Sean Gubbins tells us about a family behind a name – Joseph

In neighbouring Brenthouse and Paragon Roads, a few minutes walk from Hackney Town Hall, stand two very different buildings. Distinct in height, style and purpose, one was built as a synagogue and the other as flats; both designed by cousins, Delissa Joseph and Ernest Joseph, respectively. Look for it as you walk around Hackney and you will find the name Joseph inscribed on foundation stones the length and breadth of the borough.

The first of this architectural dynasty was Nathan Solomon Joseph, born in 1834. Well connected to the Anglo-Jewish establishment of the time, being the son- and brother-in-law of Chief Rabbis, he was architect to the United Synagogue, designing London’s Central Synagogue. 34 years later he designed Navarino Mansions in Dalston Lane. To relieve overcrowding in homes in the East End, they were built in 1904 for the 4% Industrial Dwelling Society, now known as IDS, which still operates the flats. Messrs Joseph, the family firm, were the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney’s preferred architects for designing social housing from the 1930s for the next 20 years. The estates they designed were built in Stamford Hill (Guinness Trust Estate), Upper Clapton  (Wrens Park, Wigan and Mandela Houses), Springfield (Lea View), Hackney Downs (for Samuel  Lewis Trust), Lower Clapton (Powell House – demolished), Shacklewell (Hindle and Shacklewell Houses), central Hackney (Trelawney Estate) and Homerton (Bannister and Nisbet Houses).

Nathan’s youngest son Ernest Martin Joseph was also an architect of synagogues, including The New Synagogue in Egerton Road, Stamford Hill. That was built in 1915 for the congregation which had moved from the City to north Hackney. In the 1950s Ernest Joseph, also the architect of Shell-Mex House on The Strand, designed  the Trelawney Estate (pictured), on Paragon Road. Two streets south, in Brenthouse Road, still stands the synagogue (pictured) designed by his cousin, Delissa. It was built in 1896 for the South Hackney Congregation, who moved out in 2010.

The New Synagogue still serves a Jewish community in Stamford Hill. Most of the hundreds of flats designed by the Josephs survive, continuing to provide homes for thousands in Hackney. I have not come across evidence of members of the Joseph family living in Hackney; they seemed to have preferred living ‘up west’ in Ladbroke Grove or Kensington. Being the architects, though, of local synagogues and estates, which decisively altered the appearance of many parts of Hackney in the second quarter of the last century, the Josephs form another part of the borough’s Jewish heritage.

Looking for something to do one weekend?  Intrigued to find out more about Hackney? Look up walkhackney.co.uk and pick a walk that takes your fancy. The next six are listed below. I look forward to welcoming you on one of my walks.

Saturday 1 June
Rhodes Town Walk: How Fields Became Houses, 11am-1.15pm, Meet: entrance to Dalston Junction Station, E8 3DL, £10/£8 conc.

Saturday 22 June
Hoxton New Town History Walk: West Hoxton’s Story, 11am-2pm, Meet: Top of Exit 7 @ Old Street Station, EC1Y 1BE, E8 3DL, £10/£8 conc.

Saturday 13 July
Stoke Newington History Walk: Radicals and Writers, 11am-1.15pm, Meet: Finsbury Park Gates by Manor House Tube, N4 1BZ, £10/£8 conc.

Saturday 20 July
Lower Clapton History Walk: Literati and Revolutionaries, 11am-1.30pm, Meet: Round Chapel, 1d Glenarm Road, London, E5 0LY, £10/£8 conc.

Saturday 10 August
Hoxton History Walk: Mad Houses and Music Halls, 11am-1.15pm, Meet: Entrance to Hoxton Station, £10/£8 conc.

Saturday 17 August
Shoreditch History Walk: From Rubbish Comes Power, 11am-1.15pm, Meet: steps of St Leonard Church, Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JN, £10/£8 conc.

Images © and courtesy of Sean Gubbins