Synagogue in Merthyr Tydfil Wales

Introduction

Merthyr Tydfil was the industrial powerhouse of Wales in the 19th century and its largest town.  There has been a Jewish presence in Merthyr since the 1830s and the construction of the synagogue in 1863 reflected a community that was growing and prospering.

Merthyr Tydfil Synagogue is a stone structure designed in Gothic Revival style, and the oldest purpose-built synagogue still standing in Wales.  Today it is considered architecturally one of the most important synagogues in the UK and has been awarded Grade II listed status.

The Challenge

The Jewish community of Merthyr formally came to an end in 1983 when the synagogue was sold.  Since that time, the building was used for various purposes.  However, for the last several years it has been lying empty, its condition has been deteriorating and the fabric of the building has been compromised with a gaping hole in the roof and broken windows.

The Plan

The building has been put on the market creating an opportunity to once again consider its future.  The Foundation for Jewish Heritage began informally seeking views on the idea of creating a ‘Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre’ that would recognise, celebrate and educate about the remarkable 250 year history of the Jewish community in Wales.

This was well received by the Merthyr Municipality, and the local Jewish and heritage communities in Wales. As a result of this, a Feasibility Study was undertaken to consider the heritage centre idea along with other possible options for the building in order to present a viable proposal that will ensure the Merthyr synagogue building is preserved and brought back into use.  Part of this assessment will be considering future funding opportunities including the possibility of making a Heritage Lottery Fund bid.