Wentworth Memorial Chapel
Clarke Gazzard & Yeomans, Don Gazzard (designer)
date of commission:
date of completion:
Fitzwilliam Street, Vaucluse, Sydney NSW
protection status/heritage listings
– NSW State Heritage Register (01882)
The Wentworth Memorial Church is dramatically sited on a rocky outcrop overlooking Sydney Harbour. With white painted rough rendered brick walls and a darkened faceted copper roof incorporating a soaring south facing skylight, this church commemorating the service men and women who served during World War II, is accessed up a winding path from the street and across a walled forecourt. The entrance, an off-centred raised timber and glass screen, is spatially framed by a sloping roof, a short brick belltower with metal cross (on axis with the forecourt) and a slender brick pier. Here, the sloping roof terminates as an oversized gutter, and more than likely referencing Chapel Ronchamp’s modernist gargoyle, drains into a circular pit filled with river stones. The interior of the church, with a plan approximately the same size as that of the walled forecourt, is intimate and finished simply. Incorporating white painted brick walls, brick floors and pews made from large timber sections, the sloping line of the timber battened ceiling is broken by the skylight over a raised altar. A commissioned tapestry, positioned behind the altar, contributes to the lucidity of this interior.
Text adapted from an entry by Glenn Harper in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).
Statement of Significance (NSW State Heritage Inventory)
The c.1965 Wentworth Memorial Church which was built as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of Second World War is of State significance as one of the most significant ecclesiastical examples of the Sydney School style of architecture, which came to prominence in the 1960s. The listing also includes a collection of moveable heritage including purpose- designed pews, furniture, artworks and metalware by significant Twentieth century artists such as Darani Lewers, Helge Larsen and Mona Hessing. These items contribute to the State heritage significance of the Church.
The Wentworth Memorial Church is widely considered to be the finest surviving work in the Sydney School style of the important mid to late Twentieth Century Architect Donald Gazzard (b.1929). Gazzard was the inaugural winner of the Wilkinson Prize for domestic architecture in 1961 and widely regarded as of prominence in the field of architecture.
The church is of State significance for its association with Vaucluse Estate of noted colonial explorer, poet journalist and politician William Wentworth and his family who developed the estate from 1827. The rocky outcrop where the church is now located was a favourite spot for William Wentworth to view his estate and was also where he chose to be buried as evidenced by the Wentworth mausoleum on the opposite side of this outcrop. The church represents a final phase in the historical development of the Vaucluse Estate, being the last built work associated with the family of William Charles Wentworth (c.1790 – 1872) and the fulfilment of the Wentworth family’s long held intention to consecrate the land and erect a church.
source: NSW State Heritage Inventory (see full record)