Merthyr Synagogue

The former Merthyr Synagogue is located on Bryntirion Road in the Thomastown section of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. It is a Grade II listed building[1] and is the oldest purpose-built synagogue still standing in Wales.

Merthyr Synagogue


The Jewish congregation of Merthyr was established in 1848 at a time when Merthyr Tydfil was a centre of the industrial revolution and the largest town in Wales. The new congregation called itself the "Merthyr Tydfil Hebrew Congregation", and erected its first synagogue in 1852–1855 in John Street. That first building was demolished in the 1990s.[1]

The 1855 building was replaced by the prosperous congregation with the surviving synagogue building in 1877.[2] The congregation had 27 head-of-household members in 1900.[3] The 2011 census recorded four.[4]

The congregation, which had been dwindling, rededicated the synagogue in 1955.[5] In the 1980s, the synagogue was closed and the building was sold and became the Merthyr Christian Centre.[6][7] In 2006 the former synagogue was in use as a gymnasium.[1] It came out of use in 2004.[4] In 2008 there was a plan to convert the building into eight residential apartments whilst preserving the exterior of this building.[8]

In 2019 it was bought by the Foundation for Jewish Heritage and is planned to open as a Jewish Heritage Centre in 2025. Essential repairs were undertaken in 2021, part funded by Cadw, to make the building weather-proof.[4]


The synagogue is a stone building designed in Gothic Revival style, as were the former synagogues of Llanelli and Pontypridd. Unlike the "simple," "charming" Gothic synagogues that once graced Llanelli and Pontypridd, however, the synagogue of Merthyr Tydfil is a "Disneyland" fantasy of a building that architectural historian Sharman Kadish calls a "double-turreted Gothic folly" of a building.[1] Kadish considers the Merthyr Synagogue to be "architecturally speaking one of the most important synagogues in the UK."[1] The building is four storeys high, five when the raised basement is counted. It is crowned by a high gable two storeys tall, capped with stone finials. A double stone staircase rises to the Gothic entrance door. Two storeys above the door there is a pair of Gothic pointed-arch windows. Flanking the door and pointed-arch windows, a pair of hexagonal, stone turrets rise three storeys and are topped with hexagonal, conical roofs pointing skyward.[1] As of 2006 the former Torah Ark has been moved into the raised basement where it was being preserved.[1]

The gable is complete with a Welsh dragon; Merthyr may be the only synagogue in the world to feature a dragon perched on the front gable.[1]

It was designed by a local architect named Charles Taylor.[9] The design was influenced by contemporary buildings such as Castell Coch.[4]

In 1960 it was painted by L. S. Lowry. He had painted many places of worship and was visiting Wales at the time. The painting was sold for £277,000 in March 2022.[10]

In 1978 the building was given Grade II* listing, changed to Grade II in 1983.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Kadish, Sharman (2006). Jewish Heritage in England : An Architectural Guide. English Heritage., p. 203
  2. ^ The Jews of Wales: A History, Cai Parry-Jones, University of Wales Press, 2017, p. 41
  3. ^ "JCR-UK – Merthyr Tydfil Hebrew Congregation (Synagogue)(closed), South Wales". Jewish Communities & Records United Kingdom. 12 April 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Grundy, David. "Merthyr: Jewish Heritage Centre plans a step closer". BBC Wales. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  5. ^ "Synagogue Reconsecrated by Chief Rabbi of Commonwealth". Merthyr Express. Jewish Communities & Records United Kingdom. 15 January 1955. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  6. ^ Aftermath: remembering the Great War in Wales, Angela Gaffney, University of Wales Press, 1998, p. 129
  7. ^ The chosen people: Wales & the Jews, Grahame Davies, Seren, 2002, p. 15
  8. ^ "Projects Residential". Synergy Architects. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  9. ^ South Wales Daily News, 16 March 1876
  10. ^ "Lowry painting of Merthyr Tydfil synagogue sells for £277,000". BBC News. 28 March 2022. Retrieved 28 March 2022.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 51°44′49″N 3°22′28″W / 51.7469°N 3.37447°W / 51.7469; -3.37447