Driving back through the city on Monday after a long weekend getaway, I almost crashed the car in excitement. The Mortuary Station on Regent Street was open to the public, part of a Transport NSW Heritage weekend. There were steam trains, vintage buses and best of all, the gorgeous, purpose-designed mortuary station.
The Mortuary Station was designed by colonial architect James Barnet to service the new cemetery for Sydney, Rookwood Necropolis. Barnet applied Gothic church architectural style to give this essentially functional building, imparting a sense of solemnity and religious meaning. Opened in 1869, it was an unusual building and widely admired at the time as an economical and practical response to the funerary corteges travelling over long distances. It was even featured in the British Institute of Architects’ journal.
Funerary trains, including a hearse rail car, departed from here, transporting mourners to the Necropolis for the burial service. Its pair, also in the gothic style, was in the Necropolis circle; since re-located down to Canberra where it now serves as a church.
The sandstone carving includes angel profiles instead of gargoyles on the corners, as well as angel vignettes. Stars, flowers and leaves adorn columns and gothic arches. It won’t surprise you to learn that this unique building is listed on the State Heritage Register.