An historic Merthyr Tydfil church which has been derelict for 20 years is being fully renovated and brought back into use as residential accommodation.
The original features of the Grade II listed St John’s Church in Dowlais are being retained as part of the project, which is being made possible by Welsh Government funding of £500,000.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children Carl Sargeant AM today (Wednesday, March 15, 2017) officially launched Merthyr Tydfil’s first residential project under the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places (VVP) Regeneration and Housing Programme.
The VVP funding, along with private finance from local developers Graft Projects, will be used to restore the building’s roof and exterior walls, as well as helping to complete a full renovation of the interior into 20 housing units.
The church has ‘significant’ historic value as it contains the burial site of Sir Josiah John Guest, who was the owner of Dowlais Ironworks in the 19th century when it was the largest ironworks in the world.
The historic features of the church have been retained as part of the development, so that members of the public will still be able to access the building at the two main entrances and learn about its history.
The Cabinet Secretary said:
“This project is an excellent example of the benefits the Vibrant and Viable Places programme is bringing to communities. The development will be ensuring the future of a local landmark, provide much needed housing in the area and has delivered a number of community benefits including two new jobs and the development of a local supply chain for works to the building. The project has also forged links with local organisations such as the Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust and Dowlais Library to highlight the historic significance of the church.”
Situated at the corner of Upper Union Street and Church Row within the Dowlais Conservation Area, the Church of St John the Baptist was built in 1827 and closed in 1997.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Leader Cllr Brendan Toomey Leader said the St John’s project was one in a range across Merthyr Tydfil being delivered following the Council securing £12.8m from the VVP programme.
“The programme has been a huge success in Merthyr Tydfil, creating over 100 jobs, delivering a number of affordable and market housing units and bringing key derelict sites and listed buildings back into use,” he added.
Among the other achievements was the opening of Merthyr Tydfil Enterprise Centre (MTEC), which supported both local new and existing businesses and also the Council’s ‘Meanwhile’ programme, which offers traders the opportunity to test-trade their goods and services in vacant Merthyr Tydfil shopping centre premises for up to six months.
VVP had funded the redevelopment of Penydarren Park to include a new multipurpose function hall/banqueting suite to accommodate 100-120 people, creating a community sports engagement social enterprise and high-quality community leisure facility, allowing Merthyr Town Football Club to capitalise on its success as a club and community venue.
The local authority had attracted a national house developer to build more than 100 housing units on Goatmill Road, a major development site identified within the VVP Programme.
And the Wales and West Housing development on the former Labour Exchange site, now well underway, is set to create affordable housing by 2018, complementing other schemes in the Pontmorlais area including the Townscape Heritage Programme.
Cllr Toomey concluded:
“Graft Projects have progressed well with the development of St John’s Church, which is due to be completed in July 2017. The VVP Programme helped the local authority and Graft Projects to secure finance for the re-development of this key historic building – a fantastic achievement for Merthyr Tydfil, with the church having been derelict for such a long period of time.”