The construction of Merthyr Tydfil Chapel began with a ground-breaking ceremony performed by David O McKay on the 2nd March 1961.
The building site of nearly three acres was once a horticultural nursery and prior to that a slag tip formed by the adjacent Cyfarthfa iron-works complex. In order to reach the original clay for footings, twelve-feet deep trenches had to be dug on part of the site. This was done manually without the use of excavators.
In those days the Church met 80 percent of the cost, with the local membership donating 20 per cent in the form of labour. Initially the local branch financially supported four building missionaries, with the local Relief Society sisters providing meals, laundry and cleaning an on-site house that provided accommodation for those missionaries.
By January 1963 the four building missionaries, under the supervision of a skilled building supervisor (Elder Anderson) and with the help of the local membership, had the concrete footings in place, a massive 12-to-15 feet deep. After 18 months of backbreaking work there was still no visible evidence of a structure above the ground.
Then came a ‘bombshell’: a personal letter from President McKay to the Branch President (E J Mahoney) requesting that he would like to dedicate the chapel on the 25th August 1963. That meant constructing the building in 34 weeks with no structure yet above the ground.
A meeting was called of representatives from the mission, district, branch and Church-building committee to decide whether the completion date was possible. They decided to fulfil President McKay’s request.
This meant the membership working five nights a week and all day on Saturdays (Family Home Evening had not yet been started in the UK). The number of full-time building missionaries increased from four to ten, and eventually to seventeen, which also increased the financial responsibility of the local membership. As the chapel had been designated as a future Stake-house, the Welsh District added their support, and all the branch presidents signed a letter to President McKay pledging their support in completing the chapel by 25 August.
The chapel was completed by 9am Friday 23rd August 1963, ready for public viewing. The greatest contribution of labour took place on Whit Monday 1963 when 220 men, women and children from all over the district attended for work. They completed 1,600 hours on that day.
In all, 30,000 hours of contributed labour went into the construction of the Merthyr Tydfil Chapel; 22,000 hours by the building missionaries and 8,000 hours by the local Latter-day Saints. This tremendous effort stands as a witness to their dedication of time, effort and finance.
On Sunday 25th August 1963, with over 1,500 people in attendance, the Merthyr Tydfil Chapel was dedicated by President David O McKay, 9th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During the service Gus P Backman, Executive Secretary of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce presented an organ to the Chapel in honour of President McKay. Alas, the organ is no longer in the building, but a commemorative plaque takes pride of place above the current organ.