The Shah Jahan Mosque - aka Woking Mosque - was the first purpose built mosque in Britain. It was built in 1889 in Woking, 30 miles south west of London.
The mosque was the founded by Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner a Jewish Hungarian student appointed Professor in Arabic and Muslim Law at King’s College London.
Wanting to found a centre for the study of Oriental languages, culture and history, Leitner found a suitable building in Woking and, for the benefit of Muslim students, had the mosque built in the grounds. Its design incorporated elements of Middle Eastern architecture including a dome, minarets and a courtyard.
The building was partly funded by Sultan Shah Jahan, Begum of Bhopal, from whom it takes its name. Shah Jahan was one of four successive women rulers - Begums - of Bhopal between 1819 and 1926.
The mosque was used as a place of worship by Muslim members of Queen Victoria’s household, including Abdul Karim, the subject of the 2017 film Victoria & Abdul.
When Leitner died in 1899 the mosque became disused, but was repaired and reopened in 1913. During WWI the Imam petitioned the government to grant land near the mosque as a burial ground, and in 1917 nineteen British Indian soldiers were buried there.
After the 1960s as more mosques were built in Britain, the Woking mosque made the transition from being the centre of Muslim worship to being a focus for the local Muslim community.
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Text and curation: Amanda Uren