Sir George Williams, concerned about the welfare of his fellow workers in the drapery trade in London, initiated a group prayer and bible study group. This soon grew, attracting men from all across London who were struggling to adjust to their new urban life. The Young Men’s Christian Association was consequently founded in 1844, to address these and other concerns of young men working in the cities generally: public lectures and education classes developed, reading rooms and refreshment areas established.
An ‘open’ design competition for a YMCA in Merthyr Tydfil was won by the recently established Cardiff partnership of Ivor Jones and (later Sir) Percy Thomas. Their first building ~ a striking and confident four–storey Edwardian Baroque design clad in a combination of red brick and yellow terracotta was completed at a cost of £8,400 and officially opened on the 5th October 1911. The stated purpose of the building was to provide a place where youths and young men could congregate for healthy amusement, recreation and health-giving exercise. Accommodation included offices, shops, a café, lecture hall, billiards and games room, gymnasium and library, even a rifle range in the attic.
In later years the building was occupied by the Board of Trade and the Labour Exchange, and subsequently converted for the local District Education Office. The building was sold into private ownership in the late C20th, withstood a fire in late 2008, and was purchased by the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust in 2015. The building was listed grade II in 1998 and designated a dangerous structure in 2010.
DSA initially completed an Options Appraisal for Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council in February 2012 that, in addition to considering potential new uses and their development cost, also confirmed the parlous condition of the building. The Trust appointed DSA to undertake a £400,000 programme of emergency repairs to make the building safe, these being completed in January 2015.