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Major restoration of historic funeral chapel

Local

A major restoration project is underway in the Catholic section of the State Heritage-listed West Terrace Cemetery to return the beautiful Gothic-inspired Smyth Memorial Chapel back to its former glory.

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Work on the 148-year-old funeral chapel began late last year and is expected to be completed by June, with a re-dedication service to be conducted later in the year.

It is believed the $500,000 project is the first complete conservation work undertaken at the chapel since it was built in 1870. Restoration includes replacing the lead work and sheet metal roofing, general painting, window repairs, cleaning the bluestone walls and lifting and relaying the slate and marble flooring inside the chapel.

A key feature is reinvigorating the eight grotesques, often confused with gargoyles, which perch on the corners of the octagonal roof and make the chapel such a unique building. Other conservation work includes carving of new crosses and bosses in limestone that has been imported from the United Kingdom to match the original stone, as well as blacksmith wrought iron mongering of new decorative hinges and door pulls.

The restoration is being funded through contributions from the Archdiocese of Adelaide, the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority (the Authority) and the Department of Environment & Water.

The Authority took over responsibility for West Terrace Cemetery in 1999 and chief executive officer Robert Pitt said the Smyth Chapel contributed greatly to the “aesthetic and historical” landscape of the cemetery.

“While many South Australians are aware of West Terrace Cemetery, most people are unaware of this wonderful building and its location within the cemetery grounds.

“When people see it for the first time they seem to be struck by the Smyth Chapel’s distinctive octagonal shape, prominent roof and spire and its place within the cemetery. It could be a building in Europe, but sits prominently, if not somewhat isolated, in the cemetery surrounded by the headstones of the parishioners it has sheltered and served,” he said.

The Smyth Chapel has a significant place in the history of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Designed by celebrated architect E J Woods, it was built in memory of Fr John Smyth, a popular priest and Vicar General for many years. Fr Smyth, Archbishop Lawrence Sheil OFM and Archdeacon Patrick Russell are all interred in a crypt beneath the chapel.

Mr Pitt said it was hoped that following the restoration the chapel would become a “point of interest” to all South Australians and may once again be used for “appropriate services and functions”.

The Smyth Chapel pictured soon after it opened in 1870.

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