madina Masjid, Sheffield

The biggest mosque in Sheffield, the Islamic Centre, is situated on a site formerly occupied by a Co-op store that had been converted into a mosque in the late 1970s.

The former Co-op and adapted houses proved inadequate for the needs of the local community. Led by a group of second-generation British-born Muslims, the architect Atba Al-Samarrie was engaged to design a new, purpose-built mosque that could adequately house a multitude of religious and social facilities in one place.

The mosque committee were keen on designs based on the architecture of the Middle East and North Africa. These were considered to be places of Islamic heritage and preferential for design inspiration over the South Asian heritage of the committee members' parentage.

The new Islamic centre and mosque opened in 2008.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Northolt Bohra Mosque (Masjid-ul-Husseini), Northolt, London

Britain's Bohra Muslim community has around 3,500 members. In London, worshipers are served by a purpose-built mosque in Northolt, which opened in 2010.

A former church in Fulham and then a former Jewish boys' club in Hanwell served the community from the 1970s. As the community grew, the need for larger premises increased.

Designed by architect Aliasger Jivanjee, the new mosque is inspired by Fatimid architectural principles - the Bohras trace their religious and cultural roots to Fatimid Egypt.

A principal for the scheme was for the new mosque to form part of a mahalla (neighbourhood or community). As the location was a former industrial site, detached from residential areas, two terraces of houses for adherents were built as part of the scheme.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Northolt Bohra Mosque (Masjid-ul-Husseini), Northolt, London

Bohra belief dictates the prayer hall be built on solid earth. Set at the Qibla end of the mosque, the prayer hall rises through three storeys. The upper levels include two women's prayer galleries fronted with carved teak balustrades.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Jame Masjid, Spinney Hills, Leicester

Leicester is the most multicultural place in Britain. The Spinney Hills area is home to a seventy-one per cent South Asian population, around half of whom are Muslim.

Set on a former industrial site among terraces of simple, working-class dwellings, Leicester's Jame Mosque stands out as a distinct landmark.

Inspired by new architecture in the United Arab Emirates, an ambitious, purpose-built scheme was conceived to replace an adapted mosque. Designed by architects appointed by the Architectural Academic Office practice, the new mosque opened in 2010.

Lavishly decorated, the mosque is inspired by Fatimid architecture of medieval Cairo.

THE PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUE

Al-Jamia Suffa-Tul-Islam Grand Mosque, Little Horton, Bradford

Also known as Bradford Grand Mosque, this expressive building is situated on the site of a disused railway line and station.

A foundation stone was laid in 1999 and building work began in 2002. After seven phases of fundraising and construction, the mosque eventually opened in 2014.

Suffa-Tul-Islam, a Sunni Sufi religious mission, engaged the architect Atba Al-Samarraie, who had built a mosque in nearby Leeds for the organisation in the 1990s.

With its pink-red sandstone, sourced from Agra in India, the Grand Mosque is one of the country's most visually dramatic mosques. It is stylistically eclectic, taking inspiration from North African, Middle Eastern, Fatimid, Abbasid and Mughal architecture. It also has fourteen minarets - probably more than any other mosque in Britain.

Discover more about how Historic England is celebrating British Islamic Heritage

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