It has been said that in Bygone days Merthyr Tydfil resembled a wild, frontier town. Yet, even at its most turbulent, Merthyr had a strong vein of religious tradition – from early Christians, including Saint Tydfil who gave the town its name, to Blaencanaid Farm’s role in the emerging non-conformity of the C17th, to record attendance numbers and various faiths practiced during the Industrial Revolution.
In addition to the self-evident religious legacy of this history the remaining physical places of worship offer a value quite separate from the intrinsic worth to the faithful – these buildings, often of protracted age, reveal an architectural narrative of times they ‘lived’ through while their burial areas can tell so much about the people of the town’s past.
Here is just a taste of the histories these buildings hold.
The old Vaynor church was destroyed in battle of Maesvaynor 1291 and centuries later the tower of the replacement building was used as a jail.
St John’s church in Dowlais was restored through funding by the Ironmaster John Josiah Guest – when he died he was buried under the building.
St Tydfil’s is repeatedly built on the resting place of the slain Saint Tydfil (Merthyr translates as burial place of the Martyr – thus we get Merthyr Tydfil).
The Synagogue - Built between 1872-5 in heavy Northern Gothic style, the Merthyr Tydfil synagogue is thought to be the oldest remaining synagogue building in Wales.