Peterborough’s Ghousia Mosque in English Heritage book

Ansar Ali at the The Ghousia Mosque, in Gladstone Street, Peterborough. Photo: David Lowndes/Peterborough ET (METP-19-03-12DL036)
Ansar Ali at the The Ghousia Mosque, in Gladstone Street, Peterborough. Photo: David Lowndes/Peterborough ET (METP-19-03-12DL036)
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A MOSQUE that dominates the Peterborough skyline been singled out by England’s foremost heritage group for its contribution to the city’s history.

The Ghousia Mosque, in Gladstone Street, is going from holy books to the history books after it was selected for a publication being compiled by English Heritage, the Government’s adviser about the UK’s historic environment.

The book, which has as its working title The British Mosque: An Architectural and Social History, will examine the social, cultural, and architectural significance of mosques across the country.

Ansar Ali (55), of Somerville Road and the secretary at the Ghousia Mosque, said members were approached by English Heritage about four months ago asking for a detailed case study of the development, activities and usage of the building.

As a result of those conversations, he said, the building was selected to be mentioned in the book. He said: “The whole congregation is delighted with this recognition, not just that it is a beautiful building but also about how the activities we run contribute to the well-being of the community of Peterborough.”

The book is due to be published in 2013 but a photographer from English Heritage has already been on site to capture images for its pages.

Along with its involvement in the community and charity work, the book should outline in detail how the mosque came to take its place on Peterborough’s skyline.

Before its construction around 10 years ago, worshippers had met in a detached house in Gladstone Street which had been converted and extended for worship following its purchase in the early 1980s.

That building, which stands next door to the Ghousia Mosque, had a capacity of about 250 people - compared to the new mosque’s figure of about 1,000.

Mr Ali said: “I can remember a few years ago when I used to go to prayers and there were times we were praying outside in the forecourt and on the pavement it was so full.”

He described the mosque’s inclusion in the book as a “proud moment for Peterborough”.

Mr Ali added: “I think it shows the diversity of our wonderful city, the diversity of our faith and how people have come in and made Peterborough their home.”

An English Heritage spokeswoman said there are around 1,500 mosques in the UK, with the earliest British Muslim community dating back from the mid-17th century and the first mosques in Britain being built from the mid-19th century.

She said: “Although much work has been and is being carried out on British Muslim history from a social studies perspective, there is no survey or recording of the consequent architectural history of British Muslims and their impact on the built environment.

“This book will be the first comprehensive survey and record of the architectural history of the British Muslim community and the first to connect a British Muslim architectural and social history together.”

Peter Lee, chairman of the Peterborough Civic Society, welcomed the exposure for the building.

He said: “It’s good to see a new major building in the city which has got a major cultural implications really being recognised by English Heritage alongside the other buildings of note in Peterborough.” He said it also reflected positively of the Muslim community.

He said: “Most of the communities in Peterborough do not actually express themselves in building form.

“This is perhaps the first major example of a community in Peterborough creating its own very distinctive building, contributing to the culture of the place and the building culture of the place.”

Ghousia Mosque by numbers

THE Ghousia Mosque attracts an average of 500 worshippers every day.

For Friday prayers, though, about 1,300 can be expected.

The mosque runs a religious school and has 300 boys and girls registered.

During 2011, about 2,000 non-Muslims visited as part of the mosque’s work to raise awareness of Islam among the community.

Among its charitable achievements include last year raising £26,150 for victims of flooding in Pakistan.

More about the mosque and prayer times -

Blog post: ‘The British Mosque: a social and architectural history‘ by Shahed Saleem