No. 1024 - Cornelian Bay Mortuary Chapel (1873-1928)

Cornelian Bay cemetery opened in 1872 after four of Hobart’s cemeteries were condemned as health hazards. Some, but not all bodies were exhumed and reinterred at Cornelian Bay. The cemetery was originally divided into sections for religious denominations: Church of England, Catholic; Presbyterian; Jewish; Quaker; Baptist and Independent. A War Grave and Pauper section were also established. It is estimated that there has been 100,000 burials and 60,000 cremations at Cornelian Bay.

The layout of the cemetery was planned by Hobart architect, Henry Hunter, who was one of the original trustees of the Cemetery Board established in 1866. Hunter’s original plan proposed that each religious denomination would be allocated land for their own mortuary chapel. However, only a non-denominational mortuary chapel and a Jewish mortuary ‘Receiving Hose’ were built. In June 1872 Hunter submitted plans for a chapel which included a “temporary wooden edifice” until a permanent stone building could be built.

In January 1873 the Hobart Mercury reported:

“The mortuary chapel, situate[d] a short distance from the Cemetery gate, is a neat a little edifice as could be conceived considering its cost. It is built of weatherboard, with a shingle roof. There is a portico facing the path, and a vestry behind the building, but attached, for the use of ministers. The chapel is not yet furnished, but it will be before long. The contract price was £169, a sum which must be considered very moderate upon looking at the commodious building.…”.

The chapel appears to have used before it was fully completed as the Cemetery Board minutes of 7 January 1873 state that it “had been used several times lately” and that “furniture and sitting accomodation [are] required”. These were acquired and installed by April 1873.

The stone mortuary chapel designed by Hunter was never built and the ‘temporary’ weatherboard building was in use for about 50 years, although infrequently by the 1920s. In 1936 a crematorium chapel was constructed at Cornelian Bay. [see No. 955 ] By this time the weatherboard chapel had apparently been moved to Moonah for use as a hall by the Baptists.

The only known available photograph of the Mortuary Chapel is found in the Tasmanian Mail dated March 1902. It was taken on the occasion of the funeral of F. W. Piesse, a Member of the Legislative Council and who was elected to the first Federal parliament in 1901.

The Tasmanian Mail 1902


The Mercury, Wednesday 26 June 1872, page 2
The Mercury, Wednesday 8 January 1873, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Monday 10 March 1902, page 2
The Tasmanian Mail. 15 March 1902, page 19


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