LIVERPOOL – Liverpool City Council in the UK has transferred its ownership of the site of England’s first mosque to a local Muslim charity to support the development of the building as an Islamic heritage and enterprise center.
“Liverpool’s role in the development of Islam in Britain is a fascinating story and this new heritage center will shine a light on an overlooked part of Victorian society,” said Cllr Alice Bennett, mayoral lead for heritage, Place Northwest reported on September 17.
A report to the council’s cabinet, which met on Friday, recommended the council transfer the freehold lease of the grade two-listed premises in Kensington, to the Abdullah Quilliam Society (AQS).
The charity aims to celebrate the life of William Henry Quilliam, a Liverpool solicitor who converted to Islam in 1887 and created “the birthplace of British Islam,” when he established England’s first fully functional mosque and Islamic center in 1889.
“The world knows a great deal about Liverpool’s position as the second city of the British Empire and all the different communities who flourished here and made Liverpool one of the world’s first cosmopolitan cities,” Bennett explained.
Renamed Abdullah Quilliam, he set up the Liverpool Muslim Institute, which also housed an orphanage, school, and publishing house, and is regarded as one of the most influential Muslim converts and important figures in the history of Islam in Britain.
After the mosque closed in 1910, it was then used as the city’s registry office for births, deaths, and marriages until the office moved.
Since 2006 the AQS has steadily refurbished the three, five-story terraced buildings, providing a new roof, removing asbestos, installing CCTV and various internal works which led to the historic mosque re-opening in June 2014 after 104 years of closure.
The charity has thus far operated on two-year leases, therefore, the transfer of the freehold lease will enable AQS to continue to operate the property as a mosque, as well as operate a training center with upper floor rented residential accommodation.
It would also enable them to draw down additional funding to develop a museum, visitor center, library, and study facilities to celebrate the life and era of Quilliam, to open in summer 2019.
“These plans of the AQS to celebrate his life through this new museum and heritage center will be a fantastic addition to our cultural and heritage offer and the facilities and training services will be invaluable to the local community. The work they have done this past decade has laid great foundations,” the British mayoral lead expressed.
Currently, there are three mosques in Liverpool: the largest is Al-Rahma mosque, in addition to the recently opened in the Mossley Hill district. And there is another newly opened mosque in Toxteth.
According to the 2001 census, 1.4% of the city followed Islam. The thousands of migrants and sailors passing through Liverpool resulted in a religious diversity that is still apparent today. This is reflected in the equally diverse collection of religious buildings.