200 Visitors flock to spectacular Victorian Bonanza hosted at England’s First Mosque
On Sunday 18h February 2018, the Abdullah Quilliam Mosque and Heritage Centre opened hosted a Victorian themed open day for the general public as part of a national initiative called “Visit my mosque” where 100s of mosques across the country, including several in Liverpool, are opening their doors to people of all faiths and none.
The event was hosted at England’s First Mosque at 8-10 Brougham Terrace which was established by Abdullah Quilliam in 1889, a prominent Victorian Liverpool solicitor who had converted to Islam in 1887 following a visit to Morocco. He formed a community of 500 white British Muslims and oversaw their needs and growth over a 20 year period.
The open day was more than a mosque tour and celebrated the life and era of Quilliam featuring displays of Victorian costumes, horse and carriage rides (Quilliam’s preferred mode of transport), Victorian styled candy carts, renditions of Islamic hymns which Quilliam would have sang, tours of the building including and a fully functioning Victorian kitchen. One visitor Lyn and her father remarked:
“Fascinating visit to England’s first mosque today in Liverpool, which is being lovingly restored by the Abdullah Quilliam Society. Learned lots about Islam but also about the heritage of this great building, which was at one time used by the local authority as a registry office for births and marriages. Thanks for such a lovely warm welcome from the committee.”
More than 200 people, the majority of whom had never visited a mosque, attended from Merseyside (West Derby, Norris Green, Sefton, Wirral & St Helens) and even Frodsham, Cheshire and Preston proving the site is a faith tourist attraction in its own right.
The Abdullah Quilliam Society has been in possession of England’s first mosque since 2003 when Liverpool City Council relocated the Births, Marriages and Death’s Registry from the site and more than £1.3million of private donations has been spent to restore the building.
Chairman of the Abdullah Quilliam Society, Galib Khan, said “This is the third year we have participated in the Visit My Mosque initiative. This mosque is special because it is a shared heritage between the Muslim and Liverpool community who know it as the registry office. This is why in 2013, it was voted No11 out of 100 buildings in a series produced by ITV and English Heritage called Britain’s Secret Homes presented by Michael Buerk and Bettany Hughes looking at houses across the British Isles that have had an impact on British social life. Looking forwards, this is a 21st Century mosque incorporating education, worship, social welfare & health projects with heritage at its heart. Quilliam set the blueprint and we are simply setting it into motion.”
Trustee and Head of Restoration, Dr Abdul Hamid, said “It has been a real privilege to lead the restoration here and with the building being Grade 2 listed it has been a great responsibility knowing you are working on a national heritage monument. We are lovingly recreating what Quilliam would have had here including painstaking restoration of 150 year old original features including sash windows, plaster covings, oak beams and balustrades. There are 500 joists in this building, slates from Cumbria and stone from Yorkshire. Unlike modern structures, we have used very little metal and maintained the original timbers. This has meant we have revived many original Victorian building trades and crafts which are becoming obsolete including lime plaster with Shire horse hair which only one company in Dorset can do. This is the same plaster used in St George’s Hall. All of our supplies are procured in Britain. This work is very labour intensive and often delicate but is certainly worth it. It has also deepened our appreciation of the expertise of Victorian construction techniques and how skilled they were. Throughout the day we have conducted tours of the building and the public have been fascinated to learn about the conservation efforts. This building nowadays would cost tens of millions to build.”
The open day was hosted by the committee of the Abdullah Quilliam Society but also members of the congregation including a large number of converted Muslims who all look to Quilliam as a role model. One of them named Jamila, said “Quilliam was a scouser and a Muslim and we feel very proud that he should establish the first mosque in England. As Liverpudlians have always been free thinkers who follow their conscience rather than what people tell them to do. Quilliam’s message for me is about love and reaching out to others particularly the poor and needy and entering into dialogue with communities. That’s what we want to do here and the response has been tremendous today from the Liverpool public.”
AQS Chief Executive, Mumin Khan, said “We have had 200 visitors today and the response was hugely encouraging. Most people had never visited a mosque before and there were many couples and families who treated the day as a day out and that’s why we worked hard to create a memorable and welcoming experience. The mosque has huge potential as a touristic attraction for Liverpool and by bringing people into face to face dialogue we can create mutual understanding and trust and strengthen community cohesion.”
Muslim Chaplain, Adam Kelwick, said “Mosques are places of worship- Quilliam actually called his mosque the Church of Islam. Mosques are houses of God and as Muslims we believe we are all children of Adam so everyone is welcome at a mosque regardless of their gender, race, background or belief. Quilliam’s mosque was also a sanctuary for the homeless and the poor and that is why we do a lot of work to support refugees and asylum seekers and run a foodbank and are planning a soup kitchen. We want to bridges not walls.”
For more information on Visit My Mosque initiative please visit http://www.visitmymosque.org/
Press releases ends
Press release issued by:
Abdullah Quilliam Society
8-10 Brougham Terrace
Liverpool, L6 1AE
For further information please contact Mumin Khan, Chief Executive:
John Hornby and daughter lynda
What a welcome we received from our Muslim friends you all made us feel so part of you on the day no questions from us were left unanswered by everyone we spoke to even mr galib Khan who when in my ignorance was he in uniform and explained to me tha it was normal dress for a Muslim man he must have smiled to himself at my question but never turned a hair so kind of him al so to have been allowed to watch prayers unbeleivable. I’m not a religious person but I would like to revisit at some future time when your restoration is done many many thanks to everyone of you. John hornby
It was truly wonderful to see all of the photos and the incredible care and obvious planning that you put into it all. I was very sorry that we couldn’t make it but we very much look forward to seeing you all again. The renovations are looking wonderful – such an exciting place to be and we hope that more local people in Liverpool will explore the building and appreciate this astonishing heritage.
The Longden family (Robert Reschid’s ancestors) – Greater Manchester