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Conserving Catholic heritage


The recent restoration of the Smyth Chapel in West Terrace Cemetery was a unique opportunity for some of Adelaide’s leading built heritage experts to showcase their skills.

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The State Heritage-listed chapel managed by Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, was designed by EJ Woods in 1870 after a competition conducted by the Smyth Memorial Fund.

Built by Peters and Jones for approximately £472, the foundation stone was laid on December 18 1870. The chapel was officially opened and formally consecrated on October 22 1871.

The building is octagonal in plan. Externally it has dressed sandstone quoins and reveals, limestone carved elements, and bluestone walls. The roof is finished with corrugated, galvanised sheeting in short lengths, and it has a timber and lead-clad flèche tower.

Internally the chapel has a stone flag floor, rendered walls and an exposed roof structure of varnished timber rafters and boarding with steel tie rods to restrain each corner.

The graves of Bishop Laurence Sheil, Father John Smyth (after whom the chapel was named) and Archdeacon Patrick Russell are located under the floor. The chapel also has an altar on a raised dais.

Arcuate Architecture was engaged by Adelaide Cemeteries Authority to carry out a fabric survey of the chapel and compile a report giving costed repair recommendations, after which we obtained development approval. Arcuate prepared documentation that was issued for tender and Brimblecombe Builders were successful in winning the construction work.

Repair works were comprehensive and included the following:

External – Stripping original lead from tower and fixing new lead, together with timber repairs and repainting of tower woodwork. Stripping of old roof sheets and fixing of new galvanised sheeting in short lengths, together with new ‘galv’ gutters and downpipes. Lead cladding to tops of parapet walls. Cutting out of all external cement pointing and repointing with lime mortar. Re-carving and installation of missing apex crosses and decorative bosses. Repairs to grotesque figures at eaves level. Installation of new glazing protection. Repairs to timber entrance doors and fabrication of new iron door hardware to match original, missing hardware.

Internal – Uplifting of original internal stone flags and excavation of floors, with reinstatement that included a limecrete base beneath original and new stone flags and steps. Repairs to internal wall render. Revarnishing of all high-level woodwork.

Smyth Memorial Chapel will be 150 years old in 2021, and thanks to Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, and all others involved in its repair and conservation project, the future of this wonderful architectural gem has been secured, hopefully for another 150 years.
Ian Hamilton is director of Arcuate Architecture.


The recent conservation work completed on the Smyth Chapel within the West Terrace Cemetery means that this small but wonderful building can now be booked for services or functions.

It must be noted that, although fully restored, the chapel can only hold up to 30 people standing, and there are no facilities such as power or running water at the site.

Anyone interested in booking the chapel for a service or function can contact the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority on 8139 7400 or via email at

If arranging a funeral, please ask your funeral director to contact the Authority to enquire about making a booking.


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