The Smyth Chapel restoration


The Smyth Chapel, West Terrace Cemetery Adelaide

The Smyth Memorial Chapel located at the West Terrace Cemetery is listed as a State Heritage Place on the South Australian Heritage Register and therefore all works undertaken to the building were subject to the provisions of the South Australian ‘Heritage Places Act 1993’.

New elements of construction were required to exactly match in outward appearance those of the original building.
Moulding profiles, member sizes, construction etc. needed to match those nominated in the contract documentation and as closely as possible to the original.

Special care needed to be taken to preserve the original building fabric during the restoration process.
Traditional construction methods were followed where required by finish or where repaired elements were part of a traditionally constructed item.

The project required special care and attention to detail to ensure that such a historic building could be preserved for future generations.
Client Adelaide Cemeteries Authority
Heritage Architect Arcuate Architecture - Ian Hamilton
Heritage Quantity Surveyor  Chris Sale Consulting - Travis Swiggart
A list of the works completed is found below and the external aspects have been indicated in the images.
Close up view of some of the  repairs to the Smyth chapel
  1. External cleaning of stone façade with biocide to remove laitance, moss and lichen
  2. Removal of existing iron roof and replacement with new corrugated heritage galvanised roofing, box gutters, traditional lead flashings and associated downpipes to mitigate previous issues with water penetration into the building
  3. Replacement and repairs to roof ventilators
  4. Replacement of the lead spire cladding using traditional leadwork methodology
  5. Minor timber roof framing repairs and repairs to timber substrates to the roof gablets and spire
  6. Removal and treatment of metalwork including gables and spire cross to prevent rust
  7. New stone indents to replace deteriorated bluestone to facades
  8. Consolidation of stonework to facades, parapets and decaying decorative stones
  9. Reconstruction of stone parapets and redressing of parapet and gable stone
  10. Removal of existing cement rich pointing materials and repointing with slaked lime putty
  11. Re-bedding of parapet and gable stonework
  12. Re-carving and replacement of stone bosses from Bath Stone to entry arch
  13. Restoration, stabilisation, carving and partial replacement of grotesques (gargoyles) from Bath Stone
  14. Carving of new gable crosses from Bath Stone and replacement of same
  15. Stripping internal acrylic and enamel-based paints to wall surfaces and replacement with Mineral Silicate coatings
  16. Cocoon internal plaster poultice to remove salts from existing rendered surfaces
  17. Internal render repairs to remove previous cement-based repairs and to stabilise cracking
  18. Revarnishing timber boarded ceilings and roof framing
  19. Removal of existing slate and marble flooring to enable replacement of substrate with limecrete, reinstating marble and replacement of salt laden slate flagstones
  20. Repairs to dental work to internal plaques
  21. Replacement of stained-glass window protection
  22. Fabrication of wrought iron decorative main entrance door hardware
Smyth Chapel, arrows indicate areas repaired and refer to text.
Photo of John Smyth taken from an image of Catholic Clergy held by the State Library

History of The Smyth Memorial Chapel.

Built to the memory of Father Smyth who arrived in Adelaide in 1853, a priest who worked tirelessly to promote the Catholic Churches in country regions of South Australia and was instrumental in the erection of St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. He died in 1870 as the Vicar-General of the Colony.  [Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 4 November 1932, page 5]

Following his death a Memorial Chapel was erected and was quoted as 'one of the finest examples of Gothic Architecture in South Australia. Octagonal in plan, with walls of carved stone, four of which are carried up as gables, and with delightful detail of cut freestone. The carved -stone , winged, grotesque gargoyles at the top of each buttress are a rare feature in Australian architecture'

In 1931, the building was showing signs of stress and it was considered to be  'worthy of preservation'. A  cost effective plan to restore the chapel at a cost of £500 was approved. [Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 4 November 1932, page 5}

The restoration processes

Rear view of the heritage building - the Smyth  Chapel - after restoration work completer
Rear view of the Smyth Chapel
Replacing substrate with limecrete, reinstating marble, replacement of salt-laden slate flagstones
Repairing the slate floors
Repointed stonework and replacement of long brick to match existing
Stone masonry
Removal and treatment of metalwork including gables & spire cross to prevent rust
Scaffolding in place
Carving of new gable crosses from Bath Stone and replacement of same
Cathedral mason Christian Frenzel
Specialist tiling and stoneworks
Specialist tiling and stoneworks
Restoration of entrance door - joinery skills
Bespoke joinery
Slate and marble removed from the Chapel floor is laid out in Brimblecombe’s workshop
Back at the workshop
Keeping in touch with the project - senior personnel visited the site regularly
On site inspections
Metalwork is treated to mitigate further rust attack.
Original forged iron door hinge
Removal of existing cement rich pointing materials and repointing with slaked lime putty
Repairing stone facades
Laying out slate to ascertain what can be reused
Slate floor work
Last Modified: 18/11/2020 at 11:56