As outlined on the museum’s website, “it is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture, executed in Moorish style. Particularly noteworthy are the splendid stained glass windows and the distinctive cast-iron fitments”.
It’s truly remarkable what was achieved during the building’s restoration and conversion into a museum, as the first major job must have been a massive roof repair: Those of us in the ladies’ gallery during that last service were showered by traditional Manchester rain and as we walked home that day, we wondered if and when the dream of a museum would be realised.
In truth, Bill and his colleagues have saved much more than an important local building. They also helped to restore some balance and a form of sanity to a situation in which those with too much power and a paucity of imagination had pathetically humdrum ideas about how public money should be spent. Thus was it ever.
Times and fashions change and since it reopened in 1984 the fine building has served to “chronicle the lives of Jewish people in Manchester and their contribution to making the city what it is today”. It may also have created a little extra history for itself.
Certainly it has hosted some lovely events – the staging of a couple of striking plays and wonderful readings; the re-enactment of a period wedding ceremony – and of course it was opened formally by the Duke of Gloucester and visited by the Queen during her Golden Jubilee year.
As researching family history is now ‘cool’, perhaps Bill’s long struggle has been vindicated. The use of oral documentation in studying the lives of ordinary people caught up in the sweep of history is now standard in his profession.
It was little enough recognition when he was made a Fellow of the local Centre for Jewish Studies from which he recently retired. I hope he is offered more than that before much else becomes the stuff of history.
Luckily, Bill continues to lecture and write. Indeed, when I was searching for an extra-special present for my close friend’s **th birthday, I spotted a copy of his lovely Jewish Manchester: An Illustrated History.
She was absolutely thrilled to bits.
As are we all!