Wales' oldest synagogue conversion plans approved

By Jessica Elgot, November 23, 2009
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Merthyr Tydfil synagogue

Merthyr Tydfil synagogue

Planning permission has been granted for Wales' oldest synagogue to be converted into apartments.

The Grade II listed building, on Bryntirion Road, Merthyr Tydfil, was built in the 1870s. It is currently empty and has been a target for vandals.

Planning permission and Listed Buildings consent has been approved by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.

The decision will now be referred to Cadw, the Welsh Heritage arm of the Welsh Assembly government.

Warwickshire company Choice Circle plans to turn the synagogue into eight apartments, leaving the outside of the building intact as a historic landmark.

The neo-Gothic building has been used as a Christian community centre and a gym since the synagogue closed in 1983. It is thought to be the only synagogue with a Welsh dragon as part of its architecture.

One of the conditions of planning permission is that the synagogue’s Magen David stained glass windows are repaired but not replaced.

A spokeswoman for Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council said: “The use of the building as apartments was considered entirely appropriate given the lack of potential congregation for any religious use.

“The proposed use as apartments will allow the building to retain its external character.”

The Jewish population in Wales is currently just over 2,000, having almost halved since the beginning of the 20th century. Merthyr Tydfil has just 16 Jews, according to the 2001 census.

Swansea Hebrew Congregation closed this year with less than 20 active members. The congregation has continued to meet in a hired hall.

Just under half the Jewish population of Wales live in Cardiff, which has an Orthodox and a Reform synagogue.

Last updated: 10:10am, October 14 2010