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Easter joy as church built by Irish migrants receives funding for £950,000 roof repairs

27 Mar 2024 3 minute read
St Illyd’s Church

Members of a Grade II Listed Catholic Church built by Irish migrants fleeing the Great Famine are celebrating after receiving over £950,000 funding for urgent repairs and replacement of a failing asbestos roof.

The roof at St Illtyd’s Church and Community Centre in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, has deteriorated at an alarming rate, leading to more and more leaks within the Grade II Listed building. 

The church has been forced to rope-off parts of the building, as falling debris from the roof poses a significant health and safety risk. Rainwater is also causing extensive damage to the fabric of the building.

Thankfully help is on hand. Urgent repairs have been generously supported by The Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation, the National Churches Trust and Welsh Government. Combined with support from the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, more than £950,000 has been made available to undertake these repairs.

Climate friendly

The project will replace the failing asbestos roof covering with natural slate preventing water from entering the building. Community activity includes collaborating with Brecon Cathedral (Church in Wales), working with the local Malayalam and Filipino communities alongside schools and other community organisations. 

Addressing the climate and nature emergencies, the roof will incorporate solar panels to reduce energy consumption alongside wildflower planting.

Situated on a characteristically steep Welsh hillside, the church operates on split levels, the ground floor containing the worship space, with the undercroft / lower ground floor housing a busy Community Centre. St Illtyd’s was built by Irish migrants fleeing the Great Famine of the 1840s and the church and community centre continues to be a home to a thriving multi-national and multi-ethnic community.

Canon Barry English, parish priest at St Illtyd’s Church, said: “We are so grateful to our generous funders, were it not for their support I don’t know how we would have kept the building open”. 

St Illyd’s Church

Archbishop Mark O’Toole, Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, said: “The Archdiocese of Cardiff is grateful to everyone who generously contributed towards the cost of restoring and renovating this important Catholic landmark”. 

Peter Heberlet, Grant Manager at The Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation said: “We are pleased to be able to support this much needed project at St Illtyd’s Church and Community Centre.

“After helping to fund a small project at the church a few years ago, we realised that this bigger project was needed so that the parish and its partners will be able to fulfil all their plans to support the community for many years to come.”


Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust, said: “The National Churches Trust is excited to be able to support St Illtyd’s Church to enable them to carry out urgent roof repairs.

“This will safeguard the unique heritage of this historic church and keep it open and in use for the benefit of local people.”

“Whether seeking quiet reflection, access to community services or a place to worship, the National Churches Trust helps hundreds of churches”

The project would also not be possible without the generous support of Welsh Government in the form of Cadw and the Community Facilities Programme. 

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