1916-1928: Woking Mosque

1916-1928: Woking Mosque

1916 - Worshippers at the Festival of Eid marking the end of Ramadhan

(c) Topfoto


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.


Arranging the prayer mats for the worshippers afor the Mohammedan Festival of Eid marking the end of of Ramadhan.

(c) Topfoto


 Worshippers and guests at the table at the Feast of Sacrifice.  (c)  Topfoto

Worshippers and guests at the table at the Feast of Sacrifice.

(c) Topfoto


Children at the Mosque during the Festival of Eid marking the end of Ramadhan

(c) Topfoto


 Greeting a British soldier during the Festival of Eid  (c)  Topfoto

Greeting a British soldier during the Festival of Eid

(c) Topfoto


 July 1917 - Indian women at the Muslim Festival of Eid  (c)  Topfoto

July 1917 - Indian women at the Muslim Festival of Eid

(c) Topfoto


Two boys in turbans at the Festival of Eid

(c) Topfoto


October 1925 - The Begum of Bhopal at Woking mosque, with her Princess granddaughters.

(c) Topfoto


1929

(c) Topfoto


May 1928 - A garden party at the Mosque - Field Marshal Viscount Allenby and Viscountess Allenby being received on arrival.

(c) Topfoto


February 1932 - “The veteran Lord Headley , the most celebrated English convert to Islam and other Mohammedans in England celebrated the end of the month fasting for Ramadan with prayers and fraternal embraces of thanks giving at Woking Mosque, Surrey.”

(c) Topfoto


December 1935 - Saudi Arabian Minister in London Sheikh Hafiz Wahabn, himself an Iman, conducts a ceremony .

(c) Topfoto

December 1935 - Mrs Mohammed (left) and Lady Cudir embracing after the ceremony.

(c) Topfoto


August 1936 - Emperor Haile Selassie is welcomed with bagpipes at Woking Mosque. The Emperor with Sir Abdulah Archibald Buchanan Hamilton (highland dress).

(c) Topfoto


1960s

(c) Topfoto



 Text and curation: Amanda Uren