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Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls and Cemetery Municipal Heritage Site

Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls, Bonavista, NL
Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls and Cemetery, Bonavista, NL
Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls, Bonavista, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Building, Structure or Land

Description of Historic Place

Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls, also referred to as the Church of England Mortuary Chapel or simply the Mortuary Chapel, is a single storey, steep gabled, wooden chapel in Gothic Revival style. It is surrounded by a cemetery on its grassy grounds. The municipal heritage designation includes the building and cemetery land at 031-049 Coster Street, Bonavista, NL.

Heritage Value

Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls and Cemetery has been designated a municipal heritage site by the Town of Bonavista due to its spiritual, historic and aesthetic values.

Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls and Cemetery has spiritual value given its significance to the Anglican Parish of Bonavista.

Alexander Mortuary Chapel has historic value as one of only two known remaining mortuary chapels in the province. The cemetery complements the historic funerary function of the Mortuary Chapel. It also has historic value in its own right, given the information recorded on its gravemarkers. Several headstones indicate the deceaseds’ military service, recording pieces of military history. A headstone near the cemetery entrance recalls two young men whose bodies were recovered after a Norwegian ship sank in Bonavista Bay during a storm in 1907, underscoring Bonavista's connection with the sea as a coastal community. Another marks the gravesite of Mrs. and Canon Bayley, who was Rector of the parish for more than thirty years.

Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls has aesthetic value as it is representative of the longstanding architectural collaborations of the Strathie and Alexander families in Bonavista. The chapel’s namesake, William Alexander, was a prominent Scottish merchant whose daughter, Isabella, willed funds to the then Church of England Parish towards construction of the building. Ronald Strathie was the most prominent of a family of builders and carpenters in the Bonavista area, and was commissioned to work on the Alexander Chapel in 1897.

Alexander Mortuary Chapel of All Souls also has aesthetic value as a good example of Gothic Revival style adapted for a small rural chapel, with its spires, steep roof, pointed arch door and windows, stained glass, interior open timber roof, and wood construction. There is also a stepped Cross Crosslet embedded in the back of the building. Such Gothic style became popular for Anglican church buildings in Newfoundland around the mid-nineteenth century.

The Mortuary Chapel Cemetery has further aesthetic value as it is one of a number of cemeteries consecutively located along Coster Street, amongst which it is distinguishable by its distinctive entrance, landmark chapel, and age. The entire site is delineated by wooden fencing with a decorative wrought iron gate at the entrance. The remnant of a lych-gate there is a noteworthy feature. Such gates traditionally mark a churchyard entrance and the path along which a body is carried during the initial part of a burial service. They may be used as a cover under which to remove a coffin from a hearse or as a stop at which to pray.

Some grave plots in the Mortuary Chapel Cemetery are delineated by low iron or wooden fencing, or concrete. Most gravemarkers are tablet forms in white marble, typical of the headstones of the period during which the site was most heavily used for burials (late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century). Accordingly, there are also some column forms in gray marble and comparatively fewer granite ones, as well as some wooden markers.

Historically popular cultivated flora including lilac bushes, shrub roses, forget-me-nots, lily of the valley and columbine feature amongst the natural topography of the cemetery grounds, and a number of mature coniferous trees stand at the perimeters.

Source: Town council meeting minutes, Town of Bonavista, 2006/08/14

Character Defining Elements

All those features related to the function of the chapel and cemetery, and those design features characteristic of the Gothic Revival style of religious architecture in Newfoundland, including:

-pointed arch window shape and style;
-pointed arch door;
-steep roof;
-stained glass;
-interior open timber roof;
-building height, massing and dimensions;
-stepped cross crosslet in rear of building;
-and wood sheathing.

And those features of the chapel grounds and cemetery which reflect the site’s age and historic function in connection with the chapel:

-types, placement, and materials of gravemarkers and plot markers;
-natural topography;
-location and style of the lych-gate;
-and the placement of the path from the lych-gate to the front door of the chapel.

Location and History

Community Bonavista
Municipality Town of Bonavista
Civic Address 031-049 Coster Street
Construction 1897 - 1901
Ronald Strathie
Style Gothic Revival
Building Plan Cruciform
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