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Church of England Mortuary Chapel
(Bonavista)

The Church of England Mortuary Chapel in Bonavista is one of the few remaining mortuary chapels in Newfoundland. The structure was named after local merchant William Alexander, who provided significant funds to build the chapel. In December 1896, a Bonavista carpenter named Ryder began work on the project; free labour was provided by the congregation. In January 1897 Ronald Strathie, at a cost of $0.15 per hour, replaced Mr. Ryder as overseer of the project.

© 1998 Heritage Foundation
of Newfoundland and Labrador

(25Kb)

The chapel was built from locally cut pine and displayed a Gothic style with arched windows. The completed structure had a capacity of between 75 and 100 people. The interior is especially fine with a hammerbeam roof. Traditionally, only men attended funeral services; these occasions were perceived as too much for women to endure.

The chapel is not longer a part of regular Anglican service in Bonavista; however, yearly flower services are still held. The building is open from mid-June to mid-September for visitors. The entrance to the graveyard features the remains of the original lych gate. Originally this was a structure with steep gable-roof, but the roof has been removed, and only the corner posts remain.

The lych gate was used during the funeral ceremony. As the procession arrived at the graveyard, the pall-bearers would stop the coffin under the gate, where additional prayers were said before they moved into the graveyard proper. The word "lych" is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning "corpse". With the advent of modern funeral homes, the use of the lych gate declined, and the Bonavista Mortuary Chapel may have the only remaining lych gate in the province.

The Church of England Mortuary Chapel was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation on November 21, 1989.


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