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Grade II listed 19th Century theatre under threat of demolition

15 May 2024 4 minute read
The Theatre Royal in Merthyr Tydfil. Photo via Google

The demolition of a historic theatre dating back to the 1890’s “may become essential” if no long-term use can be found for the building and if its condition continues to deteriorate.

A report to Merthyr Tydfil council’s regeneration and public protection committee showed that a feasibility study for the Theatre Royal said that the best chance of long-term survival for it and Thespian House was for them to have an on-going use or purpose.

The report added that given the current state of the Theatre Royal, substantial funding would need to be raised as well as a practical way of restoration and end use.

It also said that the position of both buildings in a C2 flood zone significantly limited use options and the original proposal of a re-development into housing could not be accommodated unless flood mitigation works were carried out.

The study said that if no long-term solution could be found, and deterioration continued, given the state of dilapidation of the Theatre Royal as a whole, then demolition of the property might become essential.

Front facade

It said it might be possible to keep the front façade and demolish the remaining building behind, and redevelop the site, but that this was “heavily caveated” on the basis that both planning and CADW would consent to this approach given the fact that it was a Grade II Listed building.

The Theatre Royal and Opera House was designed by local Merthyr Tydfil architect T.C. Wakeling in a Neo-Classical style and was opened in 1891 with 1,500 seats.

It was screening films as part of its programme from the early-1900’s and remained in use as a cinema until it was closed in the late-1960’s. It was subsequently converted into a bingo club, which closed in the summer of 2009.

Development funding was secured through the Welsh Government Transforming Towns programme for a feasibility study on the Theatre Royal and Thespian House to identify its long term, sustainable use.

Feasibility study

It was included within the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places Programme (VVP) as a housing opportunity, but another feasibility study and business plan was needed to support the future development of these vacant properties.

The main purpose of the exercise was to identify and analyse all possible financially viable options available for the future use of these buildings.

The developer carried out the study and then sold the building at auction in 2019.

The new owner discussed their future aspirations with the council but no further plans have been taken forward to date following the initial meeting and the property is currently for sale on Rightmove.

The Theatre Royal was previously identified as a derelict building on a site with the potential for affordable housing.

Despite the Grade II listing, initial discussions at the time with CADW and the council’s planning department indicated that opportunities for re-development for housing existed and initial assessments showed the site could accommodate six one-bed affordable units.


The report said that the Theatre Royal project was a “difficult” project to develop from the very start of the programme.

The council worked with consultants to carry out a structural survey on the building and an architect was appointed to prepare drawings for housing units on the site.

The then owner had intimated selling the building resulting in the programme team working with an registered social landlord (RSL) to look at developing and delivering this project but the board of the RSL did not wish to proceed due to other priorities being delivered at that time and there were also a lot of complications in relation to access to the site which would impact on the delivery of the project.

Due to the number of constraints identified, and the time scales remaining within the programme, it was requested that the project was taken out of the programme and funding re-allocated into existing projects.

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6 days ago

Vibrant and Viable Places Programme (VVP)

Everything has to have a Three Letter Acronym doesn’t it?

6 days ago

Usually buildings like this can cost tens of millions to renovate and would be far more economical to clear the site and build a new one. Contractors can be massively greedy when it comes to renovations.

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