The Foundation for Jewish Heritage has purchased the historic but derelict synagogue in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales and hopes to realize plans to transform it into a Welsh Jewish Heritage Center.
“The Foundation wants the Merthyr project to promote inter-cultural dialogue and inclusion, and bring wider social and economic benefit, which is so important in a place like Merthyr,” the Foundation said in a statement.
In its announcement, the Foundation did not reveal the purchase price for the Victorial Gothic Revival stone structure, built in 1872 and a Grade II listed building. But the synagogue’s listing on a real estate site in 2016 put it at £295,000. It was purchased from a private individual.
The real estate site on Sept. 12 showed the building as “Unavailable”
Photographs showed the interior of the synagogue to be bare and in dilapidated condition, with almost all traces of the synagogue’s original identity removed. Exceptions were the ruined space around the Ark, as well as a stained glass window.
Foundation for Jewish Heritage CEO Michael Mail told JHE:
There is significant work required, for example, there is a hole in the roof, holes in the floor, some asbestos needs to be removed, invasive vegetation, environmental cleaning, investigation of roof trusses and lintels, damaged windows etc.
The synagogue is the oldest purpose-built synagogue still standing in Wales and is considered architecturally one of the most important synagogues in the UK. It was sold in 1983 when the Jewish community disbanded. It was then used as a community center and a gym, but has been standing empty since 2006.
Watch a BBC video from July about hopes to restore the synagogue:
The Foundation for Jewish Heritage, which was launched in 2015, put the synagogue on its list of priority Jewish heritage repair projects.
It conducted a feasibility study that demonstrated that the idea of creating a Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre there was viable.
The Foundation is now seeking funding to enable urgent repairs to safeguard the building.
Michael Mail told JHE that some £88,000 was needed “for urgent immediate repairs to make the building wind and watertight and safe.”
The Foundation, he said, has made an application to CADW (the Welsh ‘Historic England’) which provides up to 50% grants for repairs to listed buildings.
The Foundation, working closely with the Merthyr Borough Council, also plans to apply “in due course to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF)” for further funding.