Anglican Rest House – Rookwood Cemetery preparatory

August 27, 2012

A rest house built in the Anglican section (NW corner) for mourners who made the long journey out from Sydney, in the early days by train to one of the cemetery’s railway stations from the Regent Street Mortuary Station near Central. It was later named the Ornamental Rest House and later still (because someone thought it had Indian features), the Elephant House. Personally, I wonder if it didn’t resemble the Indian Elephant House in the early days of Taronga Zoo – an Indian temple-like affair; George McRae designed the elaborate Zoo house for elephants and the Zoo’s south entrance in 1916. I gather it dates from 1901 which is justified by the roof ventilation opening and the gable ridge tiles in terracotta. Like any pavillion, it has no doors as such. The outside terracotta brickwork around the windows is repeated on he inside walls. Despite it being used as an office by the Anglican Trust for a time, most of the original floor tiles seem to be in tact; they may have been responsible for the bricking up of the southern windows, presumably to keep the worst of the weather out. This part of Sydney gets the fiercest wind gales sometimes. I wonder if the windows ever had glass installed. I gather it was being restored earlier this year; some photos feature pine trees having been planted around it, close to the walls, obscuring it somewhat. It’s had a new lease of life in recent years thanks to the annual ‘Living with Our Dead’ events acknowledging in a public way the death of loved ones separate from funerals.

I’m looking forward to seeing this building when the Sydney Sketch Club meetup visits to take in this year’s “Hidden” art installations. What I’m most curious about is to see how “red” and how “yellow” the brickwork really is, considering how these colours have been vamped up by photographers with lens filters. I suspect it is in fact the red-white-and-blue of English/Anglican colours. The blue tinge to some of the brickwork reminds me of the Ecuadorian Embassy building in London with its over-the-top white-painted stucco contrasting with red bricks and blue tuckpointed mortar.

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