St Bartholomew’s Mortuary Chapel is located in the East Perth Cemeteries amongst some tall pine trees. The Chapel was built by the Church of England in 1871 as response to complaints about the difficulty in transporting coffins from St George’s Cathedral .
It was considered a long way from the main colony and sand made it difficult for wagons to get to the cemetery on the hill.
The Gothic Style was believed to be the work of Colonial Architect, Richard Roach Jewell . Mr Roach Jewell is actually buried in the cemetery, near the Chapel. The Mortuary Chapel was later consecrated as an Anglican Parish church in 1888. In 1889 a belfry was added to St Bartholomew’s church.
Many of Perth’s elite, who lived on Adelaide Terrace, chose St Bartholomew’s as their place of worship and the church became the centre of many social gatherings and events in the early 1900’s. As a result the church was extended to cope with the increase in the congregation. Extensions included a sanctuary, enlargement of the nave and a vestry was added to the back area.
The original shingle roof was replaced by corrugated iron in 1910.
In 1954 the church underwent renovations with the assistance of public and private funding. A stain glass window was installed in 1957 with a design that pays tribute to Western Australia’s Aboriginal and European origins.
By 1963 the church ceased to operate as a Parish Church and was used by the chaplains from the nearby refuge, St Bartholomews House. Homeless men from the refuge used the church as a place of worship.
National Trust Saves St Bartholomew’s
In the 1970’s St Bartholomew’s church faced its darkest days when it came under threat of demolition. With no real purpose or protection, the church had become run down and open to vandalism raising questions about its viability. However in 1971, the National Trust of Australia (W.A.) stepped in and gave the church an “A” classification. It also provided funding of $15,000 for the restoration of the building. Additional funding also came from the Perth City Council.
Architect, Geoffrey Summerhayes, supervised the restoration in 1976. Renovation included replacing of the roof with wooden shingles, refurbishing the brickwork, replacing the guttering & down pipes and replacing the windows.
Today, St Bartholomew’s is open to the public on Sundays where you can wander through the graves stones of some of the State’s earliest settlers and have a chat with the volunteers who provide a wealth of information about the site.