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Historic chapel that was a mortuary during Aberfan disaster to be part-demolished

14 May 2021 3 minute read
Capel Aberfan. Photo via Google

Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter

An historic chapel in Merthyr Tydfil which served as a makeshift mortuary during the Aberfan disaster will be partially demolished.

Capel Aberfan, which was devastated by an arson attack in July 2015, has been in a state of serious disrepair ever since and has been declared an “immediate danger to the public” by the council.

The chapel has an important link to the Aberfan disaster which happened on October 21, 1966, when a coal waste tip slid down a mountain and engulfed Plant Glas Junior School and surrounding houses, killing 144 people including 116 children. It acted as a makeshift mortuary for pupils who were killed in the disaster.

At the time Merthyr Vale councillor Darren Roberts said: “This is devastating for the community as it has so much history” and added that the building had been “totally gutted.”

Daniel Brown, who was 27 and living in Nixonville, Merthyr Vale, was jailed back in 2016 for the arson after causing more than £500,000 worth of damage to the chapel, which was built in 1876.

After numerous, unsuccessful attempts by the council to contact the private owners – and with the front elevation bowing and leaning dangerously, putting the building at risk of collapse – the council said these emergency works are necessary to ensure the structure does not pose a risk to any member of the public using the footway and busy road immediately adjacent to it, or the occupiers of the adjacent properties.

‘Historic significance’ 

Because of the historic significance of the chapel only the first storey of the original structure will be removed to make it safe, and dressing stone will be preserved in case of any future plans to restore the building.

Works will be carried out by contractor Aberdare Demolition from Tuesday, May 18 and are expected to last two weeks with disruption to residents and the public being kept to an absolute minimum.

Temporary traffic lights will be in place on the chapel side of Aberfan Road from 9:30am to 2:30pm Tuesday, May 18 to Thursday, May 20 while scaffolding is being erected, with potential for them to be introduced again at the end of the works while the scaffolding is being removed.

Councillor David Hughes, cabinet member for neighbourhood services, said: “Our number one priority is the safety of the public and these works are essential in supporting that.

“Engineers have been monitoring the structure closely and unfortunately there is no other option than to remove the first storey of the building.

“Those undertaking the demolition will ensure that the remainder of the building isn’t damaged further in case of any future restoration.”

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