This is Britain's oldest synagogue still in use and certainly its most splendid. It was built in 1701, after the Jews, having been expelled from England in 1290, were allowed to return under Cromwell in 1656. Inspired by the Spanish and Portuguese Great Synogogue of Amsterdam, the interior is embellished with rich woodwork, seven hanging brass candelabra (representing the seven days of the week), and 12 trompe l'oeil wood columns painted to look like marble. The magnificent
Ark, which contains the sacred scrolls of the five books of Moses, is modeled on contemporaneous Wren neoclassical altar pieces, with oak doors and Corinthian columns. In 1992 and 1993 the synagogue was seriously damaged by IRA bombs, but was subsequently completely restored.