ENGLISH Architecture, like so many other facets of life and development in these Islands, is remarkable for the easy absorption of quite virile foreign elements. These alien influences have, in the course of time, become so assimilated into the native stream that their origin is forgotten and the results come to be accepted as peculiarly English. The successful export today of English tailoring products and quality textiles, the skills that are taught by the Royal School of Needlework and reach their highest expression in such works as Queen Mary's carpet may perhaps be traced to the weaving traditions brought by Huguenot refugees, like the Courtaulds, from France and the Low Countries. The national monuments of Westminster Abbey give us the names of those who revived the art of sculpture in 18th century England, men such as Rysbrack, Schee makers, Roubiliac, Delvaux, le Marchand, names from Flanders and France; in the applied arts numerous English country houses pay tribute to the skill of Italian and French craftsmen and decorators?Tijou's lovely ironwork at Chatsworth and Hampton Court, the plasterwork and paintings of Cipriani, Zucchi, Angelica Kauffman and others. So it was in architecture?the essence of English Romanesque came with William the Norman, and many a Gothic church speaks the lingua franca; East Anglia owed much of its regional character to building styles imported with a king from Holland and to the wool trade with Baltic and Hanseatic ports ; Renaissance in England was inspired by the earlier movement in Italy and later in its development took account of French models as well, whilst countless public buildings would lack their classical facades but for the rediscovery of Greek and Roman antiquities.
It is against such a back cloth that the Jewish contribution may be sought. Little wonder perhaps that with so strong a power of assimilation in England the mark of a community numerically small and deprived for so many centuries of the opportunity to practise the plastic arts should be hard to find. Indeed, it would be miraculous if, dispersed among so many countries, the Jews had letained any particular influence for architecture, the most regional of arts and sciences, dependent for its forms as much upon the material and climate of a locality as the culture of the community from which it springs. Whilst in the field of universal learning there are notable physicians, sages, writers, astronomers, and the long practice of usury during the Middle Ages produced goldsmiths and bankers, agents and men of commerce, there is not a single architect of note up to the beginning of the 19th century
If it possessed no architects of its own the Jewish community had still need of buildings, both private and communal; whereas secular architecture could follow the normal practice of its place and time, for religious buildings this community was excep? tional in having to rely on men of other faiths to interpret its ancient ceremonies and provide them with fitting surroundings. Mediaeval Europe had many synagogues well-adapted internally and functionally planned