Synagogue in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
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 the 1870s 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 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, since 2006 it has been lying empty, its condition deteriorating, and the fabric of the building has been compromised with a gaping hole in the roof and broken windows.
The building was put up for sale creating the opportunity to 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, while promoting inter-cultural exchange and providing a new and distinct cultural venue for Merthyr. This was universally well received, with strong support coming from the Merthyr Tydfil Municipality, local politicians, and the Jewish and heritage communities of Wales.
A feasibility study was undertaken funded by the Muriel and Gershon Coren Charitable Trust to consider the Heritage Centre proposal, which concluded that it was viable. The Foundation proceeded to buy the building and is now carrying out immediate repairs. The next stage will be to pursue the wider vision for the site working closely with Merthyr Municipality, and this will include developing a dialogue with the National Lottery Heritage Fund.