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Shah Jahan Mosque Entrance Gate Piers

A Grade II Listed Building in Woking, Surrey

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Latitude: 51.3228 / 51°19'22"N

Longitude: -0.5448 / 0°32'41"W

OS Eastings: 501500

OS Northings: 159191

OS Grid: TQ015591

Mapcode National: GBR GCY.13B

Mapcode Global: VHFV8.H0WS

Plus Code: 9C3X8FF4+43

Entry Name: Shah Jahan Mosque Entrance Gate Piers

Listing Date: 6 January 1984

Last Amended: 9 March 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1236747

English Heritage Legacy ID: 427832

Location: Woking, Surrey, GU22

County: Surrey

District: Woking

Town: Woking

Electoral Ward/Division: Mount Hermon

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Woking

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Surrey

Church of England Parish: Woking St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Guildford

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Entrance piers to the mosque, probably of 1888-1889


Square section gate piers, probably a design feature of 1889 for Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, but the architect is not thought to be Chambers, the architect of the mosque.

EXTERIOR: the entrance comprises a pair of square piers, of rendered brick, with projecting flat cornices, topped by half-spherical finials with crescent profiles.


The history of the Shah Jahan Mosque, thought to be the first purpose-built mosque in northern Europe and Britain, is entwined with the growth of British Islam in the late C19 and early C20. The mosque was commissioned by Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner (1840-1899), an Hungarian Jewish linguist, who spent most of his working life in British India. His ambition was to establish an educational Oriental Institute to enhance the study of culture and history of India and the Islamic world. In 1880 Leitner purchased the site of the Royal Dramatic College in Woking, a building of 1865 by TR Smith for John Anson, set in large grounds, in which he established his Oriental Institute where scholars came to stay and study. The house is clearly shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1896, further east of the current Woking mosque complex, on the site of the existing retail park, and was standing at least until 1914. Leitner approached the Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, the female ruler of the Indian princely state of Bhopal, to fund the construction of a mosque west of the house, within its grounds. She provided £5,000 and construction started in 1888; the mosque was completed in the autumn of 1889. In addition to the mosque, the Sir Salar Jung Memorial Hall (named after the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad state) was built to the east to accommodate the Imam and hold community functions and meetings. Interestingly, neither the mosque nor memorial hall is shown on historic Ordnance Survey maps until 1914.

The mosque was designed by William Isaac Chambers, an English architect based in Woking in the mid-1880s, known for his expressive architectural style, easily adapted to the mosque’s popular ‘Orientalist’ style of the late C19. The architecture of the mosque is generally late-Mughal, with flamboyant architectural elements such as the spherical dome and sculptural treatment of the entrance combined with more traditional devices such as the stepped battlements. It is believed that the semi-circular enclosure to the north of the mosque was built at the same time as the mosque, and presumably was a feature of the design, but the Buildings of England volume for Surrey (1987, p534) records that it was not designed by Chambers owing to his dispute with Leitner. The enclosure is illustrated on the Ordnance Survey map of 1914 which shows it adjoined to the side walls to the mosque. The current side walls are shorter, and may be later replacements. Photographs and postcards of the mid-C20 suggests there was a bank topped by a hedge on either side of the entrance piers and that the current walls are therefore late C20 in date. The timber gates are late C20 or early C21 replacements. The southern side of the mosque was not enclosed originally, early mapping showing trees in this area. In the later C20, a garden was created here enclosed by a low hedge.

Reasons for Listing

The entrance piers to the Shah Jahan Mosque, probably a design feature of 1889, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* simply designed with elegant half-spherical, cresent-shaped finials, forming the approach to the mosque's main entrance.

Group value:

* with the highly-graded Shah Jahan Mosque, and the Salar Jung Memorial Hall, listed at Grade II.

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